If you’re new to watches and have noticed the big wave of retro love sweeping the world, the Ulysse Nardin Freak will surely shock your system. And it will stun you even more if you are not privy to the fact that this is an ever-evolving creation that is already over 20 years old. That’s right; Ulysse Nardin does not intend to rest on its laurels, and the new Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad dials up the brand’s creativity volume.

This is not the first time, of course. Every one of the brand’s Freak(y) releases seems to have a curated future-crafted vibe. The Freak S Nomad, however, is an absolute knockout, I’m all about daringly juxtaposing tech-forward carbon fiber with centuries-old diamond-patterned guilloché.

The Ulysse Nardin Freak

Let’s rewind for those of you who are looking at the images. You see, the concept is more than 20 years old. You can read my full 2023 story here, but let me summarize it to introduce the new Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad. If you think this looks groundbreaking today, imagine the reaction back in 2001. Ulysse Nardin’s image was transformed through the visionary minds of former CEO Rolf Schnyder and designer Ludwig Oechslin.

The History Of The Ulysse Nardin Freak

The dial and carousel of one of the first Freak references

An otherworldly tourbillon carousel without a conventional case or crown set the tone for more than 20 years of creativity. This first watch without a crown or hands captured Baselworld audiences. Its entire movement rotated once per hour but was not driven from the center. The rehaut included a toothed track on which the cogs of a minute wheel pulled the entire assembly around. This concept is still in place, with the movement itself rotating from the central axis to indicate the time. Unsurprisingly, the first Freak was awarded the 2002 Innovation Prize.

Introducing the Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

The Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

Fast-forward to 2024, and the concept of the Freak remains the same but dramatically evolved. There is still a rotating carousel movement, while Ulysse Nardin’s evolution in material tech and movement design has kept the Haute Horologie brand on the cutting edge of innovation. The latest manufacture caliber UN-251 still rotates slowly within the expansive stage of the dial. And it still has the menacing look of a dark spacecraft rather than an exposed movement. Its angles are acute and dramatic while exhibiting traditional flourishes of anglage and micro-polished parts. Plus, with generous lume, it is as legible as it seems alien in form.

Introducing the Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

The UN-251 movement features a double oscillator with twin balance wheels that move in parallel synchronicity. Its escapements are coated in DIAMonSIL, a proprietary high-tech diamond-coated silicon. These impossibly thin, almost spider-web-like shapes are a testament to the brand’s focus on silicon tech throughout the years and deliver exceptional precision and durability. They are linked by a vertical differential to deliver superior timekeeping accuracy, while this year, there is a new and studied contrast within the dial. The Freak S Nomad name takes its inspiration from the desert, and the sand-dune-inspired dial is the result of a link to watchmaking’s early 18th-century past.

A daring past reinvented

The traditional guilloché pattern of the dial is achieved with an 18th-century rose engine and turned entirely by hand. This makes for a fascinating meeting of past and future, with technology from the days of the pocket watch appearing as the vivid background to dark-toned innovation. Each dial with its diamond-patterned engraving encompasses a sequence of intersection curves that require a skilled hand. I am fascinated that it takes an artisan more than three hours to complete, involving 240 continuous manual movements. After that, the dial gets a beige CVD (chemical vapor deposition) treatment. The fact that no two dials are identical and no laser-guided machine is responsible makes it all the more charming. And it serves as a reminder of the reason we all love the craft of watchmaking.

A case of tactical complexity

The multi-layered case of the Freak S Nomad has its very own story of dark flamboyance. Last year, the Freak One won its category at the 2023 GPHG. And just like the recent edition of the Freak One OPS, there’s a tactical vibe at play here. First, there is no crown. Instead, the bezel serves as the setting mechanism. This time, it is rendered in anthracite PVD-coated titanium. The proprietary Grinder system ensures automatic winding at double speed and a 72-hour power reserve. This frames the sapphire case back, also in dark titanium, while the organic patterns of the mid-case come from featherlight carbon fiber. I’m usually not a fan of all-black cases, but Ulysse Nardin easily flicks my taste switch with this one. The light will play beautifully within the guilloché dial as the touches of purple-blue in the double balance add interest.

The Freak S Nomad has an immense show-stealer in the dial. And this year, Ulysse Nardin has been equally imaginative in the strap department. There’s a tool-tough patterned rubber strap, but my choice would easily be the anthracite alligator strap. It has a first-seen discreet center line of openings revealing a sand-colored calfskin insert. It’s a small touch but perfectly aligned with the bicolor micro world under the sapphire crystal. Bravo, Ulysse Nardin; not many brands manage to reinvent such a particular and recognizable concept. For me, this is an easy conclusion, and a watch that is more like an exquisite lab for the wrist goes straight onto my grail list. This Freak S Nomad will be available from Ulysse Nardin and selected retailers for CHF 140,600 / €150,000.

What are your thoughts, Fratelli? Do you aspire to the crown-less future of Ulysse Nardin’s Freak? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Watch specifications

Freak S Nomad
2513-500LE-4A-GUI/1A (alligator strap) / 2513-500LE-4A-GUI/3A (“ballistic” rubber strap)
Sand-coloured CVD with diamond-shaped guilloché hour disc
Case Material
Titanium case and locker, anthracite PVD-coated titanium bezel, carbon fiber side plates
Case Dimensions
Diameter 45mm Perceived height 13.66 mm, overall height 16.65 mm
Case Back
Anthracite PVD-coated titanium with sapphire crystal
Ulysse Nardin UN-251: automatic winding via Grinder system, 18,000vph frequency, 72-hour power reserve
Water Resistance
3 ATM (30 meters)
Anthracite rubber “ballistic” textured strap or anthracite open-worked matte alligator leather strap with sand-colored calfskin inserts, titanium deployant clasp
Hours and minutes (displayed by flying carousel rotating around its axis)
CHF 140,600 CHF (8.1% VAT included) / €150,000 (21% VAT included) / £130,510 (20% VAT included) / US$148,300 (sales tax excluded)