Immediately after the Christmas Wishlist post, Santa Clémence granted writer Stanley’s wish to get freaky with the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Carbonium® over the holiday season and it was certainly an exciting journey that will unfold.
Carbonium®, it literally sounds like a material that Q from James Bond went to Wakanda to source for the material. Well… The truth is not too far from that. Interestingly, should Ian Fleming still be writing James Bond novels, the Ulysse Nardin (UN) Freak X Carbonium® might be something that is dawned on the wrist of 007. Read on further for my first hand encounter with the Freak X Carbonium®. As a Bond fan, not only of the movies, but also of the Ian Fleming books, I shall attempt to write this as a novel.
A Month Long Love Affair: Ulysse Nardin Freak X Carbonium
The Ulysse Nardin Freak X Carbonium® as reviewed has a retail price of SGD 40,100. Price is inclusive of GST and is correct at the time of review.
The whimsical affair with the Freak X started at a meet up with UN’s Regional Director Clémence and then on my Dear Santa piece. Immediately after publishing the article, Clémence contacted me asking if I would be interested in loaning the watch for a month and we certainly took that chance.
On the day of collection, Clémence was like Q of MI6 where she did the total briefing of the watch starting from the history of the Freak right down to the technical aspects while Peter our Editor in Chief was like M, the boss in the meeting. At the same time, I was the 007 wannabe who just caught the gist and something along the line of “Now pay attention, 007. I want you to take great care of this equipment…”
With the above being said, instead of getting too technical into the watch, been there done that…see our Comprehensive Review, I will try to make this a little more lifestyle oriented and what was the reaction from our friends and some strangers.
During my first week with the watch, it was Christmas Season and granted there were quite a bit of shopping that was done. One of the first stop was Delugs’ Pop-Up at Apiary and Ken the founder of the immediately took notice of the iconic Freak X where the design language of the watch was so prominent with the obital escapement and balance wheel. (Layman Term: The carousel “fidget spinner” looking thing that is on the minute hand of the watch) He did mentioned that the Freak X is always a watch that caught he was always very intrigued with.
The second encounter while I was shopping and someone took notice of my watch was in a telco renewing my cellphone plan. The gentleman whose serving me became curious about the Freak X, and not in a way that one would take notice like certain diver sports watch or GMT watch with two toned ceramic bezel where it is so loud that one can spot it a mile away. He took notice of it literally because it was interesting and even asked about the carousel on the minute hand.
I took the liberty to explain to him on how the escapement orbits around the dial once every 60 minutes engaging with the large fixed gear ring that is on the dial. The Freak X makes it interesting to connect watch technical nerds with layman on how a mechanical watch is able to tell time with each “tick” on the balance wheel that enables the gears to advance a set distance moving the hands forward. Since the balance wheel that is made in silicon is wide and visible along with the nickel flyweights, it allows one to be able to explain how the nickel flyweights on the balance wheel and the elasticity of the spring to keep time.
After the episode of the watch being spotted while shopping, I promptly left town for 3 days, 2 nights for a game of golf overseas leaving the Freak X at home. When I returned almost 60 hours later, the watch was still keeping good time and was running well. The 72 hours power reserve is certainly weekend proof.
On that very evening back to Singapore, Freak X was the only watch that was still running in my collection. My partner decided to wear it out to a house party that was hosted by her friend. While on our way there, I noticed that the 43MM case diameter Freak X managed to hug around her 5.5 inch wrist well due to the short lugs with little to no overhang. The height of the watch is also something that she would notice, the 13.50mm thickness did not seem to bother her in any way. She even commented that she very much prefers the Freak X over the some of my other watches as it feels light on her wrist due to the Carbonium® and DLC titanium case.
During the party, one of her friend took notice of the unique timepiece. She asked my partner about the Freak X in particularly the unique patterns on the case. I knew that the friend is very much into sustainability and the environment, as she is a lawyer who specialises in the ESG practice group. I went on to explain how the Carbonium® is composed of the aeronautical grade carbon fiber used to make vital structural parts of modern aircraft, and is the innovative process used to up-cycle aerospace grade carbon material with three patents led by its France-based start-up company, Lavoisier Composites. Not only is it super cool looking, but unlike most composites, it is not made of virgin materials; 95% of it is eco-sourced from carbon by-products in the aeronautical cycle.
Unsurprisingly, that said friend turned over to her fiancé and started to explore the possibility of having one as her present. (To my fellow watch bros, please don’t be envious)
As it was the season to be jolly, gatherings are an abundance and this time our friend of Deployant Terence Chan invited us for a watch collector’s Christmas party over at his house. I decided to take the Freak X Carbonium® out for a spin and boy the timepiece was a hit amongst collectors in the gathering which showcased many Independents, watches from the Trinity and a watchmaker’s watchmaker being present.
Many came up to me curious about the “fidget spinners” on the dial. Though most are not strangers to the brand, the Freak series of watches is very often a unicorn in gatherings. Granted that most will know that UN is the pioneer in the luxury watch industry to use silicon in its balance spring but to see it in action via the Freak X was simply a feast to the eyes.
Terence have mentioned to me on numerous occasions prior to the party that it is a watch that has piqued his interest. One interesting comment that he gave was the dial colour and case are too similar. The monotone look is certainly a great vibe and a thing, but the low contrast does not highlight the star quality and uniqueness of the “hands” in this particular variant. Having seen the Freak X, Terence concluded that he would definitely want a Freak.
Right after all the festivities, I had time to collect my thoughts on the watch after being an “owner” of it for a month. I am pleasantly surprised that a SGD 40,000 watch is one that is so versatile to wear for different occasions from when I am in a suit for meetings to being in t-shirt and shorts for chores like grocery runs.
The watch oozes “Stealth Wealth” in all occasions and certainly makes one feel comfortable in a way that one won’t be too self conscious. Despite the watch being mentioned as “Stealth Wealth”, there is nothing stealthy about it when darkness falls. The lume on the watch would last through the duration of “No Time to Die” in the cinema and then some.
The case of the watch is durable and robust that it absorbs the “abuse” of my daily use. After wearing the watch for a month, there were no visible signs of the harsh reality of life. One qualm that I have about the case is the dirt that was stuck in between the titanium and the Carbonium® outer case but that’s an easy fix with cleaning the case with a soft microfibre cloth.
Despite the positive notes above, there were some qualms about the watch. During the gathering at Terence’s, I find the watch slightly industrialised where the absence of haute horlogerie finishings on the movement. Particularly noticeable when placed side by side with some the watches in the party. Secondly, the absence of COSC certification on the movement might deter some collectors who are chasing chronometry. I feel that a watch at this price range, it would be nice to incorporate either one or the other from the above two points. Should UN incorporate a COSC movement into the watch that falls between the variance of the accuracy of -4 to +6 seconds a day, it could possibly be a “one and done” watch. Thirdly, the absence of quick change watch strap. In the current times, competing brands have already incorporated the quick change watch strap making UN a lagged in this department.
Adding on to my comments, our Editor in Chief Peter felt that the balance wheel obstructs the minute hands when it is above the latter, occurring once every hour. This is an issue common to all Freak watches, so I guess it is a design feature. The consolation is that the balance wheel seems to be “translucent” which the wearer can still kind of see through it and read it well if you squint a little.
Finally, it is time to return the watch back to UN. I would say that the journey is well worth it, it was certainly great fun to “own” the watch for a month. Think of it this way, the UN Freak X Carbonium® is just like the Aston Martin DBS in “Casino Royale”, it is gorgeous and beautiful where it will attract the right amount of attention and the right kind of attention. However, there is a part of me that is missing that Aston Martin Vanquish in “Die Another Day” where it has guns, shoots missiles and other bells and whistles.
The Freak X is an everyday Freak like how it is marketed to be, it is a hero watch that open doors for a collector to get introduced to UN as a brand and get more curious of the technicality in the world of horology (and certainly of the crown less Freaks)… All in all, though the Freak X is deemed as the entry watch into the world of Freaks, the pedigree is there and is certainly recognised as a Freak.
“Freak will return”
Ulysse Nardin Freak X Carbonium technical Specifications
Movement: Caliber UN-230, self-winding movement
Functions: Flying carrousel movement rotating around its own axis
Exclusive central oscillator with large diameter
3 Hz Silicium balance wheel
Index & bridges with Superluminova
Power reserve: 72 hours
Case:Carbonium ® matte-finish / Titanium with black DLC
Diameter: 43 mm
Case back: Sapphire crystal
Water resistance: 50 m
Strap: Openwork calfskin with “point de bride” stitches.