Hands-On with the Raymond Weil Freelancer RW1212

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Earlier today, we published our interview with Elie Bernheim, the third-generation CEO of Raymond Weil. In our conversation with Mr. Bernheim, we discussed the development of the RW1212 caliber, a joint project Raymond Weil undertook with their manufacturing partner and movement giant, Sellita. The RW1212 was unveiled earlier this year and placed within the brand’s Freelancer range.

As Mr. Bernheim readily admitted during our conversation, the RW1212—with its two bridges anchoring the forward-facing balance—is designed to visually mimic a tourbillon, an expensive, haute complication. For some, this will surely be a non-starter. There are simply too many no-name watches being pumped out of China attempting a similar aesthetic, and that can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. For others, they’ll see it for what it is—a new take on the open-heart concept because all marketing hype aside, that’s what we have here.

Now, I’m not typically one for open-heart dials. It’s an aesthetic that has never really pulled me in and, to be perfectly frank, most brands are lazy in their execution (why would I want to see plainly finished 2824 components through the dial of my watch?) But I’ll give it to Raymond Weil—the result here is far more visually impacting, as you really get a front-and-center view of the escapement and the components are nicely finished.

The front-facing balance of the RW1212 is a different take on the open-heart concept.

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$1895

Hands-On with the Raymond Weil Freelancer RW1212

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
RW 1212; 38-hr power reserve; 4Hz; front-facing balance
Dial
Silver
Lume
Super-LumiNova
Lens
Sapphire with AR (front and back)
Strap
5-link bracelet
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
42.5mm x 50.5mm
Thickness
11.2mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Screw-down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1895

The case measures 42.5mm with a lug-to-lug height of about 50.5mm. We often write on Worn & Wound that measurements don’t tell the whole story when it comes to the way a watch wears on the wrist. Here, I would say that it wears largely as the dimensions suggest it should, which means that for me it is on the upper end of what I am comfortable with, specifically with this style of watch.

The case geometry is relatively straightforward, with the Heuer-esque faceted lugs giving the watch a slightly more casual feel. Looking at the watch top-down, the lugs and bezel are polished. From the side, the mid-case is horizontally brushed. Visually, this tempers the 11.2mm height of the case. Overall, it’s an attractive design, although I would have preferred sharper lines on the lugs to really make them pop.

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The dial is well done, pulling more from the sportier end of things. There’s a primary hours index, with indices that are applied, oblong markers capped with luminous plots. Moving inward, there is a stamped lower level featuring a guilloché-like pattern and the logo (the logo sits on its own plane). A chapter ring with fine demarcations may be a point of contention for some given that there is no central seconds hand here, but it’s something I can look past as the detail gives it a sporty/casual vibe. That said, I could understand the rationale of those less forgiving.

The hands are oblong (matching the shape of the indices) and filled with luminous paint.

At six, you’ll find the open-heart. As I wrote above, it’s well done, with the mirror-polished balance wheel swinging away. I appreciate the six o’clock placement and the overall symmetry, which prevents the opening from looking like an afterthought.

As I wrote above, the watch wears as the dimensions suggest. On someone with wrists bigger than mine, perhaps the watch would strike a better balance. That isn’t to say it’s uncomfortable. On the contrary, it sits quite well on my relatively flat wrist. I would just prefer everything be scaled down a bit; 40mm would be a sweet spot.

Whether that’s possible from an engineering standpoint, I’m not entirely sure. The movement itself is quite large, so it’s hard to gauge how many millimeters of tolerance they have to play with. But if they can bring the whole thing down, I’d love to see that.

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The jubilee-style bracelet features a butterfly closure and is comfortable when worn. The two outer links are brushed and the fine center links are finished in a high polish. This type of bracelet can be a nightmare for those of us with more hirsute wrists, but I experienced no issues here.

Overall, the Freelancer RW1212 is a solid watch from the brand, and it executes the concept quite well. At $1,895, the Freelancer RW1212 sits in a competitive price point. That said, it’s also the nicest execution of an open-heart that I’ve encountered thus far. If that’s what you’re in the market for, the Freelancer RW1212 merits consideration.

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Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.
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