Ulysse Nardin Freak neXt
On 6 March, Ulysse Nardin presented the latest in the series of innovative technological developments the manufacture has been fine-tuning in its workshops.
The decision to hold the launch at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in the heart of London’s Hyde Park, an ultra-modern white pavilion of sweeping arches, was anything but random, as Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrick Pruniaux pointed out. Before anyone had even got their hands on the watch itself, the first images of the new Freak neXt projected onto a screen at the press conference clearly showed why. The spectacular minimalist architecture of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery provided the perfect backdrop to the most recent iteration of the Freak collection.
Ulysse Nardin Freak neXt was unveiled at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, in London © Ulysse Nardin
The Freak neXt incorporates the most recent of the technological evolutions on which the collection is built. In 2014 we saw the Ulysse Anchor with its constant force escapement in silicon, which features two minute flexible blades that support an anchor that is thus able to pivot without friction at the centre of the escapement. The Grinder automatic winding system introduced in 2017 also used blades set into a frame to support the rotor, resulting in a decrease in friction. This flexible blade technology is at the heart of the new neXt flying oscillator, the flagship innovation of the Freak neXt, developed by Ulysse Nardin in collaboration with Sigatec, a company that specialises in silicon micro-components, which Ulysse Nardin co-owns.
neXt flying oscillator © Ulysse Nardin
As its name suggests, the neXt flying oscillator has no central pivot or balance bridge; instead, it’s suspended in mid-air, much like a flying tourbillon. Friction is reduced to a minimum (the only friction is with air) and the absence of a pivot makes lubricants unnecessary. The neXt flying oscillator is based on four layers of silicon micro-blades 16 microns thick – 32 strips in total – which form a 3D architecture of 16 delicate triangles superimposed in four parallel layers. The absence of friction has made it possible to treble the oscillation frequency, bringing it up to 12 Hz (86,400 vph). The UN-25X calibre of the Freak neXt, which features the Grinder automatic winding system, generates a 70-hour power reserve.
© Ulysse Nardin
With its white rubber perforated strap, 45 mm platinum case with luminescent white rubber bezel and lateral bars in the same colour, the Freak neXt is all stark modernity. The rapid oscillations of the oscillator draw the eye to its blue hue that shades into purple or green, depending on the angle of the light. The minute wheel is made of blue silicon. At night, a Superluminova treatment gives the bezel and case a green glow, echoed by the four phosphorescent tubes surrounding the bridge of the baguette movement, which indicates the hour. Although the Freak neXt was presented as a concept watch, Patrick Pruniaux hinted that series production could be on the cards for the coming year.
© Ulysse Nardin