The Le Locle-based brand has offered up two new takes on the Freak X — the Freak X Ice, and its polar opposite, the Freak X Magma. Before we look closer at these elemental interpretations, a quick primer on the long and legendary history of the Freak, and its younger sibling, the Freak X. The original Freak, released in 2001, was one of the early stalwarts of cutting-edge contemporary horology, offering not just an aggressively avant-garde design with its carrousel tourbillon as time display, but also pioneering the use of silicon in watchmaking. The Freak is also more than a blip on the horological radar — it remains a key model in Ulysse Nardin’s catalog with a design that has been evolved and refined over the years.
The most recent — and one of the most significant — updates to the Freak is the Freak X, released in 2019. The Freak X offers a watch that preserves the visual impact and mechanical wizardry of the Freak, thanks to a more streamlined 43mm case, and what is essentially a conventional automatic movement (based on the UN-118 calibre) with a “Freak-y” addition to the baseplate. This solution means that not only does the Freak X have a conventional crown, but it also has a price tag that makes it more accessible than any previous model.
Which brings us to the new Freaks. Of the two, it’s hard to miss the Freak X Magma model, thanks to its attention-grabbing case, the result of some fiery additions to the 43mm black DLC-coated titanium case. The flanks of the watch, though, are made from a combination of red marbled epoxy resin and carbon fiber, giving a swirly, magma-like appearance — similar to the carbon and gold “Carbonium” model released in 2019. It also features a strap designed to evoke the appearance of volcanic rock.
To bring the message of this fiery watch home, Ulysse Nardin has partnered with award-winning nature photographer Carsten Peter — a man who goes to extremes to capture arresting images of lava lakes, thermal caves and other intense environs. Take, for example, his image from Nyiragongo volcano, a 3,470m peak that’s home to the largest lava lake in the world. Peter’s work often requires diverse and demanding physical feats such as climbing, paragliding and hiking to get to a location, so you can see why Ulysse Nardin wanted to get him on board for their most adventurous line of watches.
If the Freak X Magma is too hot to handle, you can always feel the burn of ice. The chilly visage of the Freak X Ice offers less lava but is no less lethal. If Magma is all about passion and contrast, the monotone Ice model is beautiful in its purity. The case is titanium with a white matte finish that Ulysse Nardin calls alabaster. The dial offers the wearer a view of crisp white and raw metal, with the only hints of color being the blue hue of the silicium balance wheel and blue inserts in the openworked white leather strap.
Self-winding calibre UN-230 with silicium balance wheel; hours, minutes and seconds; 72-hour power reserve
43mm; titanium with black DLC coating, carbon fibre and epoxy (for Freak X Magma) and titanium with white-finish matte coating (for Freak X Ice); water-resistant to 50m
“Volcanic Rock” black leather, with red point-de-bride and folding clasp (for Freak X Magma) and openworked white leather with rubber coating, with dark blue inserts and folding clasp (for Freak X Ice)