Freak out for blue piece of art



At the recently concluded Baselworld 2008, watchmaker Ulysse Nardin put its best foot forward by introducing yet another technical work of art.


For the uninitiated, Baselworld is the leading event for the global watch and jewellery industry, which is held in Basel, Switzerland, every spring. This is where specialists in watches, jewellery, precious gems and related brands showcase their latest products to those in the industry and where trends for the whole year are set.


Ulysse Nardin showcased the Dh321,820 Freak Blue Phantom at Baselworld. Explaining the story behind the unusual name Rolf W Schnyder, president, Ulysse Nardin, told Emirates Business: “Early in 2001, Ulysse Nardin unveiled a watch that was codenamed “Freak”.
The Freak was the ice-breaker, the first Expressionist Timepiece ever made and inspired the artists of the watch industry to come out of the box and rethink the design of timepieces. Until then the race was on to produce mechanical timepieces with the most functions.


“The Freak only had two – hours and minutes. But it also had no hands, no dial and no crown. The ever-revolving Carrousel Tourbillon movement indicated the time. A perpetual mobile so to speak, it was a true piece of art or mechanical poetry for the wrist.


“The name Freak was the code name of the project since the mechanical movement consisted of fewer parts than any other mechanical movement ever produced.


“Only four people in Ulysse Nardin were aware of this project, which took six years to complete and the secret was well kept. Even the marketing staff of the company saw the first piece at the launch in Basel. I thought the name so appropriate that I kept it for the commercial product. This was quite daring and caused a few stirs initially.


“The Freak is a historical timepiece. Until now, this watch has represented the pinnacle of both technological and artistic watchmaking. Only a few special editions – such as the Freak Diamond Heart with an escapement etched out of a polycrystalline diamond and the Freak Diamonsil where the diamond was grown on the escapement wheels etched out of silicium – followed the original Freak.


“The Freak Blue Phantom is a part of that family. The Blue Phantom indicates the time with luminous edges on the movement parts, which are coated with blue Titanium Oxide obtained through a PVD coating. They indicate the hours and the minutes against an otherwise blue background. Hence the name, the Freak Blue Phantom.”


The Freak Blue Phantom is a technical work of art crafted in 18-carat white gold. The bridges and metal parts have been treated with a stainless blue titanium based alloy offering a spectacular view of this rhapsody in blue.


Wherever necessary, metal parts have been reworked to accommodate the blue coating, the thickness of which is 1 micron with a hardness of 1500 HV. The tip of the hour and minute marker are in superluminova and thus enhancing the visibility of the time indication.


Rolf W Schnyder said: “Like the first Freak, the Blue Phantom also uses movement components made out of silicium, an extremely hard but light metal that requires no lubrication and which resists magnetism or deformation by hot or cold temperatures. But it is different to the original in many ways.
All jewels are made out of a sapphire instead of rubies. The balance wheel is rhodium plated instead of gold plated and the balance wheel with the four adjusting screws are made in white gold.”


However, like the Freak, the Blue Phantom is not a limited edition and is available at the Bin Hendi watches and jewellery outlets at the Mall of the Emirates.


However, only a few pieces are made each month as it requires watch-making artists to adjust and assemble the movement, which pivots on a single pin lodged in the sapphire crystal of the case.


The 44.5 mm watch comes with a seven-day power reserve, dual Ulysse Escapement in silicium, a white gold case, a turning bezel with lock device to set the time and an alligator leather strap.