[Video Review] Norqain Gets Adventurous With Wild One & Norteq

I see plenty of discussion around the idea of a GADA watch within the watch enthusiast space, that is the concept of a Go Anywhere, Do Anything watch. Of course, each of us has our own criteria for what the perfect GADA watch must have, but these are generally watches that do a good job of skirting between the boundaries of any specific genre. Ultimately, a watch is what we make of it; clearly not many of us are divers or pilots, yet many of us enjoy watches specifically ascribed to these realms. We’ve seen a growing trend of brands simply labeling their watches in broadly generic terms, like ‘active watch’ or ‘sport watch’ implying it can stand up to the rigors of more average human activities. More walks in the park or sledding with your kids and less diving to 300 meters or calculating fuel loads in an old war plane. 

I say all this to set up the discussion around a new(ish) watch from Norqain called the Wild One, a watch which the brand describes as the “ultimate sports watch”. It’s got all the impressive specs you’d associate with modern dive or field watches, like a 300 meter depth rating and a chronometer rated movement, but it’s not being positioned explicitly as a dive watch, or a field watch. It’s a sports watch. For my lifestyle, a GADA watch closely resembles what I’d consider a sports watch, so this billing was good news to me. It should be easy to wear regardless of activity, able to put up with some light wear and tear, be legible, and look pretty good with a broad section of my wardrobe. Bonus points for fun and originality. So how does the Wild One hold up against these criteria? In short, flawed but with signs of promise. We’ll get into the reasons why, but that’s also not the full picture with this watch.


[Video Review] Norqain Gets Adventurous With Wild One & Norteq

Norteq, Rubber, Titanium
Kenissi NN20/1
Laser Etched Black
Super Luminova
Textured Rubber
Water Resistance
Lug Width
Screw Down
4 yrs

The Wild One was released last year in Zermatt Switzerland, and our own Zach Kazan was on hand with all the details, including thoughts from newly appointed Norqain board advisor, mr. Jean-Claude Biver himself. The Wild One was a momentous release from the young brand, with plenty of ambitious attributes meant to cast the watch alongside more well known contemporaries from the likes of Tudor, IWC, and Omega. Except none of those brands make a watch quite like the Wild One thanks to its genre-agnostic approach. While this move clearly sets it apart, it also leaves room for more personal interpretations on what this watch is meant to be. 

The Wild One is a substantial watch in every sense of the word, it walks right up the line of being overbearing, and takes a healthy step back. The multi-part case can withstand incredible amounts of brute force (5,000 Gs!), featuring a new proprietary material, called Norteq, that’s 3.5 times lighter than titanium, and more importantly, a hard rubber shock absorber that provides enough heft to the watch to overcome any lightweight, plastic-y feeling that’s often a side effect of composites similar to Norteq, which presents as forged carbon in appearance. 

This isn’t a ‘cheap’ feeling watch as a result. As a whole, it weighs 84 grams. For context, the fully carbon Formex Essence Leggera weighs 61 grams, and the titanium Tudor FXD on its fabric strap weighs 82 grams (the MoonSwatch, btw, is a mere 30 grams). I’d call it a pleasant light, not a disconcerting light. The Wild One is actually quite similar to the FXD in dimensions, as well. The case measures 41.8mm in diameter as measured from 4 to 10 o’clock, so that number doesn’t include the crown guard or the hump found along the 9 o’clock side of the case (those are two substantial elements of the case, however, and if you include them the measurement goes up to 45mm). It measures 12.5mm thick, and 49.2mm from lug to lug. All numbers within spitting distance of the FXD.

The comparison to the FXD doesn’t stop at the physical dimensions. I find these two watches somewhat analogous for a few reasons, as they both represent capable, dateless sport watches (though the FXD isn’t billed as such) made of robust, lightweight materials, and even employ the same base movement. Each is 200m water resistant, have 22mm lug spans, and a unique strap integration (the Wild One with a tightly integrated rubber strap, and the FXD with its fixed lug). Of course, they differ in plenty of ways as well, but I view these in the same vein for the simple fact that I’d use them in the same ways. The Tudor also clearly highlights a couple of the shortcomings of the Wild One, and makes opportunities for improvement from Norqain quite obvious in the process. 

While both are equally capable, the Norqain places a premium on form over function, while the FXD is the opposite. First, the material itself, Norteq, is touted as being able to accept different hues than just black, and as such the collection does receive one example that’s been tinted to a maroon color, and offers lots of interesting potential for colorways not previously possible with a case like this. I think that’s pretty cool and definitely scores points on being fun and original, while not interfering with the core tenets of a great sports watch in the process, but it is subjective so YMMV.

Moving into the dial itself, we’re presented with a laser etched base that consists of a motif of the “N” of the Norqain logo arranged in something of a pattern. It’s not openworked to the mainplate of the movement, but rather layered atop a black base, so the pattern is almost subtle depending on the light you’re in. Again, I find this interesting and unique, adding to the overall personality of the watch, but overall an unnecessary flourish. Again though, it doesn’t interfere with the functionality of the watch, so nothing to complain about here.

This brings us to what I consider the biggest weak point, or opportunity if you’d rather, which are the hour markers and hands. The applied markers and all three hands are highly polished in their entirety, and don’t have much in the way of dimensionality, so they have a tendency to disappear at the wrong angle or in certain lighting situations. This is obviously the opposite of what I prefer in a sports watch, which (in my opinion) doesn’t need many high polished surfaces, least of which in the wrong places, like the hands and hour markers. They feel entirely out of place on this watch, which is otherwise somewhat uniform in its matte texture. 

The above issue is only exacerbated by the lack of any meaningful lume application. Each hour marker receives a small, barely perceptible block of lume at one end, while the hands receive a dollop on their tips alone. I’m generally not too picky about lume, but it should be present and at least serviceable in a watch like this. Holding it next to the FXD crystalizes the difference between a highly functional dial that has prioritized legibility in any lighting (see the lume shot of each in the video above), over a more stylized approach that heavily compromises even basic legibility. Again, there’s nothing wrong with a more stylized approach, as long as it doesn’t compromise on the usefulness of the watch. Why go through the trouble of using a highly accurate chronometer movement and ultra shock resistant case if you can’t use it to easily tell the time? Which is the only thing this watch does, there are no complications here, its functionality boils down to one job. 

The hands and hour markers alone disqualify this watch from any kind of GADA discussion (for me, at least), but thankfully these are easy to fix in subsequent generations, which I certainly hope we get from Norqain. There is still plenty of promise in this watch, and plenty of details to appreciate here. I’ll note that, I don’t take issue with watches that sacrifice legibility in the name of broader stylistic goals (like this Zenith, or this Hublot), however, if a watch is positioning itself as the ‘ultimate sports watch’, a certain level of functional expectation is set, which I expect it to meet.

Note: At the time of writing there has been a new limited edition Wild One introduced for the NHL Players Association which has addressed one of my biggest issues with this watch by using black hour markers and hands against a white dial, and as you’d expect, it makes a remarkable difference at a glance. Still not enough lume, though. 

The case is truly the most interesting component of the Wild One, both in material and construction. Their own proprietary Norteq material looks and feels like carbon, with a soft matte texture and dull sheen to its surface, and that’s fine with me. We’re seeing increased usage of materials like this in more accessible priced watches, and while not quite as exotic as it once was, it’s still a pretty cool material in an application like this. I particularly enjoy the case construction here. 

At the center of the case is a titanium core that houses the automatic movement caliber NN20/1 (a Kenissi unit similar to the MT5602 found in the Tudor FXD). This container is then set within a rubber shock absorber that protrudes on either side of the case. All of this is sandwiched between two layers of Norteq, and held together by four screws in the lugs. The post of these screws is visible on the top of the lug, and matches the slope of the lug, a detail they are quite proud of from what I gather. Turning the watch over and you’ll see the screw head itself nested within the lug to secure the entire case together. 

Overall it’s a fun case to look at with plenty of small details to discover on further inspection. I enjoy the view from the side that shows all the components held together. It feels a bit like the egg drop challenge from high school physics classes. Best of all, it seems to work pretty well, with Norqain claiming that the watch can withstand up to 5,000 Gs of force, which feels like more than it would experience if dropped off the roof of your local high school.


The only downside are the extruding “bumper” areas of the case, which work as crown guards on the 3 o’clock side, and, well, a bumper on the 9 o’clock side. Their size adds a lot of bulk to the watch in use, and I found they restricted wrist movement substantially. Additionally, the 9 o’clock bump out takes up the space between 10 and 8 o’clock, providing enough space for the plaque to be screwed into its side. I’m not particularly fond of the plaque on the side of this (or any) case, but that part is rather subjective. What I would like to see addressed is the added girth that the bumpers bring to the watch. 

Visually, they bring a unique shape to the case, which I don’t mind, but functionally they just end up getting in the way. This keys in on one of the biggest takeaways from the Wild One as a whole, it could use an edit. There’s a good story in there somewhere, but it needs to pass through the edit room to bring that out. I’d add the exhibition caseback to that list as well, but I know that’s a popular feature amongst buyers. On that note, so is a date complication, which feels an odd omission here. 

One detail I’d be curious to see added to this watch is a rotating bezel, either inside or outside the case. It would add another layer of basic functionality with the ability to time things, and could bring another visual cue to the watch for Norqain to introduce some contrast. When I think of sports watches, I think of timing things, and I certainly think of useful bezels.

The textured rubber strap is a final detail that works well on the Wild One. It’s soft and pliable, and integrates neatly between the lugs right on up to the case, sitting flush with the lug. This displaces the weight of the watch effectively on the wrist and creates a snug, rounded fit aided by the sloped lug design. If you don’t need to move your wrist around too much when wearing this watch, it’s actually quite comfortable. 

Overall, I see a lot of opportunities here for Norqain to create a truly compelling sports watch. They’ve got a lot of the ingredients right, but the Wild One needs a little more time in the edit room. There’s some conflicting details that end up fighting with each other here. If it wants to truly be a great sports watch, it needs to sort out the awkward case shape that restricts movement, and more importantly, the lackluster hands and hour markers which seem to be allergic to lume. On the other hand, if they want to take this watch in a more stylized direction, I think they could really lean into it with more adventurous uses of color that go beyond earth tones, both in the case and the layers of the dial. 

The Wild One is the most compelling watch I’ve seen from Norqain, but as it sits now, it still hasn’t settled into its identity. At $5,290, the Wild One is more than $1,000 more expensive than the Tudor FXD at retail, a watch with the same movement, and the Tudor logo on the dial. The Norteq case and its overall construction does bring something unique to the table, but that’s a tall hurdle to overcome when I weigh these two watches against one another. There are some truly great watches to be had in the $5k range, and while I think the Wild One could well be one of them, it just isn’t yet. Thankfully, the path ahead seems clear, and Norqain seems to have a foot in the right direction. Norqain

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.