Today, enthusiasts of exquisite timepieces are experiencing an unprecedented era of abundance. Swiss watchmaking, known for its creativity, innovation, and imagination, has unleashed its wild side. Back in 2001, when the Ulysse Nardin Freak made its debut, the landscape of watchmaking was rather dry. This timepiece shattered all conventions. It defied the norms by not having traditional hands, a dial, or even a crown. Its beating heart was crafted using cutting-edge silicon, a high-tech material that effectively countered the stresses placed on the moving components of a watch. The Freak was audacious, groundbreaking, and, quite frankly, freaky. Undoubtedly, this was a risky move. Mechanical watchmaking had just recovered from three decades of setbacks. Would this Freak, this extraordinary creation, this horological anomaly, receive a positive reception? Would anyone embrace it? Indeed, they did. The Freak caused a sensation. It breathed new life into high-end watchmaking, without relying on the conventional tropes. Gone were the smooth, round yellow gold cases, enamel dials, and tourbillons. Instead, a free-spirited timepiece emerged, boasting fresh aesthetics and avant-garde technology. The Freak told a new story: No dial. No hands. No crown.

Over the past two decades, the Freak’s unconventional design has established it as the flagship of Ulysse Nardin. A rebellious symbol for an independent company driven by a relentless pursuit of creativity and mechanical experimentation. Since 2001, the Manufacture has secured over 20 patents for the Freak, and just last year, the Freak One was honored with the prestigious Iconic Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. In the meantime, silicon components have become commonplace in the industry. Watchmakers have ventured into uncharted territories, exploring forms that were once unimaginable before the advent of the Freak. Wherever the Freak ventured, others followed suit.

During the Watches and Wonders Geneva 2024 event, Ulysse Nardin directs its attention towards the Freak S Nomad, a unique timepiece that exudes a sand-colored allure and creates a captivating desert ambiance. This extraordinary watch continues to defy conventions with its absence of a dial, hands, and crown. In essence, it serves as a miniature laboratory on the wrist, with more innovations yet to be unveiled. The Freak S Nomad serves as a testament to the fact that nothing else compares to the exceptional nature of the Freak timepiece.

At the Watches and Wonders Geneva event this year, Ulysse Nardin, an independent and integrated Manufacture, presents the next instalment in the Freak series, the extraordinary yet classic Freak S Nomad. This timepiece embodies the brand’s independent nature and its relentless pursuit of exploring uncharted territories by pushing boundaries.

The limited edition watch, consisting of only 99 pieces, is distinguished by its exceptional movement, which immediately evokes images of a fantastical spaceship. This distinctive appearance is a result of the design of the Freak S’s Calibre UN-251 Manufacture movement, featuring a flying carousel that revolves around its own axis. The movement showcases two oscillators with silicon balance wheels inclined at a 20-degree angle, resembling launch pads, and escapements treated with advanced DIAMonSIL technology for enhanced precision and durability. These elements are connected by a vertical differential system mounted on ball bearings. The winding mechanism is expertly handled by Ulysse Nardin’s innovative Grinder® winding system, which is twice as efficient as traditional automatic systems.

The movement’s bridges are coated in anthracite PVD, while the minute hand is filled with luminous Super-LumiNova® that emits a light blue glow in the dark. In total, the movement comprises 373 components and 33 jewels.

Encasing this remarkable movement is a 45mm case that combines an experimental blend of materials. The main body is crafted from titanium, complemented by an anthracite PVD-coated titanium bezel, and carbon fiber flanks that also serve as the watch’s lugs. The watch is accompanied by a choice of two straps: one made of anthracite rubber with a ‘ballistic’ texture, and the other in matte anthracite alligator leather, which is open-worked to reveal accents of sand-coloured calfskin leather.

The Freak S Nomad is undeniably a design and technical innovator, showcasing Ulysse Nardin’s profound appreciation for haute horlogerie, métiers d’art, and the exceptional craftsmanship and finishing techniques that epitomize the most exquisite luxury timepieces. However, it also presents a paradox. The hour disc, positioned behind the carousel ‘spaceship’ movement, serves as a testament to this passion. This hour disc boasts a diamond guilloché pattern, meticulously crafted with a sand-colored CVD finish, reminiscent of undulating sand dunes. Each piece is painstakingly produced by a highly skilled artisan, requiring years of dedication and mastery. The process involves employing a rare 18th-century rose engine, which is operated solely by hand, devoid of any electronic or laser assistance. The resulting dial is a captivating display of intersecting curves, necessitating 240 continuous movements over a three-hour duration. To maintain the flawless continuity of the pattern, the guillocheur must execute the entire process without lifting their hand or even flinching. There is no room for breaks or distractions, no time for indulging in a cup of coffee. This extraordinary endeavor demands an extraordinary level of concentration, expertise, and patience.

There are three reasons why undertaking this task by hand is preferable. Firstly, hand-craftsmanship possesses a certain charm and elegance that cannot be replicated by machines. As technology advances, machines become more efficient but also lose their emotional touch, making hand-craftsmanship even more valuable and timeless. Secondly, the absence of machines eliminates vibrations, resulting in a smoother and more precise finish. Lastly, since each plate is meticulously crafted by hand, no two are identical, adding a unique touch to each piece. The combination of this traditional finishing technique with the cutting-edge movement and avant-garde materials of the Freak S Nomad perfectly embodies Ulysse Nardin’s distinctive approach to watchmaking. It is a blend of pure Swiss watchmaking expertise and a fearless pursuit of innovation and novelty. As the Freak S Nomad emphasizes, Ulysse Nardin’s spirit of exploration knows no limits.