Boomed in Athens, with its wide range of unconventional no dial / no hands time display, the watch industry is a hot topic when it exposed in early 2001, while Athens adopted this pioneering watch as a platform – some people might say, a lab – since then some new innovation. The latest version – appropriately named Athens freak lab, unveiled at this year’s Baselworld – continues the tradition, combined with several of the world’s first to collect and trade. Here’s what you need to know.
It is — believe it or not — the first Freak Watch to include a date indication.
Over the course of its evolution, the Ulysse Nardin Freak has incorporated a number of the brand’s technological developments — the first silicon escapement in a wristwatch in the original 2001 version, a two-wheeled “Dual Ulysse” escapement made of proprietary DiamonSil (synthetic diamond grown on silicon) in 2005, among the most notable — but has never offered that most simple and practical of complications, a basic date display. This new model’s curving date aperture, placed at 4 o’clock and displaying the current date (indicated with a red pointer) as well as yesterday’s and tomorrow’s, was made possible because of the dial redesign, in which the time-indicating elements were moved from the edges (where they would obscure a date window) to positions closer to the center, more on which below.Ulysse Nardin Freak Lab – front
The watch’s Dual Ulysse escapement represents a significant upgrade from traditional watchmaking technology.
Ulysse Nardin’s specially constructed escapement — the heart of Ulysse Nardin’s Caliber UN-210 — does away with the traditional pallet-fork-and-escape-wheel system in favor of two impulse wheels made of silicon (or silicium, in the brand’s Francophone parlance), each with 18 active, meshing teeth, which transmit energy directly to the balance staff — first in one direction, then another — by means of a stopper. The upshot is that the escapement requires no lubrication and constantly delivers force in the direction of the balance wheel, hence minimizing friction. The other good news? When fully wound, the movement holds a full seven days’ power reserve.
A new, in-house-designed shock-absorber system makes its debut in the watch.
Ulysse Nardin has equipped the watch’s oscillating unit with a new type of shock absorber, called UlyChoc, which was designed, developed and produced entirely in-house at Ulysse Nardin’s manufacture in Le Locle, Switzerland. More conventional shock absorption systems in watch movements are comprised of five pieces — block, setting, jewel, counterpivot and spring. Ulysse Nardin’s patent-pending device replaces three of these elements with a single one-piece component made of silicon; fewer pieces means less friction, and the solution also allows the balance staff.
Ulysse Nardin’s nautical heritage is on display in the design — albeit subtly.
The history of the Ulysse Nardin brand is inextricably tied to seafaring and nautical navigation. Since its founding in 1864, Ulysse Nardin has been renowned for its highly accurate marine chronometers, which at one point it supplied to more than 50 of the world’s navies. That heritage is evident today, in the brand’s “anchor” logo and in its Marine collection, many with nautical blue predominant in their dials, straps, and other elements. And while the Freak Lab is indisputably avant-garde and ultra-techie in its design, it also displays touches of the brand’s naval DNA: The hour-indicator pointer is shaped like an anchor and the minutes-indicator rotating bridge resembles a sail. The bidirectional rotating bezel, which is used to set the hours and minutes (clockwise) and date (counterclockwise) bears a sculpted ocean wave motif. (Yes, the Freak now has a date, but still no winding crown; as in previous models, a safety clip between the lugs at 6 o’clock secures the rotating bezel in place to avoid accidental re-setting.) Ulysse Nardin even refers to the two main pieces of its dial-mounted movement, which rotates on its own axis, as the “upper deck” (minutes) and “lower deck” (hours). The Ulysse Nardin Freak Lab, with an 18k white gold case and is priced at $95,000. (Below is a live photo of the Freak Lab taken at JCK 2015.)