Back in 2001, the watch industry was in the doldrums. Mechanical watches were struggling to stay relevant and most brands were content just making the same old, same old timepieces, preferring not to rock the boat, avoiding the danger of falling off.
Then came the Freak and innovation in the watch industry was well and truly back. The Freak broke all the barriers — this ground-breaking timepiece messed with the traditional codes of high watchmaking with impudence and boldness, its freshness and startling design capturing heads and hearts, mesmerizing a segment of the market that no one knew existed. The Freak not only turned traditional movement production on its ear, it changed how time is displayed.
Watch industry legend Rolf Schnyder, the head of Ulysse Nardin at the time, said the Freak was “a fragment of poetry in the world of mechanical watches.” The Freak Show had arrived, and it wasn’t in some back alley, but on the front pages of every watch publication in the world.
Designed by Ludwig Oechslin and made a reality by Schnyder and his team, the Freak blew the dust off Ulysse Nardin, a tried and true Swiss brand with high watchmaking bona fides, and brought it and the watch industry into the 20th century.
The Freak was a gamechanger because it had no hands, it had no dial and it had no crown. The movement itself created the display of time as the mainplate was the dial and the hour hand, while the minute hand was an arrow-shaped bridge. Time is set by using the bezel on the front of the watch, while the watch is wound by a second bezel on the caseback.
Simple, but ingenious, and the Freak used cutting-edge technology in the form of a silicium dual escapement, which never needs lubrication.
Over the years, Ulysse Nardin has brought out a number of variations on the Freak, including the Freak Blue Phantom, the Freak Diavolo, the Freak Cruiser, the FreakLab, the FreakWing and the Freak InnoVision 2.
Now, in the 21st century, the Freak has been reborn with the new Ulysse Nardin, with new versions that revitalize the Freak and turn it from a singular timepiece into a full collection, one that is more accessible and more captivating than ever.
It started with the introduction of the Freak Vision and the Freak Vision Coral Bay, which expanded the offering of the Freak and varied the price points. Now, with the addition of more pieces, it’s apparent that the Freak is more than just a spectacular watch with interesting variations.
The Freak Vision introduced automatic winding to the Freak, using the Ulysse Nardin Grinder Automatic Winding System, which takes advantage of even the slightest movement of the wrist. The oscillating rotor is linked to a frame containing four arms, which gives the automatic system twice the torque — like having four pedals on a bike instead of two — while limiting friction.
The Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement was also introduced in the Freak Vision, exploiting the elasticity of flat springs. It presents a constant force escapement made entirely of silicium. The result is a positive energy balance that maintains the oscillations of the balance wheel at a constant rate without influence of torque variation from the main-spring.
The new introductions to the Freak aren’t just variations, but innovations in their own right.
It’s about time that the Freak became a collection and more accessible to everyone.
Go ahead, get your Freak on.