Hands-On: The Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle
The Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle is an easy-to-spot watch. Its disruptive black and white attire is definitely not something you often see in the world of watches. The watch might remind you of a zebra, or of the WWI Dazzle paint job on ships. But does a wildly striped pattern camouflage beast and objects alike, or does it make them very confusingly conspicuous? What a razzle dazzle livery does without a doubt is to make you almost forget to mention the stunning flying carousel movement that normally would be at the center of attention.
So, what is razzle dazzle and what does it do? Interestingly the razzle dazzle pattern is about being conspicuous rather than invisible. So strictly speaking, the disruptive striped pattern on surface ships during WWI isn’t camouflage at all. It was Royal Navy volunteer reserve lieutenant Norman Wilkinson — who was a painter, graphic designer, and newspaper illustrator in his civilian life — took the exact opposite approach of traditional camouflage. Dave covered the history of the Dazzle in his article announcing the watch’s release back in May here.
The extreme stripes and abstract figures on ships were meant to confuse the enemy looking through a periscope.
He came up with an ingenious idea to protect British surface ships against enemy submarines. The idea was to not try to hide them at sea, but to make them extra conspicuous. The extreme stripes and abstract figures on ships were designed to confuse the enemy looking through a periscope. The hypnotizing razzle dazzle pattern was intended to make it more difficult to determine the actual size of the ship, the distance to it, its speed, and its heading.
Fooling lions or dispensing heat?
But what about Zebras? Well, the question of why zebras have stripes has proven very difficult to answer and has a number of scientists hard at work. So far there is no consensus. There’s a theory that says the black and white pattern helps them regulate their body temperature.
The other one is that lions can’t see color and have trouble seeing a zebra clearly in their black and white attire. I can’t help but wonder why lions eat so many zebra, if their stripes are there to hide them from the big cats. But I’m no expert, so don’t mind me.
Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle spins and spins
I do know a bit more about watches. So I can tell you that the black and white stripes on the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle are not there to deal with heat. They’re there to leave you clueless to where the flying carousel movement, which rotates around its own axis without a traditional dial or hands, is going and what time it indicates.
… that leaves the Freak X Razzle Dazzle enough time to make itself scarce to avoid getting torpedoed.
Reserve lieutenant Norman Wilkinson would approve. The movement already defied all the known codes of watchmaking, now it has the matching “paint job”. It’s not that you can’t read the time at all, but it does take a bit of time and effort to figure it out. And that leaves the Freak X Razzle Dazzle enough time to make itself scarce to avoid getting torpedoed. If only it wasn’t strapped to the wrist…
Razzle dazzle, it’s only natural
What I do like about the Freak X Razzle Dazzle is that its naval look fits in with the history of Ulysse Nardin. The brand from Le Locle has a heritage that is deeply rooted in the seafaring universe. Having worked with several naval forces in the past, it’s not that big of a surprise that the Ulysse Nardin design department decided upon the razzle dazzle pattern as a new exercise in style and composition.
A very clever way of drawing attention to the watch. Something which it did while I was wearing it. It certainly did not go unnoticed. And I loved that because I then had a chance to talk about the inspiration for the design and the original movement it’s equipped with.
No hands. No dial
The movement in the Freak X Razzle Dazzle doesn’t need hands to tell time. Instead, the central bridge acts as a minute hand and one of the wheels indicates the hours. The movement also uses a super-light balance wheel in blue silicon, outfitted with nickel flyweights and stabilizing micro-blades.
The movement itself, the blacked-out UN-230, is a fusion of the in-house calibers UN-118 and Freak Vision UN-250. There’s no dial, either. The razzle dazzle decorative movement plate, integrating the minute gear train, takes over that role.
The watch attracts attention when you wear it; from others, but also from yourself. The white open-worked calfskin leather strap with point de bride stitches, contrasts with the black DLC coated titanium case, continuously seeks attention from its wearer.
The 43 mm size is on the larger side of things, but since black slims down and titanium is lightweight, the Freak X Razzle Dazzle is an easy-to-wear watch.
The final effect is captivating, mesmerizing, bewildering, hypnotizing, absorbing, you name it.
It may be a bit gimmicky, but Ulysse Nardin made sure the razzle dazzle paint scheme is in line with the fine Haute Horlogerie tradition. Meaning the bold pattern is executed in three different dial-making techniques: lacquer, electroplating/galvanic treatment, and laser etching. The final effect is captivating, mesmerizing, bewildering, hypnotizing, absorbing… You name it! The Freak X Razzle Dazzle is a true optical illusion on the wrist.
The Freak X Razzle Dazzle is a limited edition of 30 pieces worldwide. The watch comes with a five-year guarantee and has a price of $27,300. Find out if you can focus on the Freak X Razzle Dazzle on Ulysse Nardin’s official website.
Please find and follow me at Lex Stolk • Instagram