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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

22 years of unconventional mechanical watchmaking has accumulated into Ulysse Nardin’s 2023 Watches and Wonders novelty, the Freak ONE.

Ulysse Nardin was born in Le Locle 200 years ago in 1823, and founded the company in 1846. He specialised in marine chronometers and later wrist watches. When in 1983 an investment group led by businessman Rolf W. Schnyder acquired the company, it was already close to bankruptcy. Mr Schnyder and his watchmaker partner Ludwig Oechslin had big plans with the firm and they presented ambitious astronomical complications such as the Trilogy of Time series and new collections like the Marine Chronometer 1846, which is a pillar of the brand still today. 

On the occasion of their 175th anniversary the company opened a new showroom and their own museum in Le Locle in 2021, to tell the unique story and savoir-faire of the House. 

They had another big throw, when reworking Carole Forestier-Kasapi’s original design, they presented the Freak concept watch at Baselworld in 2001. The timepiece was totally out of this world: time was shown by the entire revolving movement and it used silicon, a nouvelle material never before used in watchmaking. Rolf W. Schnyder wanted to come out with something extraordinary that provides great leverage for the company against the competition. The Freak has been with us ever since balancing between being a space for experiments and an actual collection for aficionados. It was the first timepiece to use silicon, and then the silicon was coated with diamond (DIAMonSIL) in order to make it more durable and produce even less friction. Silicon also enabled Ulysse Nardin to be a pioneer in using the phenomenon of elastic body deformation in different ways: the UlyChoc silicon shock absorbing system, the ‘grinding’ winding system that is twice as efficient as a conventional rotor-based mechanism, as a device to deliver constant force to the balance wheel and micro-blades to stabilise the balance wheel. In 2022’s Freak S, for even higher accuracy they placed balance-wheel twins linked by a differential onto the revolving carousel. 

At this Watches and Wonders Ulysse Nardin introduced the Freak ONE, which incorporates the very essence and the main milestones of the Freak’s 22-year history. ‘History’ is a strange word for something that has continuously been ahead of its time and is still turning the pages. Leading up to the novelty, we had the chance to hold the original prototype of the very first Freak movement in our hand and then the final timepiece from 2001. 

The Freak ONE is built with the essential functions of the initial Freak. The rose gold bridges are thin and sharp so that they add to the visual composition but do not cover the wheels. The large mainspring situated in the full diameter of the movement under the carousel is topped by the black sunray-engraved disc, which also holds the hour pointer as it revolves every 12 hours. The mainspring that holds energy for 72 hours is wound by the ‘grinder’ system. The grinder and the silicon balance wheel debuted in the 2017 Freak InnoVision2 concept watch and then went into production with the 2018 Freak Vision. The large 3 Hz balance wheel has gold adjusting weights. The escapement is treated with the DIAMonSIL process introduced in 2007. The movement’s codename is UN-240.

Ulysse Nardin - Freak One
Ulysse Nardin - Freak One

The 44mm case is made of titanium with a black DLC coating from which the rose gold sharply grooved bezel stands out visually. When you lift the locker wearing ‘FREAK’ at 6 o’clock, you can turn the bezel to set the time. And in this case, setting the time is actually rotating the movement, which is pretty amazing! 

The rubber strap is integrated into the case and 30% of the raw material comes from recycled production waste.

The ONE is one of the best looking Freaks, and the story clearly continues. If you’re interested, find more information about the Freaks in our report from the manufacture. And on a side note, we are talking about the same company who, beyond these technical models, brings out some of the most beautiful classical enamelling works with their sister workshop Donzé Cadrans. 

Ulysse Nardin - Freak One
Ulysse Nardin - Freak One movement, photo: Ulysse Nardin
Ulysse Nardin - Freak One
Ulysse Nardin - Freak One close up, photo: Ulysse Nardin

Photo credits: Ulysse Nardin. Loupiosity.com
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