When you start thinking about independent brands, you likely are not thinking of anything coming out of Switzerland. If that’s the case, you’ll need to amend your thinking, as there are some independent Swiss brands out there (i.e., not owned by one of the big conglomerates). Raymond Weil is one such brand, and today we’ve got a hands-on look at their latest watch, which features their first in-house-designed movement, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212.
Now, if you could not tell, the brand is putting that movement front and center – both in the name of the watch, and on the watch dial itself. As to the name of the movement, apparently 1212 is the postal code of Raymond Weil’s HQ over in Switzerland. Oh, and in the interest of transparency (given the past kerfuffle that some movement claims have had), it’s worth noting that the RW1212 was designed by Raymond Weil, but they worked with Sellita to bring the movement to life. So, it’s in-house in the sense of design, if not the actual manufacture.
On the dial side of things, they’ve positioned the balance wheel higher on the movement (above the mainplate) so it shows up on the dial at the 6 o’clock position. Ostensibly, there are two bridges holding it in place, with the attempt to emulate the look of a tourbillon. Frankly, that’s a design approach I have seen many a low-cost watch (generally with cheap movements) try to take. And that originally dissuaded me from wanting to have a look at the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212. I simply have become inured to the look, and it’s not a design cue that lights up my radar.
Fortunately, though, I relented. When I first opened up the box on the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212, I realized my usual take on open-heart dials needed some revision. You see, the dial on this watch really is well-sorted, and carries a much more luxurious feel than any open-heart watch you’d find on the auction sites. From the minute hashes on the chapter ring, to the two layers of the dial (with the center having a guilloche pattern), there’s a feel of good design here. Add in polished (and lumed) barrel hands and indices that mimic each other, you can tell this was not just thrown together.
In other words, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 is not your usual open-heart watch. Whether or not the RW1212 movement is one that will stand the test of time, well, only time will tell us that. In terms of what it does for the design of the watch, though, it fits right in and does not make the watch feel any less luxurious. It probably doesn’t hurt that the balance wheel itself is done to a high polish (whether viewed from the front or back), which then picks up on those polished accents on the dial and the case.
Speaking of the case, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 features a 42.5mm steel case that is a very nice 10.6mm thick. The relatively thin bezel keeps the focus on the dial, and it’s sides have a brushed finish, which keeps the appearance of fingerprints away. You’ll note that, on our review sample, the leather strap has curved ends (and, therefore, curved spring bars). This is a good look right up until you put it on your wrist (or, at least, on my wrist). Then, the position of the pins in the lugs becomes apparent (they’re set closer to the case than you’d have with straight spring bars), and you get some serious lug overhang – at least on my 7.25” wrist. Bigger wrists, perhaps not an issue, but on smaller, it will certainly be noticeable. So, if that’s you, you may want to consider the steel bracelet version (with it’s solid end links) instead.
On both sides of the case on the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 you have sapphire crystals. On the front, this is very flat, and at the right angle, you can pick up the blue sheen of the anti-reflective coating. In my time with the watch, this worked quite well, and I like the “blued” effect. On the back, it gives you a view of the 1212 movement. While plain, it is still well finished, and giving you a look at the balance wheel (or straight through the watch, if you like).
Speaking of plain, the strap on the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 is a plain calfskin leather, and I am all for it. Often with a watch like this, there would be a temptation to go with an alligator pattern. Here, though, the smooth (and soft) leather works well as a complement to the design of the dial, and keeps the focus on the watch itself, and not some crazy pattern in the leather. Should you want some bling on your strap, though, RW has you covered, as the folding clasp has a high-polish with the RW logo on it. Quick note on that clasp – it’s one of the thinnest I’ve experienced on a leather strap, and latche/releases easily with the two buttons on the sides.
How is it wearing the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 in the day-to-day? In a word, simple. Given the more polished look this watch has, this is one that’s definitely a good fit for the office, as well as with a suit. If you’re headed to the beach, the RW1212 isn’t your choice (at least, it shouldn’t be, even though it has a 100m WR rating). For just about anything else, the $1,850 Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 should fit the bill. And, if you’re like me and have been turned off by cheap open-heart watches in the past, let it be known (it is known) that this watch is a much different – and higher quality – animal. One that will give you the delight of just staring at that shiny balance wheel go back and forth, back and forth, as well as the pallet fork doing it’s job. In other words, it’s a dressy option for someone who wants to show off their appreciation of mechanical watch movements. I say, well done, RW, well done. raymond-weil.com
- Brand & Model: Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212
- Price: $1,850 (as reviewed)
- Who’s it for? As I said in the closer, it’s the dressy option to show off your love of mechanical watch movements
- Would I wear it? Yes, I would, though I’d opt for the bracelet version (see the next point)
- What I’d change: The spring bars. The curved ones look nice, until you put the watch on – then their position causes some weird lug overhang on the wrist. I’d suggest going with a more traditional straight spring bar, and moving the holes further out.
- The best thing about it: This is a watch that shows you how well-done an open-heart dial design can be done
Tech Specs from Raymond Weil
- Movement: mechanical with automatic winding, with visible balance wheel
- Power reserve: 38 hours
- Movement caliber height: 5.47
- Case material: stainless steel
- Case size: 42.5
- Case thickness: 10.6
- Case back: screwed-down, with sapphire crystal
- Water resistance: 100 m, 330 ft, 10 atm
- Crystal: sapphire with antiglare treatment on both sides
- Dial: black, with indexes
- Crown: screwed-down, with RW logo
- Bracelet/Strap: genuine calf leatherClasp: stainless steel folding clasp with double push-security system
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