Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision
The Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision brims with modernity and innovation. For the first time, the Swiss brand offers a ‘Freak’ with an automatic movement, housed within a new slimmed-down case.
This detailed review of the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision includes images, specification details and pricing.
Children can be cruel. I can remember from my school days witnessing a poor unfortunate soul being labelled a ‘freak’ simply because he did not subscribe to societal norms. However, the word, ‘norm’ implies convention and mediocrity. It is the eccentrics, the so-called ‘freaks’, who enrich life’s canvas with rich vibrant hues.
While Ulysse Nardin produces some classically designed watches, it also has a penchant for the avant-garde. In 2001, the brand unveiled the ‘Freak’, a timepiece featuring a baguette movement, a ‘flying carousel’, that rotates 360° to indicate the minutes. It was also the first ever timepiece to incorporate silicium (silicon) components. Since 2001, the Maison from Le Locle, has released different versions of this groundbreaking watch.
Earlier this year, the Swiss watch company launched a new version of its outlandish watch, the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision, this time incorporating an automatic movement.
A ‘3D carved upper bridge’ dominates the dial and is said to have been ‘inspired by a boat’s hull’. Its silver tones exhibit a notable degree of modernity and stand out against the blue circular brushed dialscape.
Minutes are expressed with a small triangular tip affixed to the upper bridge, while hours are proclaimed with a larger triangular section positioned adjacent the blue central hub. Silver-coloured indices encircle the periphery of the dial.
The upper bridge holds the silicium gear train in position. Each blue-toned wheel is freely disclosed. The balance wheel is of an intricate design, its complex shape made only possible by using silicium. Cleverly, Ulysse Nardin has conceived a method of ‘welding’ together silicium and solid nickel inertia-blocks. In addition, self-regulating silicium ‘micro-blades’ are affixed to the balance wheel in order to stabilise amplitudes and heighten accuracy.
The Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement exploits ‘the elasticity of flat springs. It presents a constant force escapement made entirely of silicium, and features a circular frame with a pallet fork that moves without friction. The pallet fork is fixed in the centre and supported on two minuscule blade springs. Mounted perpendicular to each other, they are subject to a bending force that curves and keeps them in a bi-stable state.’
The constant supply of torque is a benefit that will resonate with all horophiles. Indeed, Ulysse Nardin, when describing the power reserve, states ’50 hours at constant amplitude’, a characteristic that will augment precision. The use of silicon mitigates friction, thereby mitigating power consumption. Furthermore, the low mass of the balance also reduces power consumption.
The flying carousel makes one rotation every hour.
The 45mm Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision is a special watch and, therefore, it seems fitting that it is housed in the most precious of noble metals, platinum. While this watch could not be described as diminutive, its scale did not prove problematic when affixed to my wrist.
The time is set by turning the bezel, using the titanium ‘riders’ for extra purchase. The bezel is lined with blue rubber, providing a wonderful contrast with the neighbouring brightwork. It is also fitted with a ‘lever lock’, preventing accidental time adjustment.
An exhibition caseback provides sight of the Calibre UN-250 and its unusual ‘Grinder’ winding system. The metal surfaces of the caseback framing the pane of sapphire crystal, are rotated counterclockwise in order to energise the mainspring. The result is a very clean aesthetic unencumbered with a conventional crown. Indeed, it is the absence of a crown which helps make this watch appear smaller than the stated case diameter.
A new box-domed sapphire crystal cleverly plays with volumes, heightening the three dimensionality of the dial components.
A slither of blue rubber enlivens the caseband. Ulysse Nardin has judiciously blended polished, brushed and mottled surfaces. The appearance of the Freak Vision is extraordinary, with each design element the product of painstaking attention to detail.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision is endowed with the self-winding Calibre UN-250. As stated earlier, this timepiece is fitted with the ‘Grinder Automatic Winding System’. The system features an oscillating weight linked to a frame equipped with four arms, twice the usual number. Because the rotor is connected to four arms, it harnesses greater energy, said to be twice the norm.
The balance has a frequency of 18,000 VpH (2.5Hz) and the movement contains 22 jewels.
At the heart of the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision is much technical mastery and foresight. In the conservative world of watchmaking, the Swiss brand was a pioneer in the use of silicium, creating a horological trend that many other brands subsequently followed. Ulysse Nardin has not ceased innovating, using silicium technology for an increasing number of parts and, in so doing, conferring additional benefits to its customers.
The Freak Vision features a constant force escapement ensuring the amplitude of the balance is maintained and high levels of accuracy are achieved. The low mass of the balance wheel and the widespread use of low-friction silicium mitigate energy consumption. The power reserve of 50 hours is very impressive when one considers that the flying carousel quaffs much energy in order to rotate.
Beyond its technical merits, the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision is an imposing timepiece. The silicium gear train is presented centre-stage and ingeniously imparts the prevailing time. The slimmed-down case eschews a conventional crown and proves comfortable to wear.
With the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision, the brand from Le Locle has set aside convention and embraced free-thought. It does not look like other watches and its movement breaks new ground. Similar to the ‘freaks’ of my youth, this watch is unconventional, however, it is for this reason that I love it and applaud its remarkable individuality.
- Model: Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision
- Reference: 2505-250
- Case: Platinum with rubber inserts on caseband; diameter 45mm; sapphire crystal to front and case-back; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres).
- Functions: Hours; minutes
- Movement: Calibre UN-250; automatic movement; frequency 18,000 vph (2.5Hz); 22 jewels; power reserve = 50 hours
- Strap: Rubber-like leather and titanium folding clasp
- Price: CHF 95,000 (RRP as at 1.10.2018)