Just when it seems almost impossible for Ulysse Nardin to top itself, along comes Freak Vision, the first automatic Freak that also boasts a new look. Here’s why this watch is worth, well, freaking out over.

Freak is Ulysse Nardin’s horological trump card

When it debuted in 2001, Freak was groundbreaking in that it famously pioneered the use of silicium in its movement components.

Silicium possesses important traits that improve timekeeping precision – it is hard yet highly flexible, and is resistant against shock, corrosion and magnetism. Today, the use of silicium in watchmaking has become the norm rather than the exception.

Freak also reimagined the escapement with two drive wheels that deliver energy directly to the balance wheel. Known as the Dual Direct Escapement, it is also frictionless (translation: no wear and tear) – combined with the direct energy transfer, this escapement significantly improves efficiency.

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Time hasn’t diminished Freak’s cool factor

Constructed in a linear way, the movement rotates on its own axis, making one full rotation every hour. As such, it conveniently works as the minute hand. The dial is not actually a dial but the movement’s mainplate. And there is also no crown – the watch is wound and adjusted via the bezel. After all these years, it is still one of the coolest watches around.

In fact, Freak has been the canvas upon which Ulysse Nardin’s watchmakers showcase innovative ideas. For instance, in 2005, diamond was used to craft Freak’s mechanical parts in 2005 because of the stone’s excellent isochronism. But the cost of diamond is prohibitive, so Ulysse Nardin found a way to replicate its hardness and consistency by coating silicium with DIAMonSIL, a synthetic non-crystalline diamond.

Also see: How is the world’s most beautiful diamond made?

Freak Vision is the first commercially produced Freak with an automatic movement

Last year’s Freak InnoVision 2 was technically the first time the Le Locle-based watchmaker introduced an automatic movement to the iconic model. Produced as a concept watch, it was packed with 10 innovations.

Freak Vision is the commercial realisation of some of these innovations, chief of which is the Grinder self-winding system, its complex and innovative construction transforms the tiniest amount of kinetic energy into potential power. The escapement has also been improved to provide constant force to the balance wheel, regardless of the amplitude of the mainspring.

The exterior gets a chic modern update

Eschewing the bulkiness of past Freak cases, Ulysse Nardin has introduced a new box-domed sapphire that allows for a thinner middle case and bezel. Overall, it has been refined to sit better on the wrist. Meantime, the upper bridge of the movement is carved to resemble the boat’s hull.

 

Artistic interpretations that also pay tribute to Ulysse Nardin’s marine roots

Ulysse Nardin has also created two unique pieces of the Freak Vision, called Freak Vision Coral Bay, that highlight the manufacture’s métier d’art. Using a bonding machine, 24k gold threads were used to create intricate coral reef patterns in blue and yellow for the first watch. The second watch features miniature hand-painting of the corals in red and white. The lacquer colours were heated in an oven after each application to ensure permanent lustre.

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