The Quartz era did not treat the mechanical watch industry very kindly. One of the companies threatened by the rise of quartz watches, was the family watchmaking firm, Ulysse Nardin. Having guided the company through five generations, the Nardin family finally put the business up for sale in the solemn year of 1983. It was then, when the former and late president of the company, Rolf W. Schnyder set pace to acquire the brand.
Today, Schnyder is one of the most revered personalities who helped bring Ulysse Nardin the recognition it deserved as a mechanical watch brand, with his innovative ideas, perspectives, and infectious energy. Between him and Dr. Ludwig Oechslin – the renowned historian, inventor, and master watchmaker – Ulysse Nardin was able to reclaim its pre-eminent position in the industry.
The Freak was the result of this very friendship between Schnyder and Oechslin. The year 2001 saw the launch of the very first Freak timepiece which featured the revolutionary use of silicon for the mechanical movement – an industry first! The dial featured the unusual 7-day tourbillon carousel which also doubled as the minute hand for the watch. “The Freak is poetry in mechanical watchmaking” said Schnyder about his baby. Although, initially the Freak was introduced as a limited edition, the increasing demand for the watch helped clear the brand's idea regarding its commercial success.
After winning the Innovation Prize in 2002, Watch of the Year, the Freak sparked the era of a watch being realised as both a designer object as well as a mechanical sculpture. Today, the Kering-gourp based brand has an entire collection dedicated to the Freak. Check out their timeline below.
Launch of the Freak
The Freak 28,800 v/h and the Freak diamond with synthetic diamond escapement parts.
The Freak DIAMonSIL made its debut with an escapement made of the combination of synthetic diamond and silicon. The watch is said to have comprised of a 2-wheeled dual Ulysse escapement.
The Freak Diavolo aka Phantom – the first Freak to feature a flying tourbillon which indicated the seconds. The name was changed to Phantom as Diavolo referred to a devilish monster in certain Spanish dialects.
The Freak Cruiser is launched with clear sapphire parts. The watch also marked the launch of one of the five in-house calibers UN – 205 which was used in the timepiece, along with a 7-day flying carousel tourbillon.
The Freak LAB introduced a new double escapement system and was the first Freak to include a date indication.
The Freak Wing for Team Artemis
The Freak Innovision 2 Concept watch boasted of ten innovations including the ultra-efficient Grinder automatic winding system. The escape wheel is made of silicon and solid nickel elements.
The new SIHH novelty, the Freak Vision is the first ever commercially-available automatic Freak model.
They also launched the Freak Vision Coral Bay.
The brand also recently launched a new quartet of Freak Out pieces, each armed with the in-house manual-winding caliber UN-205. The Freak architecture replaces traditional anchor and anchor wheel with two silicium impulse wheels in the center. Both wheels have 18 engaging teeth, each activating an alternator that transmits its energy to the balance staff — first in one direction, then the other. The models are available in Full Black, Black Gold, Blue, and Blue Gold.