It is with great pleasure that I’m kicking off a series of Raymond Weil hands-on reviews with a very special piece, the Freelancer RW1212, a milestone on its own. It is powered by calibre RW1212, the first in-house movement of Raymond Weil, one of the few still independent Swiss watchmaking companies. As presented in one of our previous articles about this movement, the calibre RW1212 was developed and designed by RW, but produced by Sellita. When I met Elie Bernheim, the CEO of RW, this is what he had to say about this movement:
It was a great development because it’s honest and sincere. Yes, we developed it in-house, but it is not produced by us. Unlike other brands that claim to produce their movements and they are not, our rhetoric is very sincere. I approached Miguel Garcia, the head of Sellita and I told him that I would like to have my own movement, can we have a partnership and work together to make this movement? He said yes, let’s do it. We just announced at Basel this beautiful movement and we are already launching it on the market and of course, I’m very happy with the results.
Unboxing the RW1212 is quite an experience, as I peel off the different layers of boxes and protective cardboards, it is like opening a matryoshka doll, only that in the end, as I open the last box my heart is beating harder. It’s not the first time I see this watch, I saw it before at Creation Paul H at the launch of the RW Canada 150 Freelancer, still the way the RW1212 is designed, it demands admiration, a feeling I kept experiencing during the past two weeks that I spent with this watch.
It has a diameter of 42.5 mm, which for me small wrist is borderline, especially considering the length of the lugs, that make the RW1212 50 mm long, but I guess this might be good news for guys with larger wrists, for sure, the watch has a nice presence on the wrist. The proportions are daring yet still very elegant. It’s 10 mm thick and its rounded bezel will make it slip under the cuff without much difficulty. The bezel and the top of the lugs are polished, while the side of the case and the lugs have a subtle horizontal brush finish, which is so fine it almost gives the impression that it was sandblasted. This sophisticated mat surface offers the perfect background for the polished details of the crown to pop out.
The screw-down crown has a good grip and it’s easy to operate, after all, there is not much effort that will go into adjusting a two-hands watch. Which is good news, since its power reserve of 38 hours is more than enough if you would wear it every day, but it’s far from 80-hours that become standard for certain competitors in this category.
Besides the silver dial version, there is also an RW1212 model with black dial, which I saw at a Raymond Weil AD, but personally, I prefer this one. Whoever designed this dial must be an accomplished master of his trade. There are so many subtle details that went into it, every day I would discover another subtlety and what really takes the breath away is the harmony between all these elements. First of all, there is the silver chapter ring with minutes and quarter of minutes scale, just the right depth to give the dial the perfect passe-partout. The main dial has two sections, the outer circle has a sunray finish, while the centre part is decorated with a superb guilloche of tiny pyramids.
The main course here is the opening at 6 o’clock displaying the regulating organ. The balance and spring are held by two bridges, in the same style, you would find on a tourbillon watch. Snobs will belittle this feature, but I actually found it fascinating to stare at the beating heart of this watch. It is also a great way to make sure the watch is still running since there is no seconds’ hand.
The applied stainless steel indexes have a polished surface, matching the style of the hands. As the light hits their surface, the entire dial comes alive and confer the watch a classy look. Tiny dots of lume next to each index as well as on the hands will make sure that there is much to see even in darker environments.
The large display back gives a great view over the calibre RW1212. The rotor is decorated with Côtes de Genève motif and it has the RW logo engraved on. Probably it has to do with the design identity of RW, but for this watch, I would have preferred the rotor to take less space or to be skeletonized in order to be consistent with the transparent approach of the dial and the movement.
The model here came on a black leather strap with a folding clasp decorated with the RW initials. It was very soft and comfortable wearing and if you are looking for more sparkle, you can always go with the bracelet option. The lugs have two sets of holes, allowing different styles of straps and bracelets to be matched with the watch.
I’m used to wearing watches in the 38-40 mm range and with the RW1212 initially it took some time to warm up to its larger presence, but my fascination with the dial made me forget my anxieties. There is something very masculine and elegant about this watch. Unlike other brands that revive old hits surfing on the popularity of vintage watches or others that clearly take a modern path, the design of the RW1212 is timeless. It is the kind of watch I could imagine becoming the main piece for many. For countless reasons: it is a very handsome watch with a special movement, a milestone for one of the few major Swiss watch brands that are still independent, plus it manages to stay in the affordable range. The MSRP on this model is C$2,195 or US$1,850, not bad considering the watch you get for this money.
Reference 2780-STC-65001Collection Freelancer
Movement RW1212 mechanical with automatic winding, with visible balance wheel
Power reserve 38 hours
Movement 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 silver, with indexes
Crown screwed-down, with RW logo
Bracelet/Strap genuine calf leather
Clasp stainless steel folding clasp with double push-security system
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