A little less than two months ago, Ulysse Nardin captivated the crowds at SIHH in Geneva with the reveal of the Freak X, the first true entry-level addition to the Freak range of timepieces. Earlier this week, the Le Locle-based brand pivoted the collection back into the realm of conceptual watchmaking with the Freak NeXt.
As with previous Freak timepieces, the new prototype model features a carousel-type, baguette-shaped movement that functions as the watch’s timekeeping indicator. What’s new here, however, is a flying oscillator that relies on the flexibility of silicon to accomplish a whole range of new accomplishments. The oscillator is constructed of four silicon wheels stacked on top of one another. Inside each of these four wheels are eight silicon blades that offer enhanced elasticity and a higher vibrational frequency. All of these wheels combine to create a “virtual pivot point” that effectively disposes of the need for a traditional balance construction, completely eliminates any friction on the bearings (no jewels necessary), and increases the efficiency of the movement’s energy consumption. The 32 micro-blades that make up the new flying oscillator measure just 16 micrometers in width and are connected to one another without any contact with the mainplate. The oscillator beats at only 12 Hz allowing for a 70-hour power reserve. Basically, the frequency of the Freak NeXt’s movement has been multiplied by three times compared to what we think of a typical balance wheel, while the power reserve has seen a 30% increase from 2018’s Freak Vision.
Aesthetically, the Freak NeXt also stands out courtesy of a gear train design that Ulysse Nardin says was inspired by some of the spacecrafts seen in the Star Wars film franchise. The case differs from previous Freak models that often leaned on blue and black tones with an all-white look. The 45-mm case is a blend of titanium and platinum and is enhanced with Super-LumiNova detailing on the bezel. It can be wound using the Grinder mechanism on the caseback that was originally introduced in 2017’s InnoVision 2.
Just like with previous Freak concepts, Ulysse Nardin says we can expect to see the Freak NeXt’s 3D flying oscillator applied into a production watch by the end of 2019.
I think it’s fair to say that Rolf Schnyder would be proud of what Ulysse Nardin has done in recent years to keep the spirit of innovation alive at Ulysse Nardin.