When Ulysse Nardin's first Freak watch debuted in 2001, most people reacted in one of two ways. They were either someone who viewed the design as being innovative, refreshingly different, and cool looking, or a watch aficionado who valued tradition and was verging on being offended at how the brand approached designing the timepiece.
The first iteration of the Freak watch reflected a change in watch design that not only turned towards imaginative engineering, but seeing watch production as more than just making practical tools. There was a time when watch makers wanted to create timepieces that not only worked well, but were artful creations that were beautiful in their own right -- Ulysse Nardin aimed to bring that concept back to the watch industry with the Freak.
Though the inner workings, operation, and appearance of this unique marvel rubbed some people the wrong way, few could deny the genius of Ulysse Nardin's Dual Direct escapement. It was novel, and just one other brand had attempted to introduce a design close to it during the same time period. After the first Freak watch made a huge splash and sparked all sorts of talk about the motivation behind the collection and what Ulysse Nardin would do next, the company shocked the watch world again when it came out with the Freak 28,800 V/h in 2005, which brought to the scene the Dual Ulysse escapement.
After the Freak 28,800 V/h, people got used to the idea of watchmaking going in a new direction, and some of the collection's former critics even changed their tunes. This is why when the Freak InnoVision came out in 2007 and the FreakDiamOnSil released in 2010, those interested in horology were more accepting rather than put-off.
Now, Ulysse Nardin has added yet another Freak watch to its collection that's different on the inside and outside: the FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition.
History of the Concept
Ulysse Nardin has a long and storied history, and it's been on the cutting edge of watchmaking over the past couple of decades. It was among the first watch manufacturers to consider using silicon instead of traditional materials, and Ulysse Nardin became the first brand to introduce a production watch with silicon components. The one thing that wasn't seen in the original Freak watch or any of its successors was a complication, and that wasn't simply a move to be avant-garde and shirk the norm.
The design of previous Freak watches and their movements didn't easily allow for any type of complication to be added to them. Other Freak models had a movement that rotated once an hour on a central axis, and the dial has always been unconventional to say the least. These factors meant there was practically no room for a complication, additional display, or indication on the unique dial.
In order to put a complication on a Freak watch, an approach that was nontraditional had to be taken -- that's nothing new for this collection, but it goes much further than that. Most watches have a complication that uses gears which are propelled by a going train, but since the Freak already has an additional gear, adding more mass to the movement would greatly affect its balance and precision. Engineering aside, going about adding a complication to a Freak watch would disrupt its aesthetics, which is the hallmark of the line and what always has people buzzing when a new iteration is released.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Ulysse Nardin did find a way to add a complication to the FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition, marking another first for the brand and this collection.
The big difference between the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition and previous iterations of the watch is that is includes a complication. It's not just the first Freak watch with a complication, it's the first to sport a calendar. The wheel that drives the new feature is set underneath the watch's dial. Peek through the opening located at 4 o'clock and you'll see the calendar wheel. This component runs underneath the dial's hour hand, and the hour hand itself is directly driven by the mainspring barrel.
This FreakLab watch has a balance that's located over its central axis, which is another departure from the norm in the world of the Freak collection. The limited edition timepiece also contains the brand's latest silicon shock system.
Another factor that sets the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition apart from its predecessors is how much lighter it is and more comfortable to wear. This is largely due to the watch's case incorporating lightweight titanium into the design. The carbon fiber used for the bezel isn't just a matter of aesthetics, it also lightens the watch's load and keeps it from being too heavy.
The model is much more wearable and versatile fashion wise than other FreakLab watches that have been released, as one could easily pair it with casual wear. Black dominates the color scheme, and the strap has white stitching. The dial of the watch is black with a textured background, white numbers and markers, and bright blue accents.
In addition, the 45 mm FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition watch features a case made of titanium that's been tinted black. Paired with a carbon fiber bezel, the result is a sleek, decidedly cool design that will have wide appeal.
The FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition is operated much like other versions of the Freak. On the back of the watch is a bezel that is used to wind the mainspring, which has a minimum power reserve of seven days. Rotating this rear bezel once is equivalent to a power reserve of 12 hours. The upper bezel has a locking tab at 6 o'clock and is unlocked, and when turned clockwise the time can be set. If this bezel is turned counterclockwise, that sets the date.
Pricing and Availability
The Ulysse Nardin FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition has a price tag of $75,000, which is on par with other Freak watches that have been released throughout the years. Just 99 units of the watch have been made available for sale. It's not possible to snag one online, as the FreakLab Boutique Limited Edition is only being sold in select Ulysse Nardin stores.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker