The first Ulysse Nardin Freak replica watch dates back to 2001 – not that far obviously but also a long time ago, considering the immense evolution the industry has seen in the latest 15 years.
In a time not that far away, watches were made with metals, entirely with metals. Then, before the madness of the 2000s came, watches were small, round, classical – even sports watches were in fact quite understated. Well, in 2001, this perception changed for ever, when Ulysse Nardin, a usually rather conservative manufacture, presented a watch that was a game changer, in terms of design and display first, but mainly for the technology it introduced. Their escapements and balance springs where made in the most advanced alloys possible, but still, this was metal.
However, this watch, which might be to often seen on the wrist of showing-off young rich people on Instagram, next to a Lamborghini and a huge cigar, has much more to transmit to the real connoisseurs. First of all, this watch was a game changer as it introduced for the first time in a watch for sale a material we’re all familiar with now: silicon.
Indeed, in 2001 the mens fake Ulysse Nardin Freak watch was the very first watch to incorporate an escapement made of silicon. This non-magnetic, non-lubricated and efficient material definitely changed the industry and watchmaking, and the Freak was the first example of this turning point. Developed by Ludwig Oechslin, its objective was to improve reliability through an ingenious, simple, symmetrical architecture. The Freak has always been a research laboratory for Ulysse Nardin, and things continue with the recent FreakLab.This material also implied new manufacturing technologies, such as LIGA or 3D printing (in the most recent developments). Later, in 2005, Ulysse Nardin chose to use a diamond escapement and that same year, they’ve been introducing the Dual Ulysse escapement.
We tend to summarize the Freak to the introduction in a commercial watch of silicon, which is true, but not only. The Freak was an entire concept, something unique display-wise, design-wise and mechanically-wise. First of all, it relies on a movement built in a very specific way. It is composed of several layers, something that is not the case in most watches, where the movement’s parts are all inserted in-between a main plate and bridges. Here, the first layer is the barrel (and the barrel only), on almost all the surface of the movement. Then, there’s the main plate, which serves as a base for the rest of the movement and encloses the main spring. This plate has another use: indicating the hours. Indeed, this layer rotates once every 12 hours. Finally, there’s the mobile parts of the movement, a large bridge on top of the watch, which comprises most of the regulating organ and gear train. This carrousel indicates the minutes, thus rotating once per hour, and as holding the regulating organ, it creates a one-hour tourbillon. The recent Ulysse Nardin FreakLab has slightly evolved on this point but does not revolutionize the idea.
Since its first introduction in 2001, the concept of the Freak greatly evolved and improved (yes, when looked with 2016 eyes, the first Freak looks kind of outdated). The new Ulysse Nardin FreakLab is however based on the same concept, the same idea, the same display and mechanism, still with an impressive technology and this uniqueness that made the first one so desirable. Many details changed, the movement has seen new features, a new architecture and the design is completely modern, but the overall concept is here.
Then, we also have to talk about design and display. When introduced in 2001, the Freak came like a blast: huge, bold, unusual, different from everything people had seen so far. The Freak redefined the concept of case, crown or hands, with a unique design and concept. As such, it can be seen as the mother of concept watches and bold, unusual design. It certainly had a huge influence on some of the greatest independent watchmakers, and on the rest of the industry. The Freak is more important than what people may think. It’s a milestone, and its successor, the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab is still writing the story.
Finally, there’s design. If you look closely, there must be something missing in this watch; the crown. Indeed, since its inception, the Freak, and its successor the FreakLab, are crown-less Ulysse Nardin copy watches, that can be operated via the bezel (time setting) and the caseback (winding).