Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton

Angus Davies reviews the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton ref. 2785-SC5-20001, an open-worked timepiece featuring a prominent balance bridge on the dial-side of the movement.

This detailed review of the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton

A few years ago, a sense of fear pervaded the Swiss watch industry. At the time, ETA, a subsidiary of Swatch Group, supplied movements to the vast majority of watch companies. Swatch Group intimated that supplies of ETA movements would become increasingly limited and could even cease altogether. 

The actions of Swatch Group were understandable, they were investing significant sums in ETA, only to see competing watch brands enjoy their keenly-priced movements. These watch brands were not contributing to the cost of research and development themselves, thereby enjoying a competitive advantage as a result.

Based on the fear of supplies drying up, several companies became a Manufacture, joining the elite group of brands which have historically made their own movements. While some of these new manufacture movements were very impressive, a number of early examples were known to have reliability issues.

More pertinently, another regrettable consequence of several companies launching their own Manufacture movements was a rise in retail prices. Indeed, some watch companies, having incurred considerable research and development costs, sought to recover this expenditure overnight.

Etablisseur

While I admire those vertically integrated companies which make their own movements, I can understand why some brands chose to be an ‘Etablisseur’. This term is used to describe a watch company who purchases an ébauche together with additional parts to make a complete movement.

An ébauche is defined by the Fondation Haute Horlogerie as an ‘incomplete movement, with or without stones, devoid of the regulating organ, the mainspring, the dial and the hands’.

Today, an increasing number of specialists offer mechanical watch movements. In reality there are sufficient supplies to meet the needs of all watch companies and there is less need to be a Manufacture or an Etablisseur.

A third way

Several watch companies have chosen to devote their resources into design, procurement, quality control and distribution. Movements, dials, cases and straps are procured from specialist firms and final assembly and regulation is then delegated to other companies which possess the necessary watchmaking expertise.

This latter approach may seem alien to those horophiles who have always believed that Manufacture is best, however, even some of the most prestigious maisons draw on the expertise of third parties.

Car manufacturers will purchase gearboxes from ZF, buy brakes from Brembo and obtain seats from Lear. These components are made to each car company’s specification but delegated to specialist producers capable of delivering the best of both worlds, high quality and keen pricing. Likewise, the mobile phone industry outsources the production of parts and final assembly to third parties, choosing to focus on design, procurement, quality etc. So, why should watches be any different?

Raymond Weil

My lengthy preamble leads me to the door of Genevan watch brand, Raymond Weil. This eponymously named Swiss company was founded in 1976. Today, Elie Bernheim, the CEO of Raymond Weil, deftly manages the brand his grandfather established. The horological firm openly collaborates with movement specialist, Sellita, procuring Swiss calibres which meet its own specific requirements. It also draws upon the expertise synonymous with Swiss watchmaking.

Raymond Weil is synonymous with selling high quality, Swiss made watches at affordable prices. Furthermore, the value for money proffered by this company’s timepieces does not come at the expense of reliability, precision or tactile feel. Indeed, these attributes are rigorously upheld and the company’s exacting quality controls are stringently met.

Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton

Earlier this year, the Swiss brand unveiled a new watch, the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton, equipped with an open-worked movement produced in collaboration with Sellita.

Recently, I was granted the opportunity to appraise the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton first hand and critique its composition.

The dial

An open-worked dial is usually the preserve of much costlier timepieces. The modest asking price of £2,195 (RRP as at 25.7.2018) immediately differentiates the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton from its competitors.

Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton

Similar to other open-worked watches, this timepiece confers an amazing view of various components, typically hidden from view. The barrel cover has been pared-back, allowing sight of the mainspring in different states of tension.  At the fulcrum of the dial, the hour wheel is visible with the minute wheel positioned adjacent.

My favourite view is the sight of the balance wheel located above 6 o’clock. A slender balance bridge, featuring a two-spoke design, confers sight of the hairspring, pallet lever and escape wheel. This design grants a mesmerising vision of the balance wheel oscillating to and fro, the hairspring breathing and the pallet lever nodding. There are few views which can surpass the hypnotic spectacle of this horological vista.

Clearly, the objective of any timepiece is to indicate the time. This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many open-worked dials prove difficult to read. The dial of the Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton succinctly imparts the time. The golden-hued hands and matching indexes facilitate ease of read-off. Furthermore, the black hour track, white minuterie and the luminescent treatment on the hands and indexes all augment legibility.

Another aspect of the Calibre RW1212 which I find endearing is the flourishes of perlage on the spoke-like sections of the mainplate.

The case

The steel case is endowed with rose gold PVD coating. Ordinarily, I would favour mixing steel with genuine noble metal, however, I accept this would radically impact on the final selling price, alienating a large number of would-be buyers. In this case, the application of PVD coating imbues the watch with an agreeably warm appearance.

Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton

While this timepiece is very affordable, it features some delightful touches. The lugs embrace a multi-faceted design and charmingly toy with ambient light. The rose gold PVD coated crown, features a neatly executed grip with a relief depiction of the brand’s logo on its vertical flank. The brown calf leather strap is paired with a stainless steel folding clasp with double push-security system. In this latter case, a pin buckle would have sufficed, but it is clear Raymond Weil have strived to transcend the perfunctory.

Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton

Open-worked watches are aimed at horological voyeurs. It is therefore fitting that this timepiece also features an exhibition case-back, affording a review of the self-winding movement within.

The Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton measures 42mm in diameter, with a case thickness of 10.6mm. These dimensions should prove universally appealing.

The movement

The Calibre RW1212 has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz), contains 27 jewels and has a power reserve of 38 hours. 

The oscillating weight is skeletonised, facilitating views of the parts below, while the mainplate and bridges are embellished with perlage, reinforcing the perception of quality.

Closing remarks

The Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton is a beautiful watch. The slender spokes of the balance wheel, the sinuous curves of the mainplate and the disclosure of numerous wheels proves an alluring spectacle. However, despite the complexity of the dialscape, the indications prove simple to read, underscoring the practicality of the watch.

The case has a handsome mien. The use of rose gold PVD coating enlivens the appearance of the watch. Personally, I found the detailing on the lugs very attractive and I was impressed with the quality of the stainless steel folding clasp.

Ultimately, I have to return to the Calibre RW1212. It is embellished with perlage, in fact, the circular grained decoration abounds, gloriously adorning the bridges and mainplate. The open-worked oscillating weight reinforces the open-worked character of the watch.

As the Calibre RW1212 illustrates, there is much wisdom in watch companies collaborating with third parties. By cleverly sourcing quality components, Raymond Weil has created an impressive timepiece that represents incredible value.

Further reading

hhttps://www.raymond-weil.com

Technical specifications

  • Model: Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212 Skeleton
  • Case: Stainless steel with rose gold PVD coating; diameter 42mm, height 10.6mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 10 ATM (100 metres).
  • Functions: Hours; minutes
  • Movement: Calibre RW1212; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 27 jewels; power reserve 38 hours.
  • Strap: Brown calf leather strap with stainless steel folding clasp
  • Price: £2195 (RRP as at 25.7.2018)