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Here we have not one, but two incredible Ulysse Nardin watches. This pair of timepieces would impress even the most serious of watch connoisseurs. The Sonata and the Freak are some of the most technically innovative watches not only in the Ulysse Nardin watches lineup but in the watch industry at large. Let’s review the details.

The Ulysse Nardin Sonata

Ulysse Nardin Sonata in 18k white gold with black alligator leather strap
Ulysse Nardin Sonata in 18k white gold

When the Sonata came onto the scene in 2003, it was the world’s first mechanical wristwatch alarm that could be set within a 24-hour window. Prior to that, mechanical alarm watches could only be set within 12-hours of the desired time because a mechanical watch couldn’t differentiate between A.M. and P.M. times. However, the Ulysse Nardin Sonata allows wearers to set the alarm to any time—down to the minute—within the following 24 hours.

Ulysse Nardin Sonata in 18k white gold with black alligator leather strap
Ulysse Nardin Sonata in 18k white gold

Here’s how it works. First, the subdial at 2 o’clock indicates the alarm time in 12 hours. Second, the subdial at 10 o’clock displays the countdown to the alarm—therefore this is where you differentiate between A.M. and P.M. For instance, if the time is currently 9pm and you need an alarm for 6am, then you’d set the first subdial to 6 and the second subdial to countdown 9 hours (instead of 21 hours).

Ulysse Nardin Sonata in 18k white gold with black alligator leather strap
Ulysse Nardin Sonata in 18k white gold

Also different to other more standard alarm watches is that the Sonata chimes on a cathedral gong rather than a hammer striking a pin. Cathedral gongs are typically reserved for sonneries and minute repeaters. They offer a much more beautiful sound than a typical alarm sound.

In addition to the alarm, another practical function of the Sonata is its GMT mechanism where the hands jump both forwards and backwards via pushers on the case. In a display of mechanical mastery, when local time changes, the alarm countdown automatically adjusts accordingly while the 24-hour indicator at 6 o’clock remains on home time.

Ulysse Nardin Watches: Sonata in 18k white gold with black alligator leather strap
Ulysse Nardin Sonata in 18k white gold

Housing all these functions is the Ulysse Nardin Sonata’s 42mm 18k white gold case. The blue center hands feature a unique skeletonized shape while the dial has a vertical guilloché pattern. Finishing off the look of this Sonata is the black alligator leather strap with 18k white gold clasp. One of the most superb Ulysse Nardin watches ever created.

The Ulysse Nardin Freak

Ulysse Nardin Watches: Freak with 18k white gold
Ulysse Nardin Freak with 18k white gold

One of Ulysse Nardin’s signature timepieces, the Freak is where the manufacture flexes its mechanical mastery, so to speak. The Freak made its debut in 2001 and the collection has continued to push the boundaries of watchmaking. Look closely and you’ll see that the Freak doesn’t have what are normally vital timepiece components. There are no hands, no dial, and no winding crown. A revolving bezel sets the time while the manual-winding movement is wound by turning the caseback.

The Freak tells the time by the rotation of the movement where the arrow on the main spring barrel points to the hour while the upper bridge revolves once every hour to indicate the minutes. The entire gear train and escapement are visible on the face of the watch. The components of the manually-wound mechanical movement are front and center for all to admire.

Ulysse Nardin Watches: Freak with 18k white gold
Ulysse Nardin Freak with 18k white gold

The Freak is, in fact, a seven-day carrousel tourbillon. So not only does it boast an incredible seven days of power reserve, it also includes one of the most complex watch mechanisms possible, the carousel tourbillon. While in standard tourbillons the balance wheel rotates once every minute inside a cage, in the Freak, the entire movement rotates once an hour inside the case.

Ulysse Nardin Watches: Freak with 18k white gold
Ulysse Nardin Freak with 18k white gold

As one of the most groundbreaking Ulysse Nardin watches, the Freak introduced the patented Dual Ulysse Escapement. As its name suggests, this particular escapement includes two escape wheels. Additionally, the escape wheels are made of silicon—a first for wristwatch when first unveiled—thus giving up the need for lubrication. The Freak forever changed the haute horology landscape.

Ulysse Nardin Watches: Freak with 18k white gold
Ulysse Nardin Freak with 18k white gold

Watch mechanisms and functionality aside, the Freak is certainly one of the most distinctly designed Ulysse Nardin watches. This particular model sports a 42mm 18k white gold case. The blue face that serves as the backdrop to the exposed movement matches the blue alligator strap. The strap closes around the wearer’s wrist thanks to an 18k white gold deployant strap.

Ulysse Nardin’s Pursuit of High Mechanical Mastery

It’s clear that these two Ulysse Nardin watches are not your average luxury watches. But rather, they are expressions of Ulysse Nardin’s pursuit of watchmaking mastery. To own an Ulysse Nardin is to show an appreciation for the art of horology. At Gray & Sons, we proudly stock a wide range of pre-owned Ulysse Nardin watches that not only include the above two models, but many more. For example, we offer used Ulysse Nardin Marine watches, secondhand Ulysse Nardin Classic timepieces, and pre-owned Ulysse Nardin Executive models.

So if you’re looking for something exceptional, feast your eyes on the Ulysse Nardin Sonata or the Ulysse Nardin Freak.

Written by

Celine Simon

Celine is a freelance luxury watch writer who has enjoyed working in the horology industry for over ten years. Like many of the high-end timepieces she writes about, she comes from Switzerland—the heart of fine watchmaking. From Singapore to Montreal to Geneva to Dubai, Celine has lived all over the world but now calls Southern California home.