The New Ulysse Nardin Freak X OPS: A Refined Maverick For The Modern Era
For the horology enthusiasts gathered at Watches and Wonders Shanghai, Ulysse Nardin now unveils the newest evolution of the Freak collection — the Freak X OPS. Few timepieces in the annals of Haute Horlogerie have disrupted conventions and reshaped the narrative as dramatically as Ulysse Nardin’s iconic Freak.
Introduced in 2001, this avant-garde marvel was a horological game changer, eschewing dials, hands, and even crowns. Fast-forward to 2019, and Ulysse Nardin once again set the watchmaking sphere abuzz with the launch of the Freak X. A modern iteration, the Freak X retained its forerunner’s fearless essence. While it finally embraced a crown, it still forwent the traditional dials and hands, opting for movement bridges to serve this purpose instead. Moreover, including cutting-edge materials, such as a silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights, underscored the brand’s commitment to innovation. Affectionately dubbed the “easygoing Freak,” this was an ode to the past yet very much a product of the present.
The Freak X OPS is stealthy sophistication
Cloaked in a black DLC titanium case and complemented by Ulysse Nardin’s proprietary ultra-lightweight carbon fiber composite flanks and a fabric strap, this timepiece whispers of covert operations and daring adventures. When I saw the watch in hand, this case reminded me of the topological lines you find on OS maps. While not the official line from Ulysse Nardin, given the name, the comparison is appropriate. Officially, it is inspired by the textured patterns of Damascus steel. Regardless, each Freak X OPS case is distinctly unique.
Ulysse Nardin’s roots, intertwined with maritime exploration and unparalleled craftsmanship, find resonance in the Freak X OPS. Anchoring the watch is the UN-230 self-winding movement — essentially, a fusion of the robust UN-118 and the technologically advanced UN-250. And, as a nod to the adventurers it seeks to allure, this masterpiece boasts water resistance to 50 meters. OK, that’s not going to take you on a covert night dive in Belize, but I guess this watch is perhaps more attuned to armchair spec ops?
But how does it wear?
For a 43mm watch, I have to say that it wears incredibly well. When the Ulysse Nardin team presented us with a sneak peek of the watch during Geneva Watch Days, I loved it the moment I saw it. Sitting there with Morgan and Nacho, I grabbed it before either of them got a sniff of it and put it straight onto my wrist. As the brand told us more about the watch, I happily admired the gorgeous case material. I remember hearing “43mm” in the background. “Really? 43mm?” I asked. After our host confirmed this, I looked down at my wrist again. Honestly, I know it’s a cliché in our circles, but this thing felt smaller — perhaps closer to a 41mm watch on the wrist. Make of that what you will.
Either way, thanks to the case’s combination of titanium and carbon composite, it was incredibly lightweight and comfortable. The strap is also very nicely made. The fabric was very comfortable for a hook-and-loop strap, and it was easy to find the right size. A point of note and a big tick for Ulysse Nardin is the little stopper at the end of the strap. At the very end of the tailpiece is a little stopper that prevents the strap from becoming completely undone. This makes putting the watch on and removing it again a breeze, without worrying about it dropping and falling. It is a simple touch and most certainly the idea of a fellow watch fan.
Delving into the technicalities of the Freak X OPS
Beneath its striking exterior, the Freak X OPS houses an intricate heart. It’s what the Freak collection is so well known for. Contrary to most regular mechanical watches that veil their innards beneath a dial, the Freak X OPS wears its movement with pride. Doubling as the minute hand, the movement offers a unique approach to reading the time. Add to this a rotating disc beneath the movement acting as the hour hand, and you’ve got an intriguing yet surprisingly intuitive design.
Furthermore, the watch’s prowess isn’t just skin-deep. As mentioned, powering this timepiece is the UN-230, which has an impressive 72-hour power reserve. To round off the technical marvels, the watch incorporates khaki-green Super-LumiNova coating for optimal visibility in low-light conditions.
Reflecting on the Freak’s legacy
In the twilight of the 20th century, when the allure of mechanical watches seemed to be waning, visionaries like Rolf Schnyder envisioned a renaissance. His partnership with the genius watchmaker Dr. Ludwig Oechslin resulted in the creation of the original Freak, a tonic not just for Ulysse Nardin but for the entire Swiss watchmaking industry as well.
Sporting no dial, hands, or crown, the Freak was groundbreaking. Its use of silicon, then a revolutionary material in the horological world, further solidified its status as a trailblazer. Over the years, the Freak has donned many avatars, each iteration pushing boundaries and redefining the art of watchmaking. In my opinion, the Freak X is the best iteration yet.
Finals thoughts on the Ulysse Nardin Freak X OPS
The Ulysse Nardin Freak X OPS, with its blend of heritage and innovation, is a prime example of modern-day watchmaking innovation and brilliance. That’s a big statement to make, and I stand by it. Sure, there are more technologically and horologically advanced watches out there. However, this “blue-sky thinking” with the Freak concept is something we so rarely see. It’s a testament to how far the brand has come and, more importantly, a peek into the bright horizons that lie ahead. The Freak is a collection that has intrigued me for some time. While the Freak X Razzle Dazzle will always hold a special place in my heart, the Freak X OPS is, for me, the standout best model in the Freak collection to date.
On a final note, I’ve been rewatching Suits recently (for the third time). In one episode, the main character Mike Ross, says, “There’s nothing new under the Sun.” I wonder how true that might be when it comes to watches. In the realm where innovation constantly meets tradition, what other boundaries are yet to be pushed? Will we ever see anything like the Freak ever again? Care to weigh in? Let me know in the comments!
You can learn more about Ulysse Nardin here.
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