Recently, Ulysse Nardin unveiled its latest concept watch, the FREAK neXt: a concentrate of technologies in the same spirit as past innovations in the presence of Patrick Pruniaux, the watch brand’s CEO and Stéphane Von Gunten, Research and Innovation Director.
Ulysse Nardin has been at the cutting edge of watchmaking since its foundation in 1846. Technological exploration is more than a method, it is a philosophy, a raison d’être, a daily driving force.
With the new FREAK neXt concept watch, the Swiss manufacture proves that the adventurous spirit of the FREAK collection is very much alive and driving Ulysse Nardin’s technical departments more than ever. The new FREAK neXt is the current quintessence of all the technical and watchmaking skills of the Ulysse Nardin Manufacture, unveiling an oscillator of truly spectacular design.
So, what’s the latest from the depths of Ulysse Nardin’s new “laboratory on the wrist”? After 10 years of continued research, development and improvements in collaboration with Sigatec – a firm co-owned by Ulysse Nardin that specializes in the production of silicium micro-components – the Manufacture is now in a position to present what appears to be the pinnacle of a paradigm shift in mechanical watchmaking that began in 2015 with the Ulysse Anchor flying escapement: the new neXt flying oscillator.
THE “NEXT” FLYING OSCILLATOR AND ITS 3D DESIGN
First came Ulysse Nardin’s flying tourbillon and flying anchor escapement. Now, we present the flying oscillator!
“The balance wheel regulates even better as it has a great moment of inertia and performs rapid oscillations of great amplitude.” Léopold Defossez
That is precisely the challenge that the new FREAK neXt has successfully taken on. Toying with the limits of the physics of materials, the new Freak neXt flying oscillator presents an entirely innovative 3D design. Based on flexible mechanisms using the elasticity of silicium blades, a principle that is truly mastered by Ulysse Nardin, this oscillating regulating device does away with the central pivot, its center literally suspend-ed in mid-air. The central idea of this regulating organ is to eliminate the axis of the balance wheel in order to create a virtual pivot point. This is a radical development that hugely improves the traditional principle of balance spring regulation introduced in the 17th century. The neXt flying oscillator, with its 3D multi-layer construction – four layers of blades and a solid layer that serves as a flywheel – is a highly significant technological development for watchmaking research. This new oscillator eliminates the necessity for pivots and jewels. The new FREAK features a “suspended” beating heart that “levitates” without a balance-cock (balance bridge). The direct result of this system is none other than the total elimination of friction on the bearings, optimizing the global quality factor and therefore the movement’s energy consumption. The only remaining friction is with the air. No more – or very little – friction, no more contact, no more wear, no more oil. Made up of 32 silicium micro-blades measuring 16 micrometers in width, connected to one another with-out contact with the mainplate – forming 16 triangles superimposed in 4 parallel layers – the oscillator beats to a highly efficient frequency of 12 Hz, for a remarkable 70-hour power reserve. The frequency has been multiplied by 3 while at the same time increasing the power reserve by 30%. This incredible technical feat is made possible thanks to the elimination of friction, particularly given the fact that the energy consumption depends on the frequency, cubed (if the frequency is doubled, the consumption is multiplied by 8).
But this major innovation comes as no surprise. It is the last stage in a decade of developments for FREAK concept watches at Ulysse Nardin with the 2014 launch of the Ulysse Anchor escapement, followed by the Grinder, also fitted with blades, presented in 2017 on the Freak InnoVision 2 model.
ABOUT THE ULYSSE ANCHOR ESCAPEMENT
The Ulysse Anchor escapement is based on the principle of flexible mechanisms using the elasticity of leaf springs. This constant escapement, made entirely of silicium, presents a circular frame with a fixed anchor at its center that pivots without friction. It is held in the air by two tiny silicium leaves, perpendicular to one an-other, which are tensioned in order to bend and maintain them in a bistable state. The result is a positive energy balance during the angle of lift that maintains constant oscillations of the balance without being influenced by the variations of the engine torque.
ABOUT THE GRINDER
The self-winding “Grinder” system has revolutionized energy transmission as it is twice as efficient as existing systems. The “Grinder” uses the smallest of wrist movements. The oscillating weight is connected to a frame carrying four clicks or blades, which gives the self-winding system twice the angular stroke (like a bicycle fitted with four pedals instead of two). A flexible guiding mechanism considerably limits friction.
SPACE-INSPIRED DESIGN & EXTRA WHITE MINIMALISM
A true architectural gem, the FREAK neXt has a high-tech, ultra-contemporary look. It is in immaculate white with phosphorescent touches, applied by Ulysse Nardin’s designers to highlight their latest invention. The bridge of the baguette movement (the finishing gear train) has a slightly trapezoidal shape inspired by the spaceships from Star Wars and is framed by four luminescent tubes filled with Superluminova for a phosphorescence effect that is visible only at night. A small logo in the colors of Ulysse Nardin – positioned on a transparent lens made from glass using a subtractive 3D production process – completes the decoration of the baguette movement. Contrasting with the celestial purity of the dominant white, the 3D multi-layer oscillator is chameleon-like: depending on the angle from which it is viewed, it presents glistening blue, purple or green reflections.
The new FREAK neXt comes with a white Superluminova bezel, white Superluminova shafts at the sides, as well as a white automatic winding support on the back of the watch. The rubber strap is also white with white stitching and dark blue “point-de-bride” stitches. Evoking purity, simplicity and minimalism, the FREAK neXt is dressed in platinum and titanium. This watch, which is not available for sale, demonstrates the brand’s commitment to extending and enriching its collection by taking its watchmaking eXpertise to the next level. This is a watch whose call of adventure will tempt any self-respecting modern-day Ulysses. The highly sophisticated mechanism, which will be incorporated into commercial products by the end of the year, opens up new, unexplored horizons for Ulysse Nardin.
NEXT IS FOR… X FACTOR
In the New Year, Ulysse Nardin added the “X factor” to its collections and watchmaking. The first letter in the name of the popular Xbox, showing where to sign in legal documents, the symbol of a chromosome, a generation, an intersection, multiplication, marking the spot-on treasure maps: the 24th letter of the alphabet lets the imagination run wild. X represents the unknown, unspecified or variable factor. X is for eXploration, eX-traordinary, eXcess, eXperience, eXcitement, eXtreme and compleX. More than just a slogan, it is a declaration, reminding us of the boldness and creativity embodied by the new FREAK neXt.
The FREAK neXt is not the only new model introduced to the FREAK family. Today, the FREAK VISION is dressed in new clothes: black (in titanium) or rose gold – satin-brushed or polished. The first self-winding watch in the collection showcases the revolutionary innovations unveiled by Ulysse Nardin with its “InnoVision 2” concept watch. The most significant include an ultra-light silicium balance wheel with nickel inertia-blocks and stabilizing micro-blades, and a new case, topped with a box-domed sapphire crystal.
For more information, please visit www.ulysse-nardin.com.