W&W 2024: Presenting the New Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad in Lightweight Titanium

The new Freak S Nomad from Ulysse Nardin continues to tell the story of a timepiece with no dial, no hands, and no crown
W&W 2024: Presenting the New Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad in Lightweight Titanium
April 10, 2024
W&W 2024: Presenting the New Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad in Lightweight Titanium

Under the inspirational guidance of its late CEO Rolf Schnyder, Ulysse Nardin debuted the first Freak in 2001, sparking a wave of experimentation among independent watchmakers and laying the groundwork for the brand's long-lasting heritage. Continuing its bold experimentations, Ulysse Nardin has just launched a new iteration of its Freak S watch at this year's Watches and Wonders, being held in Geneva; it has stylish modifications that heighten the allure of this clever, intricate, unconventional model. The new Freak S Nomad edition is an excellent example of how its design represents a cosmically modern sensibility.

When the Ulysse Nardin Freak was first released in 2001, the watch was way ahead of its time. This watch disobeyed every regulation. It lacked traditional hands, a dial or even a crown. Its innovative beating heart was constructed using high-tech silicon — a material designed to reduce the strain on a watch's moving elements. The Freak was audacious, revolutionary, and, quite frankly, weird in every way!

The new Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad, which measures 45 mm in diameter and 16.65 mm in thickness, makes its debut in a titanium case with an anthracite PVD-coated titanium bezel. Side plates made of carbon fibre draw attention to how high-tech the watch is. The sand-coloured, hand-turned, guilloché hour disc with a diamond pattern, shielded by sapphire crystal, attracts attention. The flying carousel movement, which consists of two sizable inclined oscillators with silicon balance wheels joined by an intricate differential mechanism, is a marvel in itself.

Every hour, the carousel completes one full circle on its axis, like a spaceship no less. In addition, it serves as the minute hand. The hour is indicated by the disc beneath it, which rotates once every 12 hours. The barrel has a considerable diameter that nearly matches that of the case; it has a 72-hour power reserve. Every 12 hours, the barrel unwinds and the hour pointer aligns with the indices on the barrel cover, which is topped with a guilloché hour disc with a fixed hour pointer, generously treated with Super-LumiNova.

 With gears underneath, the "spaceship" carousel is perched over the guilloché hour disc. The minute indication is made possible by these gears, which allow the carousel to rotate 12 times quicker than the barrel cover. As a minute hand, a lume-treated inlay attached to a perforated jet-shaped panel does the job. The carousel is connected to a fixed ring gear situated on the dial's circumference via a small pinion at its opposite end. Through the complex mechanism of the differential, energy is transferred to the gear train and the dual oscillators as the carousel revolves and the fixed ring gear engages the pinion.

 Similar to those found in traditional timepieces, the escapement is a crucial part that guarantees the mainspring's consistent release of energy, which is what allows the barrel and the carousel to rotate in unison. The Freak S Nomad escapement is made of silicon, just like the hairsprings and balancing wheels. Two inclined balancing wheels, coupled by a differential, are part of the creative design. By joining two sets of gears and adjusting the beat rate of each balance wheel, this configuration averages mistakes to improve overall accuracy.

 Freak S Nomad is a user-friendly watch despite its complexity. The bezel makes it easier to set the time on the watch. It has a titanium locker with the word ‘Freak’ at 6 o'clock to prevent inadvertent modifications. The inner bezel is attached to the ring gear that surrounds the dial, which allows the movement to be rotated as a whole. The UN-251 calibre has an effective internal winding mechanism, called the "Grinder" mechanism, which has quadruple winding pawls and a peripheral rotor. 

 Following the Freak tradition, manual winding involves just turning the watch's back. Two unique strap options are available for the Freak S Nomad: a matte grey "openworked" alligator leather strap with sand-coloured calfskin leather inserts and a grey rubber "ballistic" textured strap. For added convenience, a titanium deployant clasp fastens both straps. Only 99 pieces are available.

Image Credits: Ulysse Nardin