In an industry that hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last 100 years, originality has always been the elephant in the room when it comes to wristwatch design. I mean, after all, how different can a watch be, with such confined parameters? Well World, meet the Freak.
In 2001, Ulysse Nardin released perhaps one of the most unique and distinctively different timepieces in the modern era. They were one of the first to experiment with silicon and also constructed an entirely new way to tell the time, with a hovering ‘carousel’ tourbillon that was set by rotating the bezel and with the pointer of the movement displaying the time.
Boasting some incredible design motifs, impressive engineering, and craftsmanship, the Ulysse Nardin Freak still stands all these years later as one of the brand’s most popular models and an icon in the watch world. Despite the brand releasing a lot of questionable watches, the Freak has always maintained a special place in a watch purist’s heart, especially within the more old-school and seasoned watch collecting circles.
The Freak has evolved over time, with a few variations naturally. The example here today is one of the more recent and successful iterations- the Ulysse Nardin Freak Out Blue. It faithfully carries all of the hallmark features of the Freak, while also bringing some new modern aspects to its design. While the Freak was in fact the watch that allowed Ulysse Nardin to pioneer the use of silicon in watchmaking, the Freak Out carries on where the collection left off with the ingenious cal. UN-205 7-day power reserve movement, which remains remarkably similar to the original Freak’s movement. With its blued construction and silver gears, the movement is stunning to watch in its completely bare glory. As incredible as it seems, the Freak uses its movement to indicate the time, as the movement makes up the timepiece’s minute hand and the hour hand occupies the lower plane, which is offered in a stunning shade of blue.
With the time set by the rotating bezel and the movement wound rotating the caseback, users will notice that the Ulysse Nardin Freak Out lacks a winding crown on its 45mm titanium case. Unusual at first, this becomes one of the Freak’s most characteristic design choices as its case is wonderfully symmetrical and easy on the eye. Furthermore, it allows it's 45mm case to wear smaller than its measurement would suggest. Adding to this again, the Freak Out’s heavily tapered lugs hug the wearer’s wrist and allow the blue leather-backed textile strap to comfortably flow around the wrist, making for a wonderful wearing experience.
In an incredible blend of avant-garde design, innovative watchmaking, and impressive engineering, the Ulysse Nardin Freak Out is a wonderful reminder of why Ulysse Nardin is such a widely respected brand. From their rich nautical-themed history to their modern exploits, Ulysse Nardin has always stood out as an original watchmaker that is proud of their creations and with the Freak Out, there is no reason to be anything else. I really do think that a select few of the Freak models are truly underrated, with the Freak Out Blue certainly being one of them.