If there are some watches which have a special place in a collection, the Ulysse Nardin Freak is one of them.
I clearly remember the first time I saw it in the window display of a parisian AD. I just couldn't believe my eyes, and had to ask the dealer some more informations about this watch. I tried it, and I swore one day it would be mine.
I fell in love with the concept, the technical originality and the aesthetics of this watch: A no crown watch, silicon escapement, Baguette movement in the minute hand, Caroussel ( the balance wheel which makes one turn each hour ), 8 Days movement and the sculptural piece of Art.
It took me 5 years to achieve that challenge.
There is no other watch like the Freak. Some will hate its " beer opener ' look ( the bezel ), others will unconditionally love the watch, it is not a consensual watch, but all the contrary: A watch which generates strong feelings.
In 12 years, there were some clouds in our blue sky: The movement stopped, which has bee flawlessly solved, the strap broke, which was tougher to solve than I thought, due to the fact that the strap has a special construction. But Ulysse Nardin always did the best to take care of these issues and since then, no more clouds, just a bright and strong sun.
Since its birth, the Freak evolved. Bigger cases ( 44 then 45 mm ), different case shapes, true tourbillon ( The Diavolo ), automatic movement ( since this year ), bezel locker to avoid accidental changes of time ( since the Freak II ), metals, aesthetics of the dials...But the concept remains the same, its originality has been preserved, through all these years, since 2001 and the birth of this incredible watch.
My favorite? Mine. The first generation with its 42 mm case. Not too big, nor too small, perfectly proportioned. The Diavolo was a very tempting one, too, with its true tourbillon caroussel, and of course, the king of all Freaks, The Innovision, I or II.
The Innovision I, 2007:
Innovision 2, 2017:
A fresh picture of mine, to celebrate this anniversary:
Is everything perfect? No, of course. The winding system ( a ring on the case back, shaped like a bezel ) is a bit fastidious, but hopefully you won't have to often use it, as the Freak has a 8 Days power reserve.
The time can accidentally change, because the first generation doesn't have the lock at 6 o clock the later versions have.
The other point is the service cost: Expect to pay more than for any other watch. But the good point is that you won't have to service it each five years. Ten or fifteen years is enough, the silicon escapement doesn't requite a shorter interval.
Some said that the legibility is not evident. I would tell them that:
- Once you get used to it, it is very legible.
- Since, at our level of passion and love for watches, we don't read time, but we admire it, the question is without object.
The comfort? I can only speak for the first generation, as I didn't wear the later versions for a long time.
The first version sits well on the wrist. There is some weight, due to the white gold case, but it is not unpleasant.
The most interesting point, with the Freak, and you already understood it, is its character, its personality, its uniqueness, its originality.
A milestone in the horological landscape. And a pride to own.
Anywhere, any time, even if it cannot be seen as an every day watch.