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Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad: A Watch Where Heritage and Futurism Collide

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

The Freak stands for pure futurism and imagination, and Ulysse Nardin is not resting on its laurels. The new Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad is nothing if not jaw-dropping. And if you are a wristwatch newbie, your jaw will drop even lower when I tell you this concept is over two decades old. It is now highly evolved but made its debut in 2001, a brief year into the new century.

Let me transport you back to the dawn of our new century and the Ur-Freak. Judging by today’s big wrist hits, time(keeping) has seemingly stood still since the late Sixties. Such is the never ending wave of vintage inspiration, and we get it. Nothing beats the importance of watch-wearing roleplay, whether your daydream involves flying, diving, or piloting a spacecraft. The latter comes courtesy of the Freak, last seen in the dark Freak OPS from late ’23.

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad
Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

Imagine being at Baselworld in 2001, where the carousel Tourbillon-flaunting Freak was unveiled. Thanks to the forward-thinking minds of then-CEO Rold Schnyder and horological mastermind Ludwig Oechslin. There are many imaginative dial designs but with the entire movement as a turning hand? Being a fly on the wall in the first sketch-up meeting between Oechslin and Schnyder would have been priceless. And the brand hasn’t looked back since. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Oechslin at last year’s Watches and Wonders, an event akin to having an audience with Da Vinci.

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

This year, the avant-garde vibe remains, and the latest calibre UN-251 is still a Prima Ballerina rotating slowly, covered by a large sapphire crystal. Sure, 45mm doesn’t resonate with everyone in 2024, but even with my love of small chic, I would willingly make an exception. Ergonomics and everyday wearability are not everyone’s priority when considering a £100K+ watch, but it is present. In fact, the titanium and carbon fibre case is as light as it is comfortable, if my encounter in Geneva last year is anything to go by.

The carbon fibre brings a techy dark vibe, with two pieces flowing from lug to lug, adding an organic touch to the mid-case. The front and rear of the tactical case of the Freak S Nomad is dark DLC titanium, still baffling me with its crown-less design. Yes, the time is still set by twisting the faceted bezel, while the efficient Grinder®-powered automatic movement can be topped up by turning the actual caseback. So far, tour de force, and the appeal is not lessened even having tried on a few Freaks (does that constitute getting my Freak on?).

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

However, beyond the fascination with an exemplary materialization of case design, the star is undoubtedly the dial. And as with any Freak, this is not your usual fare. It is very legible despite what resembles an intricately detailed spacecraft to all eyes. The deliciously thin twin balances appear as hovercraft propellers or cooling fans, not of our world.

The UN-251 calibre rocks Silicon balance wheels and hairsprings, tech-heavy DIAMONSIL-coated escapements, and its double oscillator linked by a vertical differential. The movement, including the Grinder® automatic winding system, has 20 patents. And while you’re taking all this in, you might notice that the slow ballet of the entire Freak S Nomad movement is set on a very traditional stage.

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

What constitutes a dial is an hour disc decorated with the centuries-old craft of hand-turned guilloché. Like a Breguet pocket watch from two centuries ago, every disc differs slightly. The hand-crafted world of guilloché is fascinating on any watch dial, taking on a deeper meaning here. And it is not an actual dial but a slowly rotating hour disc. It takes 240 continuous movements over three hours to cut the interweaved diamond shapes of the disc with its beige CVD gold coating. It offers a studied contrast to the angular shapes of the enticing carousel movement.

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

But more importantly for me, its presence links together centuries of watchmaking, underlining the importance of Ulysse Nardin’s innovative approach by its mere presence. The future is indeed here, rotating slowly in synchrony in a limited edition of 99 pieces at £130,510.

Price and Specs:

Model: Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad
Ref: 2513-500LE-4A-GUI/1A (alligator leather strap), 2513-500LE-4A-GUI/3A (rubber strap)
Case: 45mm diameter x 16.65mm thickness, titanium with anthracite PVD coated bezel, carbon fibre side plates, anthracite PVD coated titanium caseback with open sapphire
Dial: Sand coloured CVD with diamond-shaped guilloché hour disc
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: Ulysse Nardin calibre UN-251, automatic, in-house, 33 jewels, 373 parts
Frequency: 2 x 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz each)
Power reserve: 72h
Functions: Hours, minutes
Strap: Grey alligator leather or rubber with textile inlay, each with titanium pin buckle
Price: £130,510, limited to 99 pieces

More details at Ulysse Nardin.

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About the author

Thor Svaboe

As the sole Norwegian who doesn’t like snow or climbing mountains, Thor has honed his florid writing skills at Time + Tide, and is now an editor at Fratello Watches. This Viking would fearlessly go into battle under the banner of independent watchmaking, and his End Game watch would be the piece unique Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1.