The Freak by Ulysse Nardin is a bit like Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, in that there is so much to understand that you can only stand in awe at what it achieves. In the case of the Freak, the genius was Ludwig Oechslin who designed the first Freak, presented at Baselworld in 2001. The concept was making the minute hand the movement, so that it makes one revolution per hour and can be thought of as a one-hour tourbillon. Four years later, Ulysse Nardin gave the watch a new escapement, Dual Ulysse, in which the usual pallet fork is replaced by two impulse wheels that mesh together.
There is so much content in the Freak that it takes some time to digest it all. Wherever you look, it’s different. The hour hand is simply a curved arrow on the central, rotating part of the dial. No crown, because you rotate the upper bezel clockwise to set the time, anti-clockwise to change the date, and you rotate the lower bezel on the caseback to wind the mainspring. One full turn of the caseback provides 12 hours power reserve, and the total power reserve is exceptional, 8 days, 192 hours. The upper bezel is protected from accidental rotation (which would change the time) by a locking system that can be unlocked by a clip between the lugs at 6 o’clock, bearing the name of the watch.
Ulysse Nardin is currently a partner to the Artemis Racing team, Swedish challenger in the America’s Cup, and the FreakWing celebrates the deal, with several visual references to the high-performance catamaran. The upper bridge for the minutes is inspired by the internal structure of the rigid sail, and the texture of the rotating hours disc evokes the mesh net stretched between the two catamaran hulls. The movement is the UN-210 calibre, with balance oscillating at 4 Hertz, 28,800 vibrations per hour. The bezel and case back are made from carbon fibre; the case is in black DLC titanium with a leather strap textured to resemble carbon, with yellow stitching.
The name of the Ulysse Nardin FreakWing probably refers to the airfoil-type mainsail of the Artemis catamaran. The watch’s reference is 2103-138/CF-ARTEMIS, and it is a limited edition of 35 pieces (celebrating the 35th America’s Cup that will culminate in 2017). The price is 78,000 euros, Swiss francs or dollars.