Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad is a mix of high-tech, sci-fi and steampunk

Watch fans can be pretty conservative. The idea of ​​a mechanical timepiece itself is outdated, so it stands to reason that the most revered models are often frozen in the amber of tradition. It’s a safe bet for manufacturers to launch variations on familiar themes, but on rare occasions we see something that absolutely fits the bill. Those soaring, daring moonshots that seem to come from nothing, only to burn back to Earth due to fatal design flaws. But every now and then, a new idea emerges that has never been tried before, as was the case when the first-generation Ulysse Nardin Freak was unveiled in 2001. It was a high-end timepiece with no hands, no dial, and not even a crown. Really, it looked no different than before. It also happened to be the first mechanical watch to use a silicon escape wheel, which was unheard of at the time. Over 20 years and multiple patents later, each iteration of the Freak has continued to surprise, and the new Freak S Nomad offers even more horological surprises.

Haute Horlogerie is the apex predator of the watch world, but innovation often comes at the expense of wearability. We’ve all seen those bio-domes with bubbles on top and a tri-axis tourbillon spinning underneath, but rarely outside the confines of high-end salons. But Ulysse Nardin clearly wants its creations to be worn. For such an avant-garde design, the Freak S Nomad is surprisingly wearable even with a 45mm diameter case. Its wearability is partly due to the titanium and carbon fiber construction, with titanium making up the majority of the case and saving about a third of its weight compared to steel. Between the six lower lugs, you’ll find a titanium bezel lock, etched with the “FREAK” branding, that locks the rotating anthracite PVD bezel. The bezel itself functions the same way as the time-setting crown, further proving that nothing on the Freak S is like anything in a traditional timepiece. On the back, you’ll find an open titanium caseback with the same anthracite PVD process, with the Freak’s base visible through the sapphire crystal. replica watches sale

As with all things Freak, you’ll find that many familiar watch-related terms don’t apply. Like the dial or the hands. Instead of a traditional dial, Ulysse Nardin has gone with a labor-intensive diamond guilloché hour disc that requires great skill to operate. Made with sand-colored CVD, the rotating hour disc uses a rare 18th-century rose engine to achieve the intricate finish, a process that requires 240 rotations over three hours, all without interruption. Its mesmerizing texture is a provocative statement of old-world craftsmanship wrapped in a futuristic package. The inset hour indicator is luminescent, and as the disc rotates to point to the floating hour index, the overall visual presentation is almost like a magic trick. But wait, there’s more.

Once again, we need to let go of tradition, because the minute hand is the movement, and the movement is… well, you get the idea. Going back to the original 2001 Freak, Ulysse Nardin has subverted tradition by putting the movement front and center, and today’s S Nomad kicks things up a few notches. The automatic caliber UN-251 is made up of 373 parts and 33 jewels, and it offers plenty of visual drama. Suffice it to say, like a big-budget action movie, you’ll see every bit of the action on screen. The flying carousel spins on its own axis, flanked by twin oscillators with silicon balance wheels that spin furiously. The whole effect resembles a top-down view of some futuristic hovercraft, like a floating vehicle from the Blade Runner franchise. The “hand” on the movement acts as the minute hand and is treated with Super-LumiNova to make it easy to see after dark.

An edgy smoke show like the Freak S Nomad deserves something better than a standard alligator strap, and fake Ulysse Nardin doesn’t disappoint here. Oh, you do get an alligator strap, but this one has a matte anthracite finish with cutout detailing in the form of a sand-colored calfskin insert. If you want something a little more casual, there’s also ballistic-textured rubber in the same anthracite color. A titanium deployant buckle completes the package.

One of the main selling points of haute horlogerie is visual presentation, and in this regard, the Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad excels. From the non-stop operation of the intricate, highly detailed movement to the unconventional timekeeping experience, it’s all there. Creating such a statement in a package that’s both attractive and highly wearable is no mean feat.

Brand Ulysse Nardin
Model Freak S Nomad
Reference 2513-500LE-4A-GUI/1A (leather)
2513-500LE-4A-GUI/3A (rubber)
Case dimensions 45 mm (depth) x 16.65 mm (length)
Case material Titanium and carbon fiber
Water resistance 30 meters
Crystal Sapphire front and back
Dial Diamond guilloché and sand-colored CVD
Bracelet Anthracite alligator leather, titanium folding clasp
Anthracite textured rubber, titanium folding clasp
Movement UN-251, in-house, grinder automatic
Power reserve 72 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, tilted double balance wheel