“Watchmaking and sailing share the same values and requirements, such as performance, precision and innovation…” Elie Bernheim – CEO of Raymond Weil and Son of Raymond Weil
Raymond Weil are a brand that always seem to be fighting a cause and stretching the horological margins that have been set for centuries. They do not apply to the traditional rule of “the more we add, the steeper the price” and offer some amazingly priced pieces, not many Swiss brands offer a gentlemen’s automatic steel watch for less then £1000, specially a brand with such a luxury label (for example, this one here).
Mr Raymond Weil founded the company in 1976, an awful time for a Swiss watch company to begin due to the quartz crisis. Raymond Weil from day one have it in their blood to go against the grain and fight with the odds against them to stand out from the normal crowd. As watch companies in the 70’s and 80’s disappeared, Raymond Weil did the opposite, going from strength to strength with watches such as the iconic Othello collection. Now in 2017 Raymond Weil are one of the last family owned Swiss watch brands and they find themselves in the top 10 best selling luxury Swiss watches to-date, a huge achievement for a brand with less then 50 years in the industry!
Now, shying away from the brand history we take a look at my favorite watch from this successful brand, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Diver. First revealed in spring 2016, the excuse for this new divers style piece was the collaboration between Raymond Weil and the Realteam Yacht Racing team. Raymond Weil were the official timer of Realteam and Partner for the 2016 season of the D35 Trophy on Lake Geneva and the GC32 Racing Tour internationally. This of course gave Raymond Weil the perfect opportunity to break into a highly competitive market, the affordable, automatic, Swiss divers watch. This market is bombarded with competition with the likes of TAG Heuer with the Aquaracer 300m Calibre 5 at £1,600 and Omega with the Seamaster Diver 300m at £2,920 being very strong market leaders.
Raymond Weil arrive on the scene by offering the Freelancer diver at £1,595 with a rubber strap and £1,695 on a steel “jubilee” style bracelet. This places them well below Omega and in direct competition with TAG Heuer, a very strong brand who invest heavily in advertisement and brand recognition. When it comes to product however, Raymond Weil give TAG Heuer a run for their money.
Above we have the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5 at £1,600 which I referred to earlier, comparing this to the Raymond Weil Freelancer on the bracelet, its hard to see why TAG are asking for such a similar price to the Raymond Weil, with just less then £100 between them. Both watches come in 316L stainless steel and both sport 300m water resistance. However Raymond Weil continues to offer a lot more with a very durable classic ceramic sports bezel which compliments the durability of the sapphire crystal glass well. This compared to the standard steel bezel on the TAG makes the Raymond Weil more durable to every day wear and of course to sporting wear as well. If you were to buy a TAG with a ceramic bezel you would be looking at a price of over £1,900, such as this one below:
This proves my point that this Freelancer is superb value for money.
Having worn the Freelancer Diver for a few days I was surprised by the watches wrist presence and quality. The watch felt the same quality, if not better, then some higher end watches such as a Rolex Submariner. The watches size of 42.5mm and depth of 11.8mm sits perfectly under a cuff making it a subtle and elegant piece, however once it appeared from under my cuff, it received plenty of compliments. This in my opinion is an important feature for diving watches as they are often worn with suits and shirts.
The watch I wore came with the rubber strap option, I found the rubber strap extremely comfortable as it felt quite soft and supple. When faced with a challenge though where the rubber strap required to be durable, it passed with flying colours. The strap comes with small holes along the side, this was perfect as it allowed the wrist to breathe reducing the nasty sweat build up you may receive with some rubber straps. I feel a leather NATO strap or a canvas NATO strap would really compliment this watch if you were to individually personalise your piece but the leather may not be as durable as the superb rubber option.
Raymond Weil have also launched a selection of PVD coated versions of the Freelancer Diver at £1,695. As you can see in the pictures below they share similar traits to their steel brothers such as a ceramic bezel, the rubber strap and the 300m water resistance. These watches though give off a much more casual vibe and would be the perfect piece for a young person looking for a durable every day watch.
In conclusion, the new divers from Raymond Weil slides perfectly into their Freelancer range and fills the void that was the “affordable automatic diver” collection which was lacking from Raymond Weil. This new collection launches the brand into the limelight of mass competition with some strong brands, however the quality of this range proves that Raymond Weil are a dark house with these rivals and gives them the opportunity to flex their muscles and show the world that they can make some truly beautiful pieces. I am excited to see where the collection goes from here and I hope that Raymond Weil invest heavily into this range but only time will tell.
You can buy these new watches from the Owen & Robisnon website, just follow this link.