Introducing the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle DazzleBy Israel Ortega
The Freak X by Ulysse Nardin was introduced to us one fresh morning in January 2019 during the Geneva Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. The watch was shown to the world as the evolution of the Freak concept with its signature revolving movement, but with a simpler case, a conventional crown and simplified mechanics via an automatic winding system.
The 2019 Freak X generally retained the Freak’s rotating baguette shaped movement to offer a fun and highly technical watch at a starting price that was just more than one-fifth that of the regular Freak models. Like the other watches in the revolutionary collection, the Freak X model does not have a conventional dial but a decorative plate that integrates with the minute gear train. The quirky timepiece has no hands, as the central bridge acts as a minute hand, and one of the wheels indicates the hours. Inside beats a super light balance wheel in silicium, with nickel flyweights and stabilizing micro-blades. The notable movement itself, the UN-230, is a fusion of the manufacture calibers UN-118 and the Freak Vision’s UN-250. The watch measures a very acceptable 43mm in diameter. It has shorter lugs for improved ergonomics and a crown for intuitive adjustment, discarding the time-setting bezel and the notched caseback from the original Freak.
Limited to 30 pieces, the new Freak X Razzle Dazzle is available in black DLC titanium with a black openworked rubber leather strap featuring black “point de bride” stitching, or a white openworked calfskin strap with contrasting black “point de bride” stitching.
And what about the dial design? The “razzle dazzle” pattern used for the watch is a type of ship camouflage decoration that was used extensively in the First World War and, to a lesser extent, the Second World War. The purpose of this visual effect, which also drew inspiration from wildlife camouflage, was to confuse enemy observers, making it difficult for them to estimate the vessel’s distance, speed and direction. Of course, in the case of the Freak X, the avant-garde “razzle dazzle” tapisserie serves to highlight the watch’s edgy carousel movement. The dial remains easy to read, thanks to the watch’s 43mm sizing, and the conventional crown is similarly user-friendly.
All in all, the Freak X Razzle Dazzle is a cool and fascinating watch and I appreciate the historical link to the naval and maritime theme that underpins all of Ulysse Nardin’s watches.
Since it was released in 2001, the Ulysse Nardin Freak has managed to remain audacious, capturing our imagination with its disruptive design which has been receiving regular and fresh updates. But when it was first introduced in 2019, the Freak X caused a bit of commotion among some members of the watch community who denounced the popularization of the famed Freak concept with the uber cool, off the beaten track movement based on Carole Forestier-Kasapi’s award-winning design.
To be fair, I think it is laudable that Ulysse Nardin was able to build on the unique aesthetics of the original Freak and combine it with a self-winding workhorse movement to create a watch that is appealing, technically impressive and way less expensive. That surely deserves praise, and it is why the Freak X works.
Movement: Self-winding caliber UN-230; 72-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours and minutes read off a flying carrousel movement that rotates on its own axis
Case: 43mm; titanium with black DLC; water resistance
Strap: Black rubber leather or white calfskin, both with “point de bride” stitching
Price: CHF 25,900
Availability: Limited to 30 pieces