By Meor Amri Meor Ayob
Ulysse Nardin has been a watch brand since 1823. I was surprised that I only did a review on one of their watches. Honestly, I don’t know why I gave this brand a miss when in reality the offerings are very interesting. Historically, Ulysse Nardin has been in the forefront of research and development when it comes to horology with quite a number of firsts.
Today I want to cover one very interesting model from Ulysse Nardin that looks so futuristically cool; the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab Boutique Edition under the Freak line of watches. What surprising is that the Freak series was first launched back in 2001.
When this line was launched in 2001, it came to watch enthusiasts as something extraordinary for a mechanical wristwatch. There was no crown, no hands, and no dial and yet, achieved the same goal as other watches to tell time. From a technological point of view as well, this series introduced new materials and designs that have been adopted by many other watchmakers since. The Freak collection was the first watch to incorporate a silicon escapement in 2001, a diamond escapement in 2005 and the Dual Ulysse escapement the same year.
The latest under this series is the FreakLab Boutique Edition. It comes in two difference models, the reference 2100-138 in 18k white gold limited to 99 pieces, as well as the reference 2103-138_CF-BQ in titanium and carbon fiber also limited to 99 pieces. The letter is only available at Ulysse Nardin boutiques.
This latest version of the Freak series has a redesigned balance-wheel and balance-spring which has them repositioned to the centre of unique time module. This makes it more compact than the predecessor. The unique time module at the center of the watch is, in fact, a large part of the movement that comprises the gear train, the balance wheel, the balance-spring unit, and the Dual Ulysse silicon escapement. This module rotates on its own axis once per an hour and is effectively the minute indicator.
Another interesting point to note is the unique escapement called Dual Ulysse silicon escapement that does not use the traditional pallet fork and escape wheel method. Instead, two silicon impulse wheels, each with eighteen teeth, alternately activate a stopper which transmits its energy directly to the balance staff. This style of design sends the force in the direction of the rotation of the balance wheel, minimizing friction.
Also new to this current version is a date function located at 4 o’clock and the in-house UlyChoc safety system. This is a special silicon shock absorber system designed for the pinion which holds the entire unique time module system on the dial. This is the most sensitive structure of the watch given that it rests on just one connection point. UlyChoc safety system provides protection for this crucial part.
The Ulysse Nardin FreakLab has a new in-house made movement, the 23 jewel UN-210 that operates at 4Hz or 28,800 bph. Like all Freak family watches, the movement is wound by turning the rear of the caseback to directly wind the large mainspring that is capable of storing eight full days of energy for the watch. The mainspring is partially visible through the rear of the case.
To set the time one only need to operate the bezel. Lifting a small latch (etched with the brand ‘FREAK LAB’) located under the 6 o’clock position unlocks the bezel. Once unlocked, the wearer can turn the bezel left or right to set the time in either direction.
The Ulysse Nardin FreakLab watches comes in a 45mm-wide case. Of the two models available, visually I prefer the black titanium and carbon fiber model. It is more unique thanks to the special materials used. Priced at US$95,000 for the 18k white gold model and US$75,000 for the titanium and carbon fiber model, these watches are not cheap.
Those of you with cash to spare, this would be a good wristwatch to have in your collection as it is the progeny of a number of impressive technological innovation in the world of horology. It is also extremely beautiful.
For more info, please visit ulysse-nardin.com
MEOR AMRI MEOR AYOB – CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Meor Amri is a passionate watch collector from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Having bitten by the horology bug in 2010, he has written extensively about the watch scene and has assembled a large collection of watches (excessively!!!) on his own free time. His blogs on the same subject are: Eastern Watch & Western Watch Read his articles here