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.




Hands-On with the Raymond Weil Freelancer RW1212

Stainless steel
RW 1212; 38-hr power reserve; 4Hz; front-facing balance
Sapphire with AR (front and back)
5-link bracelet
Water Resistance
42.5mm x 50.5mm
Lug Width

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.



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.



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.



Images from this post:


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.

  • Oldman Johnson

    “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.”
    Exactly. Couldn’t agree more. A small seconds would have changed this watch completely. As it is, it looks like a cheap Chinese knockoff. Coming to a mall kiosk near you!

    • Just to clarify the above portion of my review, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, nor is it something I’d fault Raymond Weil for doing. The actual concept and aesthetic is, IMHO, pretty good looking and it’s well-executed. I personally think it’s a shame that the stuff coming out of China tarnishes this for some people. Like I wrote above, this is the nicest execution of the open-heart concept I’ve seen thus far.

      Also worth noting that although enthusiasts are the most vocal customers, we’re but a small segment of the buying public. Your run of the mill buyer probably isn’t tracking what is coming out of China. They would probably just think, “hey, this looks cool.”


      • Oldman Johnson

        Again, couldn’t agree more…Raymond Weil is definitely run-of-the-mill. And those non-WIS types are probably not reading w&w.
        A few years ago, I had an open-heart Bulova that ran on a Japanese movement, that looked at least as good as this, for 1/4 the price. At least it was honest. This example of “it looks like a tourbillon” is nothing more than a simple bait & switch, and thank-you very much for your $1895.

        • I don’t think it’s a bait and switch. Your run of the mill customer probably has no idea what a tourbillon is, and as far as enthusiasts go, few are going to think this a tourbillon.

          I don’t know what Bulova you owned, but I’ll just say that most open-hearts that I’ve seen were generally disappointing. Standard movements weren’t designed with open-hearts in mind. Here, the execution of that concept is well done.


          • Oldman Johnson

            This is a standard movement. This is a fake tourbillon. What am I missing? If people want to buy it, fine, but why pay almost $2K for it? The Swiss watch industry is in trouble for two reasons. One, they think that they can charge whatever they want. Two, they have no original ideas whatsoever. This latest creation from RW is a prime example of both.

            For the same price you could get 2-3 watches that people might actually respect. But thats not what sells, is it.

          • It’s not a standard movement. RW designed it, Sellitta produced it. The architecture is different as evidenced by the forward facing balance. And according to RW, the Freelancer RW1212 has done exceptionally well for them.

            True, some watch enthusiasts might see it as, “I can buy 2-3 watches for the price of this one,” but most people who are looking for one watch to wear daily and aren’t immersed in watch media and forums probably don’t think this way. They walk into a store and buy what they like.


          • Matthew Rowe

            I think this is an honest watch. It’s honestly not for me but you get a Swiss made watch with an exclusive Swiss movement for under $2k and probably less on the street later. Also, RW has been up front with what this watch is, no smoke and mirrors, and they realize their customer is not reading this article.

      • Zheng Wang

        Open heart dials showing the balance wheel is nothing new, whether its coming from China, Japan or Switzerland, its there to mimic the look of toubillon, you are either ok with it or not. Sure, RW is at a more “reasonable” price range for a swiss watch, but in principle its no different from cheaper open heart watches that mimics a toubillon.
        RW is not a bad brand, but it has missed the mark here, could have spent the resources designing something different.

  • Ranchracer

    While I don’t own any of their pieces, I’ve always respected RW for keeping their Swiss Made pieces very reasonably priced. I think you get a lot for your money with their watches. And, while the open heart, in general, is not my cup of tee, they’ve dove a very respectable job with this effort. If they made this in a smaller ladies size, my non-watch-addicted Mother would love it! If the RW1212 finds its way into a nice, classic three-hander I may very well be a buyer.

    And guys, thanks for another great Podcast. We all tend to inform our opinions of brands without having any understanding of the people or the effort behind them. Great to hear “straight from the horse’s mouth”, as it were, this morning with the Elie Berheim interview. Keep up the great work. My windshield time wouldn’t be the same without my W&W watch loving buddies!

    Eric B.

  • Peter D

    I’ve tried this one on and it wears like a 44mm on my 6.75″ wrist. Not good.