In a year that saw the passing of Raymond Weil’s founder and namesake, the company’s strong offerings signaled an enduring legacy. On our blog, Monochrome-Watches, we recently wrote that Musical appreciation and the arts, which enjoy a continuing symbiosis with the company, likely led the brand to describe the Raymond Weil Freelancer Titanium Chronograph as mezzo-piano, or moderately soft. After several weeks of wear, we might choose mezzo-forte, moderately loud, for the bold character of its Freelancer roots, but the lightness of the titanium does bring a softness to the wrist. When it comes to wide-ranging versatility, this watch strikes the right note.
For a watch that is a sports chronograph, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Titanium Chronograph also doubles as a debonair dress watch (13.7mm thick), giving it an immediate adaptability; a good all-in-one watch. With various activities, and with a variety of clothes, this watch is at home. The only limitation, imperceptible to the eye, is its 100-meter water resistance, which means its attractive sports appearance has decided limitations. In the water, the watch is more piano than forte, but at the track, in the car, or over a pot of boiling pasta, the chronograph performs.
The watch has a bold color scheme, with distinctive orange highlights that are related to the chronograph complication. Lastly, the visible screws on the IWC-like preview date window are quintessential Freelancer. With all that is happening on the dial, the color scheme makes it easy to distinguish between time and chronograph timing.
The two unprotected, old-school pushers snap the chronograph to action or inaction, but they take a solid push. The chronograph function has a crisp, solid feel like the taut steering of a sports car as opposed to the loose feel of your grandmother’s clunker. With each start, we think quality; with each stop, we think precision; and with each reset, we think “do it again.” The alignment of pushers to crown lets you know this is an integrated chronograph instead of a modular chronograph in which the chronograph function is placed as a module on top of a base watch movement. When so many chronographs only give you a 30-minute or one-hour maximum timing, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Titanium can record 12 hours of timing.
The slate-gray, galvanized dial is laid out in a quadrilateral style with the chronograph subdials above and below center, and the small seconds to the left with the day/date preview to the right. All the chronograph hands are orange, and the chronograph subdials are black. With a press of the pusher, the large, central chronograph hand counts the seconds that accumulate in the upper 30 minute subdial that, in turn, accumulate in the lower 12-hour subdial. Not only do the orange hands make chronograph legibility instantaneous, but the division of time into hours, minutes and seconds makes it easy to read a precise time. To achieve precise readings, the 12 hour subdial’s chapter ring marks hours and half hours, pairing with the 30-minute counter.
Looking across the dial horizontally, from left to right, first comes the small seconds, which is less a subdial than an articulation on the dial. From the hand to the numerals to the indexes, the small seconds display is all-white, which matches the white color of the barrel-shaped minute and hour hands in addition to the white numerals and indexes on the chapter rings. White is the color of time; orange is the color of timing. The exception is the additional use of orange for the date arrow and for “tachymeter” on the upper chapter ring. On the far right are the day and preview date windows.
The crystal is sapphire and has a dual-sided nonreflective coating. The sloping bezel maximizes the viewing area under the crystal.
In addition to the black/gray/orange/white color scheme seen here, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Titanium Chronograph is available in a white/gray/red color scheme, and either watch can have a titanium bracelet or black/brown leather strap.
The case is satin-finished titanium. The smooth bezel is slightly angled away from the dial where all the attention resides. The titanium case is more experienced than seen and commands the wearer’s attention because its light weight seems incongruous to its 45-mm size and chronograph functionality. Four screws affix the caseback, and it has four small indentations for caseback removal. The center of the caseback is transparent, made of sapphire.
The screw-down crown is oversized and easy to use. Its fluted edges aid grip and make turning a tactile experience. The RW monogram is etched into the crown and can also be seen on the bracelet buckle.
Raymond Weil makes quality bracelets. This bracelet is solid and comfortable and uses a double pusher for safety. To lock the Raymond Weil Freelancer Titanium’s clasp, however, feels counter-intuitive and takes some adjustment. Instead of the lower bracelet locking first, followed by the upper bracelet, things happen in reverse; the upper bracelet must be locked first with the Raymond Weil Monogram coming across buckle-like. It may take a few times to get closing the clasp right, but once mastered, all thoughts go to the excellent feel of the bracelet.
Under the caseback crystal sits the RW5000 caliber. The familiar cams and levers reveal it as a reworked ETA Valjoux 7750, a veritable workhorse in the watch industry, but since the Swatch Group’s decreased availability of the movement, it is found only in select brands outside the Group, Raymond Weil being one. The movement has 25 jewels and a 46-hour power reserve. The bridges are Spartan and undecorated, but the solid rotor has a machined, circular stippling as well as blue logo and caliber designations.
The Raymond Weil Freelancer Titanium Chronograph looks and feels more expensive than it is, a Raymond Weil specialty, and its combination of aesthetic appeal, function and value make it an all-purpose watch for any occasion. The price is 2,990 euros or $3,350.
• Use of titanium for the case
• Dial layout
• Color Scheme by function with orange
• Chronograph “feel” when starting and stopping
• Price / Quality ratio
• Only 100 meters (300 feet) of water resistance
• Little decoration to the movement