Ulysse Nardin Freak [S Nomad]


Ulysse Nardin Freak [S Nomad]

Freak [S Nomad]

Then came the Freak
La Cote des Montres - April 18th, 2024

The original Freak blew in from nowhere.
More than two decades on, the winds of change it whipped up continue to shape fine watchmaking.

Looking around fine watchmaking today, connoisseurs have never had it so good. Creativity, innovation, imagination: Swiss watchmaking’s wild side is unleashed.

In 2001, when the Ulysse Nardin Freak was introduced, the landscape was somewhat drier. This was a watch that broke all the rules. Not only did it not have conventional hands, nor a dial, nor even a crown, its beating heart was built around the use of high-tech silicon, a cutting-edge material employed to combat the stresses placed on a watch’s moving parts. Everything about the Freak was daring, groundbreaking and, frankly, freaky.

This, no mistake, was a risk. Mechanical watchmaking was just back on its feet after three misfiring decades, but would this Freak, this extraordinary creation, this horological anomaly actually get a good hearing? Would anyone go for it?

Indeed, they would.

The Freak whipped up a storm. Here was a watch that breathed new life into high-end watchmaking, without relying on the old tropes. Out with the smooth round yellow gold cases, enamel dials and tourbillons. In with a free-spirited watch with fresh aesthetics and avant-garde technology. The Freak told a new story:

No dial. No hands. No crown.

In the two decades since, the Freak’s unconventional profile has made it the Ulysse Nardin flagship. A rule-breaking totem for an independent company hellbent on creative and mechanical experimentation. Since 2001, the Manufacture has filed more than 20 patents for the Freak and only last year, the Freak One was awarded the Iconic Watch Prize at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

In the meantime, silicon parts have become an industry norm. And watchmakers have experimented with forms that few would have dreamed possible before the Freak. Where the Freak went, others followed.

At Watches and Wonders Geneva 2024, Ulysse Nardin’s focus falls on the Freak S Nomad, a sand-coloured expression of the Freak that whips up a desert storm all of its own. Again it has no dial, no hands and no crown. In fact, it’s a laboratory on the wrist, more of which to come.

The Freak S Nomad proves one thing. There’s still nothing quite like the Freak.


The Freak takes off


At Watches and Wonders Geneva this year, the independent and integrated Manufacture Ulysse Nardin introduces the next chapter in the story of the Freak, the unconventional and yet traditional Freak S Nomad, reflecting the brand’s independent spirit and its quest to explore new territories by pushing boundaries.

The new 99-piece limited edition watch is defined by its unique movement, which at first glance carries echoes of a fantastical spaceship.

That look comes from the architecture of the Freak S’s Calibre UN-251 Manufacture movement, a flying carousel that rotates around its own axis. It features two oscillators with silicon balance wheels inclined at 20 degrees (that look like launch pads) and escapements treated with high-tech DIAMonSIL for added precision and durability. These are linked by a vertical differential system mounted on ball bearings. Winding is taken care of by Ulysse Nardin’s innovative Grinder® winding system, an automatic system that’s twice as efficient as a traditional automatic system.

The movement’s bridges are coated in anthracite PVD, while what becomes the minute hand is filled with luminous Super-LumiNova® that glows light blue in the dark. In all, there are 373 components and 33 jewels in the movement.

Surrounding that is a 45mm case that brings together an experimental mix of materials: titanium for the main body; an anthracite PVD-coated titanium bezel; and carbon fibre flanks that also serve as the watch’s lugs. These meet a choice of two straps: one anthracite rubber ‘ballistic’; and a second in matt anthracite alligator that’s open-worked to reveal sand-colored calfskin leather accents.

So far, so unconventional. But traditional? And so on to the hour disk...


Turning it up


The Freak S Nomad’s diamond guilloché hour disc is an artisanal hand-crafted wonder

The Freak S Nomad is a design and technical maverick, no doubt. But it’s also a paradox. Because at the same time, it also testifies to Ulysse Nardin’s deep love of haute horlogerie, métiers d’art and the rare handcrafts and finishing techniques that define only the most exquisite luxury watches. No element in the Freak S Nomad better illustrates this passion than the hour disc that sits behind the carousel ‘spaceship’ movement.

It features a diamond guilloché pattern finished in sand-coloured CVD, a nod to waving sand dunes. Produced one piece at a time by a skilled artisan, the painstaking method behind it takes years to learn and perfect. It involves a rare 18th century rose engine, turned entirely by hand, with no electronics and no laser guidance.

Each dial is a beautiful sequence of intersecting curves, requiring 240 continuous movements over a three-hour period. Because the pattern is the result of one continuous movement, the guillocheur must not lift their hand or even flinch so as to ensure the seamlessness of the pattern. No comfort breaks. No time for coffee. It requires a freakish level of concentration, skill and patience.

Why undertake this by hand? For three reasons. First, because of the romance and beauty in hand-craftsmanship. As machines become smarter, faster and more detached, so they become less emotional, and so the value of hand-craftsmanship becomes more eternal. Second is that because there are no machines involved, there are no vibrations, which makes the finish smoother and more accurate. And finally, because each plate is crafted by hand, no two are exactly the same.

The juxtaposition of this ultra-traditional finishing technique with the Freak S Nomad’s state-of-the-art movement and avant garde material mix is the perfect symbol of Ulysse Nardin’s uncommon watchmaking approach: at once pure and rooted in the savoir-faire of high-end Swiss watchmaking and yet also in brave pursuit of absolute novelty and innovation.

As the Freak S Nomad explains: Ulysse Nardin’s spirit of exploration knows no boundaries.

Special Freak-tures


As a rule, mechanical watch movements are hidden under a dial. The Freak S Nomad has no dial, though. Instead, Calibre UN-251 Manufacture is revealed in all its three-dimensional glory under a sapphire crystal.

Likewise, most analogue watches have hour and minutes hands to display the time. The Freak S Nomad indicates the minutes via a pointer set into the one-hour orbital flying carousel (part of the movement), and the hours via a pointer set on a rotating hour disc that sits under the movement.

The Freak’s base architecture does away with a crown. Instead, the bezel serves as the mechanism for setting the watch. It is activated when the locker at 6 o’clock is lifted, releasing the setting system.

The Freak S Nomad’s innovative movement is a work of modern horological art. It features a double oscillator with silicon balance wheels and escapements coated in DIAMonSIL, an ultra-high tech form of diamond-coated silicon that delivers exceptional precision and durability. These are linked by a vertical differential to deliver superior timekeeping accuracy. The Ulysse Nardin-patented Grinder® automatic winding system generates power two times more efficiently than conventional winding systems, charging a 72-hour power reserve.

The Freak S Nomad has a lightweight titanium case and locker, as well as an anthracite PVD-coated titanium bezel. Its flanks are in carbon fibre, which are shaped to become the watch’s lugs.

The rotating hour disc behind the Freak S Nomad’s flying carousel is hand-finished with an elegant diamond guilloché pattern and coated with a sand-coloured CVD. This is turned on an 18th-century rose engine powered by the hand of an artisan and takes three uninterrupted hours of painstaking, highly-skilled labour to produce.

The hour and minute indicators are coated in a Super-LumiNova® that glows blue in low-light conditions.

Past, present, future



The perfect symbiosis

of 18th and 21st century watchmaking  

Ulysse Nardin has a hard-won reputation for disruptive design and mechanics, but it’s also the case that the foundations of the company, laid almost 180 years ago, are rooted in traditional haute horlogerie. The Freak S Nomad epitomizes this narrative, fusing cutting-edge technology and avant-garde materials with pre-industrial craftsmanship, in this case the decorative métiers d’art technique of guillochage.



Silicon balance wheels and hairsprings
DIAMonSIL-coated escapements
Double oscillator linked by a vertical differential
Grinder® automatic winding system
20 patents
No dial, no crown, no hands
Anthracite PVD-coated titanium and carbon fibre case



Hand-assembled movement by master watchmakers
Diamond-shaped guilloché hour disk
Turned by hand on an 18th century rose engine
No electronics or laser guidance
240 continuous movements over a three-hour period

Back in time


In its two decades of life, the Freak has constantly reset the boundaries of watch design and engineering. below are some of the milestone watches that define its story.

The first Freak of 2001 was a landmark in Swiss high-end watchmaking. As well as having no dial, no hands and no crown, it was also the first mechanical watch in history with silicon escapement wheels. Today, silicon is commonplace in watchmaking – but the Freak was the original pioneer.

Ulysse Nardin continued to treat the Freak as a testbed for high-tech innovations. DIAMonSIL, a patented form of diamond-coated silicon, added further performance benefits. It’s still in use today.

A generational shift for the Freak came with the Freak Diavolo. It introduced a second carousel tourbillon. This time it was a ‘flying’ carousel tourbillon, dislocating the movement from the case’s inner edge. The name came from the power reserve’s red horns, visible through the case back.

Another step change came with the Freak Vision, the first collection Freak with an automatic winding system, named Grinder®. It also had an oversized balance wheel with stabilising micro-blades, and a constant power escapement. Three patented innovations were included in the Freak Vision.

The original Freak had broken age-old conventions, but across two decades, it had established new ones. Could these be broken? They had to be. To make a more approachable Freak, Ulysse Nardin’s creators simplified the mechanism and added a winding and setting crown. And a next-generation Freak was born.

The Freak is technical, but it’s also playful. The Freak S brought the point home with a carousel movement that looked like “a space vessel with twin reactors.” Behind the aesthetic were two oscillating balance wheels linked to a differential that averaged them out to deliver greater precision. The Freak S integrates a Grinder® automatic winding system, a world premiere for double oscillator.

The great reset. The Freak ONE was the Freak as it would have been designed and produced in the here and now. So the same principles of no dial, no hands and no crown remained, only wrapped in a black-DLC-coated titanium and rose gold case. It’s regulated by a silicon hairspring and an escapement treated with DIAMonSIL. Freak ONE has a Grinder® winding system providing 90 hours of power reserve.

Ulysse Nardin is not only a disrupting force in contemporary Swiss fine watchmaking, it’s also a servant of the grandest traditions of haute horlogerie, métiers d’art and the finishing techniques that elevate a high-end Swiss watch above the mundane. The Freak S Nomad underlines the point by adding a diamond guilloché decoration to the Freak S’s rotating hour disc and coating it in a sand-coloured CVD coating. The result? A whirlwind marriage of 18th and 21st century watchmaking, the past, present and future in one freakish watch.

Ulysse Nardin
FREAK [S Nomad]

Technical specifications

References :2513-500LE-4A-GUI/1A (alligator strap)
2513-500LE-4A-GUI/3A (“balistique” rubber strap)
Limited edition :99 pieces
Movement :Caliber UN-251 Manufacture
Mouvement automatique
Flying carousel movement rotating around its own axis
Two 20-degree-inclined oversized oscillators with silicon balance wheels
DIAMonSIL escapements
Vertical differential with ball bearings
Grinder® automatic winding system, blades technology
Sand-coloured CVD with diamond-shaped guilloché hour disc
Anthracite PVD bridges with light blue Super-LumiNova®
Fonctions :Hours, minutes
Frequency :2 x 2.5 Hz
Oscillations: 2 x 18,000 vph
Components :373
Jewels :33 rubis
Case :Titanium (case and locker)
Bezel :Anthracite PVD-coated titanium
Carbon fibre side plates
Case back :Anthracite PVD-coated titanium with open sapphire
Height :16.65 mm
Diameter :45 mm
Power reserve:72 hours
Water resistance :30 meters
Bracelet :Anthracite rubber “balistic” textured strap
Anthracite openworked mat alligator leather strap with sand-colored calfskin leather inserts
Clasp :Titanium deployant buckle
Prices :140,600 CHF (8.1% VAT included)
150,000 EUR (21% VAT included)
130,510 GBP (20% VAT included)
148,300 USD (VAT excluded)