Ulysse Nardin Drops The Freak One OPS
While it may be cold, wet, and wintery here in Europe, over in the sunny climes of Dubai Watch Week, Ulysse Nardin treated visitors to the first sights of its brand-new addition to the Freak collection. The Freak One OPS takes the Freak One concept introduced at Watches and Wonders earlier this year and gives it the OPS makeover. And yes, that’s right, the Freak One just won the Iconic Watch prize at GPHG last week too.
Ulysse Nardin first introduced us to the Freak concept way back in 2001. It has always been ahead of its time. While the ’90s and ’00s saw some weird and wonderful watch designs, I struggle to think of many as groundbreaking as the Freak. When we think of watches, we think of hands, dials, and crowns. The Freak did away with all that while maintaining some semblance of what we might think of as “a watch.” Fast forward to 2023, and the brand gave us the Freak One at Watches and Wonders.
In a way, the Freak One was “the great reset.” It was supposed to represent the Freak if it had been conceived in the modern day. While the principles behind the technical aspects of the watch remained largely the same, the surface aesthetics received a makeover befitting of the year 2023. Still, we have no dial, hands, or crown, but we have a more refined and futuristic-looking watch. While I always appreciated the original Freak from 2001, I felt it was a bit whacky-looking. If the Mad Hatter wore a watch, it would be the original Freak. The Freak One, however, definitely brought it into the modern day.
And this is where we come to the Freak One OPS. This is Ulysse Nardin’s first iterative variation on the Freak One and the OPS concept. Of course, OPS refers to the abbreviated form of “operations.” Depending on how you interpret the name, it has potential military, adventure, and exploration connotations. I think it’s purposely open to interpretation. Blending black and khaki colors, it certainly conjures outdoorsy vibes in one way or another.
The Freak One OPS
Whereas the Freak X OPS featured a proprietary carbon composite material reminiscent of OS maps and topological lines, the Freak One OPS offers a slightly different outlook. We have a 44mm black DLC titanium case with a Carbonium bezel. I’m right there with you if you think the bezel looks like forged carbon fiber. A little research on Google suggests that Carbonium is a “material sourced from the French aerospace sector made from carbon fibers and high-temperature epoxy.” That sounds pretty much like forged carbon to me, but if anyone reading this knows more about the seemingly subtle differences, please drop me a line in the comments. Ulysse Nardin states that Carbonium is made from offcuts from the aerospace industry, thus reducing its environmental impact by 40%.
Finally, we see a khaki-green engraved sunray pattern on the barrel cover. You could be forgiven for mistaking the barrel cover for a dial, but technically, it is not. To understand this, we must look closer at the UN-240 movement within. So, we have established there is no crown. Now you must be thinking, “How do I wind it or set the time?” Well, fear not, my intrepid friends. Operation is a cinch thanks to the clever control bezel. The Carbonium bezel is more than purely decorative. In the case of the Freak One, it’s how we wind movement’s mainspring and set the time. Simply flip up the “Freak” plaque at 6 o’clock to unlock the bezel. Twisting it either forward or backward allows the user to adjust the time likewise. This novel method of operation is very easy thanks to the grippy notches in the bezel ring.
The daily grind
Around the back, the sapphire display case back allows a view of the automatic Grinder winding system. It doesn’t quite look like any traditional automatic movement, but there’s a good reason for that — it’s not. The user can manually wind the movement by twisting the outer ring of the case back counterclockwise, although the Freak One’s impressive winding system makes that largely unnecessary. Ulysse Nardin designed it for ultra-fast bidirectional winding from even the slightest motion. Thus, the Grinder system is hugely efficient at keeping that 90-hour power reserve topped up. All this fun comes at a slight price, however. It results in a mere 30m water resistance rating as any higher is impossible. It’s not quite in the spirit of the OPS moniker, but it’s not really an issue if we’re being totally honest with ourselves.
The Freak One OPS is another fine entry into the Freak’s storied history
When I think of Ulysse Nardin, I think of the Freak collection. Sure, there is much more to the brand than its little oddball. You only have to look at the Marine and Diver collections to see that the brand from Le Locle is well versed in all areas of horological capability. Still, the Freak encapsulates the creativity and individualistic approach that the historic brand takes toward watchmaking in the 21st century. I’m not shy about my appreciation for watchmaking and design creativity. I like when brands challenge themselves to represent time in unconventional ways.
There are a plethora of simple three-hand watches to suit the occasion when quick and instantaneous time-telling is imperative. However, sometimes, it’s important to be able to sit back and appreciate the passage of time. Isn’t watchmaking an expression of art, something else that demands to be appreciated and dissected on a personal level? Watchmaking was always a continuous experiment of the expression of time, making the inanimate animate. After all, it could be argued that time itself is a human construct. OK, let’s not get too philosophical about it all. I’ll end by saying that the Freak collection is the perfect foil to the need for creativity and expression in watchmaking. I fully stand by this statement as a personal opinion. With that, the Freak One OPS is another excellent addition to the Freak story.
But what do you think of the Freak One OPS?
Most importantly, I now turn this over to you, the Fratello. What do you think of the Ulysse Nardin Freak One OPS? Do you appreciate Ulysse Nardin’s creativity and horological chops on display? Or perhaps you prefer a more simple three-handed watch. Either way, let me know in the comments! You can find out more about the Freak One OPS on the Ulysse Nardin website.
CHF 63,000 (VAT incl.) / €67,500 (21% VAT incl.) / US$66,500 (sales tax excl.) / £58,480 (VAT incl.)