Following up on last year’s ultra-efficient winding system called Grinder, and just a few years after it launched a silicon-blade Anchor Escapement, Le Locle-based Ulysse Nardin this week again showcases its long-exercised cutting-edge technological focus with the Freak NeXt, a new Freak with a prototype oscillator that utilizes the inherent power transfer of flexing silicon blades.
This latest Freak combines a decade of silicon micro-component research and development into a watch regulated by a dramatic three-dimensional ‘flying’ oscillator that operates using elastic silicon blades. This new oscillator eliminates the need for pivots and jewels, thus removing traditional friction from the entire regulating process. Because the only friction remaining here is the air, operating efficiency is vastly improved, contributing to the impressive seventy-hour power reserve of the movement.
Ulysse Nardin’s NeXt oscillating device (developed by Stéphane Von Gunten, Ulysse Nardin’s research and innovation director) essentially creates a virtual pivot point. It’s a suspended beating heart that "levitates" without a balance-cock (balance bridge), connecting only via impulse to the also oil-free, silicon-blade Anchor Escapement.
A close look into the oscillator itself shows four layers of blades (consisting of thirty-two micro blades) and a solid layer that serves as a flywheel. The blades are connected to one another without contact to the mainplate, forming sixteen triangles superimposed in four parallel layers.
This experimental oscillator beats quickly, at 12 Hz (86,400 vph), triple the standard frequency. The watch also operates with no errors imposed by the effects of gravity. With the low mass of all the movement’s silicon components, Ulysse Nardin detects no difference in amplitude between the horizontal and vertical positions of the watch.
Ulysse Nardin has framed this silicon-based technology within an all-white 45mm platinum and titanium Freak case. The movement itself is touched with Superluminova for particularly dramatic nighttime viewing, and depending on the observer’s angle, the silicon oscillator appears with blue, purple or green reflections.
The new Freak NeXt also features a white Superluminova bezel, white Superluminova shafts at the sides, and a white automatic winding support on the back of the watch (where you’ll find the ultra-efficient Grinder winding system). As a demonstration prototype, the watch is not for sale, but Ulysse Nardin expects to incorporate the three-dimensional mechanism into commercial products by the end of the year.
Specifications: Ulysse Nardin Freak NeXt (concept watch)
Movement: UN-25X caliber, automatic movement with extra-efficient Grinder winding system, 12 Hz oscillating frequency, silicium flying balance wheel with nickel elements, oscillator with flexible pivot point, with virtual axis: no axis, no pivots, no bearings. No friction, no need to lubricate the pivots, 70-hour power reserve, no difference in amplitude between the horizontal and vertical positions of the watch, Silicon finishing gear train.
Case: 45mm by 14.1mm platinum and titanium with sandblasted and satin or polished finish, 30 meters of water resistance, view of the Grinder through the sapphire crystal
Strap: Rubber with central openwork and titanium folding clasp or white alligator skin with blue stitches and Velcro fastening