In most engineering fields and resulting products, complexity is a nasty evil that pops up at inopportune times and usually needs to be curbed and eliminated. In the world of fine timepiece craftsmanship, complexity, the right kind, is highly valued and cherished. Complicated watches from top brands that include calendars, astronomical charts, power reserve indicators, and so on, are prized collector's items.
Of course, a side effect of complicated watches is that they may require more frequent maintenance and are on the very top price range of an already high-priced market for Swiss made watches. One brand that is trying to break the mold is Raymond Weil (RW). Part of their mission is to create classically designed watches with various complications while keeping prices in the affordable range. A good example is the Raymond Weil Maestro Automatic Moon Phase which also includes day, date, and month complications.
Raymond Weil names its watch lines after musical-related monikers. The Maestro line was introduced in 2010 in advanced celebration of Raymond Weil's 35th year anniversary since they started operating in Geneva in 1976. Many of the watches in the Maestro line are essentially RW's version of classic round watches with guilloché dials and various calendar-related complications.
The Maestro Automatic Moon Phase reference 2849-STC-00659 is a relatively small watch by today's standards. Its 39.5mm wide polished stainless steel case measures 11mm high. It's also a light watch at just 70 grams. The brown leather strap with alligator pattern starts at 20mm and narrows to 16mm with a polished steel tang buckle that is inscribed with the Raymond Weil name.
My favorite part of this watch is the beautiful dial which is visible through a flat sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides. The dial's color is silver with a central round guilloché pattern that contains a month subdial between 7 and 8 o'clock and a symmetrical day subdial between 4 and 5 o'clock. Both subdials have a fine radiating pattern that ends with the abbreviation for months and days and a small blue steel hand indicator.
At 12 o'clock is a half quadrant that serves as the moon phase indicator. The moon shows in gold on a blue background that includes gold stars when the moon is in its crescent and new phases. The dial includes roman numeral markers in black for the hours and at the edge a full calendar of dates showing the odd numbers and ending in 31 at 12 o'clock. In a nutshell, it is both attractively symmetrical and legible in its design.
The dial is completed with hours and minutes blue steel hands and a hair thin seconds hand. The current date is shown by an additional hand that ends with a half circle and moves in steps every day, half-encircling the current date. The hands have the classical "clous de Paris" design style with the hours and minute hands including a hollow circle close to the tip that becomes thinner to better show the current hour and minute. The dial is brilliantly executed, reminding one of Breguet-style calendar watches... Or you can think of it as "baby-Breguet" or "Breguet-light" ("Diet Breguet? if you may).
The automatic movement inside the watch is an RW 4600 caliber which is a modified ETA 2824 movement to include day, month, and moon phase complications. The transparent case back shows the sparsely decorated movement. The automatic rotor includes the caliber number and the RW name.
Adjusting the day, date, month, and moon phase is done via flattened pushers at 2, 4, 8, and 10 o'clock. To simplify this process, RW includes a small stainless steel pin that has a tip perfectly sized for the pushers. The pin is included with a brown leather pouch and includes the RW name on the side.
This is a nice touch and make sure to ask your dealer for it if it did not come in your box. This happened to me since I had special ordered the watch. All Maestro watches share the same box but they don't all share the same complications nor include pushers for adjusting the date.
While I have some positive feelings about this watch and as I mentioned, I simply absolutely love the dial, I do have various complaints.
First the case is a bit small. I think one or two additional millimeters would go a long way to make this watch perfectly sized. Interestingly, even at that relatively small size, the crown, which contains the distinctive RW logo embossed, scratches against my wrist's skin… I am not sure if it's because I wear it too close to my hand, but a more softened-edge crown would also help.
While I can live with the relatively small size, my next two complaints have been annoyances from the moment I got the timepiece. First, the strap is not real alligator. The brown color is perfect but who wants fake alligator patterns on an otherwise classic watch? RW should either forgo the alligator pattern, use a real alligator strap, or have an option for getting the real thing. I don't care if I need to pay a bit more for it.
Second, while I can again forgive Raymond Weil for sparsely decorating the movement, there is again less of an excuse for not decorating the rotor a bit more. An engraving of the RW logo would go a long way. Also, on my unit I found the rotor to be excessively noisy. It's not noisy to a point of being annoying, however, I can hear a tin noise if I spin the rotor. Not sure if this is due to lack of lubricant or that the rotor is touching the side of the case or that it is loose a bit, but it's definitely noisy. I plan to take it to the shop soon, before my two years warranty expires.
Finally, the watch is completely invisible at night. This is not necessarily a complaint as much as it is a fact for many such watches. Just don't expect to be able to read it at all in low light.
For the affordable manufacture suggested price of $2,950, the RW Maestro Automatic Moon Phase (ref. 2849-STC-00659) makes for a nice classic dress watch. The dial alone makes it worthwhile. RW also makes another variation of the Maestro which is ref. 2839-STC-00659 that includes a black dial with moon phase and a version that also has a silver dial. Both have the moon complication at 10 o'clock and do not include the month nor the day subdials but instead a date subdial at 6 o'clock.
Another model in the Maestro line does not include the moon phase and instead has a chronograph complication (ref. 7737-STC-00659). And there are various plain models with different small variations like a steel bracelet (ref. 2837-STC-00659) and one with a front opening to show the movement (ref. 2827-STC-00659).
Overall, I am somewhat satisfied with the RW Maestro Automatic Moon Phase since its classic looks and superb dial gives me a watch that I can wear at the next play or at the opera, at least until I can afford a Breguet…
>Brand: Raymond Weil
>Model: Maestro Automatic Moon Phase (ref. 2849-STC-00659)
>Size: 39.5mm x 11mm
>Weight: 70 grams
>Would reviewer personally wear it: No longer
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: As a dress watch to the 30-something guy who is not necessarily passionate about timepieces, but wants to look the part during a date at a play, at a musical, or at the opera.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The case back shows the lightly decorated movement with a winding rotor that is underwhelming...
>Best characteristic of watch: The dial. Beautiful Breguet-style guilloché dial with radiating subdials and clous de Paris dark blue hands.