Monday, 9 February 2009

time for some poetry in motion... the ulysse nardin FREAK!

this is my short tribute to an amazing time piece created by several visionaries... oh yes, the raphmeister takes on the



There are many interesting watches out there today. Many that are mind boggling in their complexity(and in their pricing too actually :). You have multi-axis tourbillons, double or triple or gyro tourbillons. You have repeaters and sonneries galore. The experimentation with space age materials in watches and cocktails of complications engineered and realized through the aid of computers. Some of it is not so hot in my books to be honest, some of it is though is pretty amazing and there a few that are simply mind blowing.

This post of mine then is of a time piece that fits into that last category and is a grail watch of mine that I recently acquired. A watch that is unlike any before it and whose realization is typically the stuff of dreams.

I speak of The Freak! a watch that was birthed by several geniuses in Le Locle in the manufacture that is Ulysse Nardin. Many have answered the question before so here’s my go at it, the question being…

What is The Freak?

The Freak is unlike anything that has come before it. It is a new & creative way to represent time.

The Freak is innovation in horological science. A technical tour de force with a new escapement and a groundbreaking use of silicium in time pieces.

The Freak is beauty in horological art… entrancing in its mechanical splendour

The Freak is that jaw-dropping uber-cool futuristic concept car at the recent motorshow that made it to production without any compromises or shortcuts [this one for the car lovers out there :) ]

The Freak is bold. It is about disregarding barriers and confined bounds and taking flight... It represents a rupture, a sea change from things that came before it.

(add in all the other awesome marketing superlatives that are over used in other watch ads but would actually apply to this watch :)




The folks responsible for this amazing timepiece include:

- Dato Rolf Schnyder... An amazing individual who has travelled a most interesting path in life and a visionary

- Dr Ludwig Oeschlin... Astronomer and Horological Genius. Created the Dual Direct Escapement for the Freak, which is a big deal and then refined it to make the Dual Ulysse Escapement. Lubricant free with silicium. Other staggering achievements of his include the Astrolabe for the wrist and the entire Trilogy of Time collection and the Perpetual Ludwig

- Pierre Gygax, UN's technical director who was key to getting silicium in watches and the team at UN who were there to realise or inspire the birth of the Freak

Some info from UN literature...

"upper bridge, fitted with the balance wheel assembly and its revolutionary Dual Direct Escapement, revolves once every hour indicating the minutes. During its 60 minute rotation, the upper bridge lays bare the mechanics of time. The center axis pivots in the sapphire crystal of the watch case... In other Tourbillons, the balance wheel assembly moves once every minute in a cage. In the Freak, the whole movement, including the balance wheel assembly, rotates once an hour inside the watch case."

So much has already been written about it and so I hoped to provide my thoughts on this magnificent time piece and answer some questions that may be on wis’ minds…

Q1. Can it be a daily wearer?

A1. Depends on you and what you do. I work in an office in the urban jungle, and long sleeve shirts and pants are de riguer. I wore it for over 2 weeks straight and loved every minute of it... It is now entering into regular rotation with my other watches (possibly... i may wear it daily for another 2 or 3 more weeks first :)

The 7 days power reserve also helps as you can wind it up on the weekend and it'll last the whole week. I suspect that the PR can last longer than 7 days though and will test this in future.

Q2. How is its time keeping accuracy?

A2. Well, it will range from piece to piece but mine is keeping very good time so far. I wound it up on Day 1 and on Day 5 it was still within 1 minute deviation. For those 4 days, it was on my wrist about 12 hours of the day and resting in the watch box for most of the time and some of the time, it was being photographed :)

This is not a watch for the accuracy freak though(oops), as there is no second hand and you may have to guess which minute its pointing to. I never accidentally adjusted the time over the 5 days but on the 5th day i did when cleaning the watch and its super easy to adjust back so i don't see it as a big issue at all. Its all part of the fun of the piece for me actually.

Q3. How does it wear?

A3. Perfectly on my 7” wrist. the case size of 42.5mm on the first Freak works for me.

Q4. Which Freak do you prefer the most and why?

A4. The Freak 1 in rose gold totally rules for me which is why I hunted for it and got it ;) Other than being the 1st, this is what i think is better about it...
  • no brake - the brake with its lettering, eg. 28,800 on the freak 2 just doesn't do it for me. having it there and funky words on it dun improve it aesthetically imo
  • rotating carriage aka 'christmas tree' (well to me at least :) on the 1 is the nicest. the 2 onwards have it such that the branches of the tree dun connect(see pic below of blue phantom). the 1's movement just looks the coolest to me... uhm for the science fiction crowd, think ultra cool alien harpoon device ;)
  • 42.5mm vs 44.5mm... 42.5mm wif the lugs the way they are is just right for my wrist. 44.5 may just be getting a lil too big but may suit larger wristed folks
  • the bezel for the Freak 2 onwards is different. the Freak 1, the 'ridges' on the 1 went into the bezel and was a bit more pronounced. the 2 onwards has a flat area which forms a perfect circle and which the ridges dont cut into... uhm see the pic below of the blue phantom to understand what i'm on about :)

The next one I like is the Blue Phantom. This is also a fine Freak...

pic source:

but this ones still the clear winner :)

silicium eh... is that the same as the stuff they use for enhancing ladies uhm... nevermind ;) As u can see the escape wheels are the Freak 2's so what I have on my hand is a Freak 1.5 with upgraded movement ... SSWWWWEEETTTT!




  • The Freak aka Freak 1 was launched in 2001 to much fanfare. It won the "Chronos Innovation Prize 2001" among many other prizes it has won over time. It continued to be sold until 2005 when the 28,800 or Freak 2 was launched to replace it. The Freak 1 beat at 21,600 fyi. After the 28,800 there was the Diamonsil and now the Blue Phantom. The Innovision is a concept watch. All in there may be around 650 Freak 1s out there today(not sure about this number but it may be close).
  • When it first started selling, 2001/02 it was going for low USD20s and when it stopped selling in 2005, it was going for low USD50s. destined for watch auctions in the future at which i hope it does well... its fully deserving of success in primary and secondary markets.
  • The 1 did have some teething problems… What were some of these? Owners accidentally changing time by moving the bezel. The watch suddenly stopping even though the mainspring was wound and some pieces had accuracy issues, magnetism issues etc… The solution that UN came up with was a revised escapement and the brake for the bezel and other niceties that are found in the Freak 2 onwards.



Upgraded Freak 1.0s are called Freak 1.5s ... A bit more about the 1.5 then
  • I believe this is the best Freak around as it has the good looks of the 1.0 and the updated escapement bits from the Dual Ulysse. Interesting that it was never sold in this form but required a visit back to UN to have it modded to be as such.
  • How can you tell by looking at it? The 1.0 had what i term 'forts and spearheads' type escapement wheel teeth and the 2.0 and 1.5 have the razor like teeth with the hook at the end thing going for it.... makes me think of the razor weapon of the baddie in octopussy (exaggerating a tad :) if u're going 'octo..wat' than its time to watch more Bond beyond Brosnan yuh ;)
upgraded escapement as can be viewed in my 1.5
razor weapon from octopussy i says... almost dicing Mr Bond in half ;)

versus 'forts and spearheads' or test tubes.... hmm and the other visual difference being the stud carrier, regulator and adjustment (note i may be wrong on naming the parts on this one :)
pic source: [credit to Michael Sandler]

to conclude then...

i am done with buying time pieces for awhile. I am happy with what i have to date and there is no major need to change things up for a bit. sure i will sell/buy(have to sell something 1st before i buy) watches again someday but i hope that that day is far away as right now, i want to enjoy these horological companions that i have acquired on my journey.

wear them and enjoy them as they keep the time for me in the special moments of my life spent with family and friends... (well they also tell the time during the mundane bits but the great thing is they do make reading the time a joy :)

i won't stop blogging or expressing my opinion on things horology related of course but may take a break for a bit... will see how it goes :) i hope that you, dear readers, are also have a fulfilling time on this journey and passion and in life.

blessings, raph


Some links to fantastic posts on the Freak... it brings out the best in its fans ;)



Anonymous said...

This is a beauty and from your writing, I can guess how happy you are with your new toy. Like a boy biting into his first fried chicken. Wear this piece of art in good health.

Agree with you that this piece will make it difficult for you to top so no need for aquisition for now.


Anonymous said...

Huge congrats, Raph!

You finally got the Freak you've been lusting after! Amazing watch!

You MUST bring it the next time we catch up!

Wear it in the best of health my friend.


raphael too said...

Hi Chris

Apologies I removed one comment as it was about the same as the 1st but if you want it restored do let me know. Thanks for the congrats :)

Hey Stefano, you will be seeing it soon :)


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