Hands On Review: The Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph Automatic5:51 pm
If I told you I’m wearing an automatic chronograph, powered by a reliable Valjoux movement, coming from a three generation old ‘independent’ and family owned Swiss watch brand, would Raymond Weil come to your mind? Probably not. And that’s a real shame as far as the brand is concerned – they’ve been overlooked by connoisseurs for a long time mainly because their timepieces are not really expensive. But not many know that this very ‘non-expensive’ stance by Mr. Weil had a small, but significant role to play in the revival of the mechanical watch industry.
When the Quartz crisis hit Switzerland, over 800 brands perished and only the biggies remained. Mr.Weil, on the other hand, found the situation perfect to start a new watch brand. What kept him going? He just didn’t want the mechanical watchmaking tradition to die. And so in 1975, he kick-started the brand with a small 16-foot booth in Basel with folding chairs.
It was a slow start indeed, as the brand neither had the backing of an illustrious history nor a wealth of beautiful timepieces that they could lean on. But his solo stance was an inspiration nonetheless. Mr. Weil’s insistence on keeping his watches ‘reasonable’ though, probably put the collectors off, and a possible reason why Raymond Weil was seen as a lesser brand among connoisseurs.
To those people I say – you’re missing out on a lot of enjoyable timepieces.
Enter the Freelancer
I’m not saying Raymond Weil doesn’t make expensive timepieces; they unveiled their first in-house movement watch just a month ago at Baselworld and have even made a skeleton tourbillon in the past!
But the bulk of their affordable watches cater to those on the lookout for a ‘no-nonsense’ nice looking reliable watch, and the Freelancer collection is exactly that – a nice looking reliable watch. The Freelancer collection made its debut only in 2007 and the one we’re here to discuss today is arguably their best looking Freelancer yet. The Freelancer Chronograph.
The major hurdle in this price range (below INR 2.5 lacs) is that almost all chronograph watches look the same or have similar features. Watchmakers usually try hard to give their own unusual ‘twist’ in design but thankfully, Raymond Weil resisted the urge. What you’re getting is a clear – readable dial with a retro-ish panda design that might even remind you of the vintage Daytonas – but with subtle touches that give this watch its own identity.
For starters, the three blue chronograph registers against the silver background complement the design really well, along with the typical ‘vinyl’ pattern running around the dial, seen on most Raymond Weil watches.
Silver applied hour markers are perfectly sized with luminova tips designed in a way that they blend into the dial with much ease. Even the hour/minute hands are thoughtfully coated, just so the dress chronograph vibe remains intact.
The chronograph registers (at 3 and 6 o’clock) have white hands that pair with the central second’s hand, whilst the running seconds (at 9 o’clock) has a steel hand that matches the hour and minute hands. It’s a small detail that might seem unnecessary to those who don’t care but ask any seasoned chronograph user and they’ll tell you it’s a great visual reference. The inner minute flange has black markers with numerals for every 5th minute.
Racing-inspired Leather Strap
A semi-formal style, ‘racing-hole’ leather strap is what RW have gone for with the Freelancer, which is comfortable and easily adjustable with a deployment clasp. Of course, it can always be swapped if it’s not to your taste.
Under the hood – Valjoux 7753
Powering the watch is a familiar movement that can be reliably and easily serviced nearly anywhere in the world, the Valjoux 7753. Bear in mind this movement has a CAM architecture rather than a column wheel, therefore a pretty firm push is needed to kick start the chronograph. There’s an interesting addition to this watch as well i.e. the Date pusher at 10 o’clock, which completely eliminates the need to change the date from the crown. All you have to do is press the button to quickly skip to the next day.
The movement is also completely visible through a see-through sapphire crystal case back that will engross those unfamiliar with the inner workings of a mechanical watch.
Final thoughts & Price
This is the sort of watch that depends heavily on a tried and tested formula in all aspects, right from the clean panda dial to the reliable chronograph movement, without being too boastful or flashy about it. All of this for a price that lets the wearer just enjoy a great looking watch without having to go too in-depth with it. There’s nothing going wrong with the Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph, in fact, it’s a well-made watch that asks for little and in return gives you a lot.
The Freelancer Chronograph is priced at INR 231,850 and is available in India at Ethos Watch Boutiques.
Do you like this watch? Let us know in the comments section below!
(Image courtesy: Raymond Weil & Hodinkee)