Rome wasn’t built in a day — and neither was Rolex, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre and other watch manufacturers praised for their vertical integration and lauded for their array of in-house calibers. While we all applaud the handful of brands that bring new and increasingly complicated calibers to market virtually every year, we also should take note of other brands, many of them smaller, independently owned, or known throughout their history more for outsourcing their movements, that are taking a more incremental approach. In this series of articles, we look at five brands — three Swiss, two German — that are taking it slow and steady. This week, we wrap up the series with the neophyte in our quintet, at least in terms of movement-making: Geneva’s Raymond Weil.
Founded in 1976 and still family-owned, Raymond Weil had until recently maintained its watches’ relatively affordable price points with outsourced calibers from the Swatch Group’s movement-making colossus ETA — which still, at this stage of the game, power the vast majority of the company’s output. In 2017, however, Raymond Weil rolled out its first proprietary movement, developed not entirely in-house from the ground up but in a creative collaboration with Sellita, based in the Swiss Jura, another prolific supplier of movements to various brands and ETA’s major competitor in that field. The resulting automatic movement, Caliber RW1212, is distinguished by the dial-side positioning of its regulating organ, whose balance-and-spring construction — positioned above the mainplate and held by two bridges — peeks out from an aperture at 6 o’clock on the watch’s partially openworked dial, offering a visual effect akin to that offered by a tourbillon. All the elements relating to the regulating system, including the diamond-polished balance wheel and skeletonized bridges, were redesigned and pared down to aid in visibility.
Raymond Weil debuted the movement in the Freelancer Calibre RW1212, a watch with a round, stainless steel 42.5-mm case, a double-sided antiglare crystal, a screwed, fluted crown; a black galvanic dial with guilloché center, and — for visual balance with the large 6 o’clock aperture — two barrel-shaped luminous hands indicating the time on applied indices. A screw-down caseback features a sapphire window offering a view at the movement’s rear side, including its rotor, adorned with côtes de Genève and a Raymond Weil logo. (For my in-depth review of the Freelancer Calibre RW1212, click here.)
A year later, Raymond Weil rolled out a skeletonized version of Calier RW1212 (the numerals refer to the postal code of Grand-Lancy, the Geneva suburb that is home to the company’s HQ), in another Freelancer model, the Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton. In this watch, the dial has been openworked and the movement pared down to offer an unobstructed view of not only that telltale front-mounted balance but much of the rest of the mechanism as well; the rotor has also been skeletonized to enhance interest in the rear side of the movement, which is on display through a clear caseback.
Raymond Weil offers three versions of the Freelancer RW1212 Skeleton. One is in stainless steel with black PVD coating, black galvanic dial, and rose-gold PVD on the hands and indices, on a black calf leather strap. Another combines a stainless steel case with a rose-gold-PVD-coated bezel, crown, hands, and indices, on a brown calf leather strap, while a third “all steel” option matches a steel case and bracelet with blued steel hands and indices.
Much like Tudor, Nomos, and Oris — which we have covered in recent weeks in this series — Raymond Weil historically has striven to keep its watches priced under a certain threshold, meaning that its in-house movement development is likely to follow a similar path, with small complications gradually augmenting the faux-tourbillon design of the base movement — though the thought of what a GMT, world timer, or chronograph timepiece might look like in this fledgling collection is an intriguing one indeed.
I only wish the best for the Bernheim family, and certainly Movement Independence will help in the vertical integration and cost factoring, as it will allow the value positioning that has always been a Hallmark of the Brand. Design cosmetic from the audacious Nabucco of high value proposition and Design components, to Maestro, where concentric bands of varied Dial Finishes added both Finish and Value, the re-born Shine, the Dual-gendered Tango and Freelancer to Jasmine which under-achieved an opportunity to be the ‘Trojan Horse’ for the Brand, to the gender specific purity and simplicity of Noemia, that passed the MOP Dials, needed by an annual Color change to bring life to the Collection whether Cobalt Blue, Sea-mist Green, a deep passionate Red. The Foundation is the base, but sadly where, the Brand lost it’s way, was in Management, Focus, Direction and having the right people making decisions in the key markets in the early millennia. Look at the Who, What, Why and How, myself drop Toccata (nee Tradition), vacate Macy, look at the Jeweler and be the Jewelers Brand, be religious about re-building the distribution, with Exclusive and Semi-Exclusive partnerships. There is a place for Raymond-Weil, maybe not world-wide, but it is incumbent on open thought, not the Group-think that burdens the large Groups, “Independence is a state of mind”, but intrinsic to this open dialog, strong experienced people and a sense of purpose. Good luck, the future is yours.
Good thoughts. I like Raymond Weil and think their watches provide nice value with little touches that show they think about the user. It’s nice to have Oris and Raymond Weil out there as a reminder that nice watches don’t have to be overpriced.