When Norqain introduced the Wild ONE in Fall of 2022, it was its first watch after industry legend Jean-Claude Biver had joined the company. In just a year, it has become the brand’s flagship model, with numerous variations and limited editions. The brand’s displays at shows put the Wild ONE models right in the middle, with other models taking an obvious back seat; at those shows, people want to see the Wild ONE. It has probably received as much criticism as it has praise, but it’s clearly a success for the brand, and it’s here to stay. Now, the brand is giving the model two additional variants, both decidedly niche, with the introduction of the Norqain Wild ONE All Black and the Wild ONE Gold. Ahead of its debut today, I got a chance to go hands-on with the All Black.
We’ve reviewed four different editions of the Wild ONE before (here and here), so I will dispense with specs up front. The reality of the Wild ONE All Black is that it’s the same as all the others, but black. The 42mm case measures 12.3mm thick and 49.4mm lug-to-lug and uses the same combination of the brand’s proprietary NORTEQ, the now-familiar carbon composite made from carbon fibers, and a polymer matrix. The rubberized case inserts on the sides, including the flanges (Norqain elements that predate Biver’s arrival), still feature the Norqain nameplate, which can be personalized. The crown screws down, and the watch features 200m water resistance and a flat sapphire crystal. The watch is paired with a fitted black rubber strap with a black NORTEQ clasp. Phew. Ok. Let’s move on.
The Wild ONE All Black wears rather brilliantly on the wrist. It’s not your average 42mm watch: The lightweight material makes it easy on the wrist, and the fitted strap allows it to wrap around effortlessly. The pivot clasp (see gallery) keeps the watch snug at all times. The crown has a rubberized feel that gives it an easy grip that occasionally feels slippery in spite of itself. My favorite detail of the case is one of the smallest ones: the inserts in the lugs (I don’t think they’re functional) with part of the Norqain mountain logo. The lugs are rather short, but the lug holes are placed at their very ends. This means that in spite of their stubbiness, the lugs can accommodate almost any type of strap, including pass-through.
OK, so, an all-black watch. I’ve never understood them, and this one hasn’t further enlightened me. I supposed it’s all about telegraphing some edginess or modern flair, but it’s beyond my ken. Practically, there is no practicality, but it’s actually much better than you may think. You can see in many of the photos that Norqain has utilized contrasting finishing to provide some semblance of readability. The high-polished black hands and markers do light up rather easily, and so, while it doesn’t lend itself to the at-a-glance reading of a typical dial, it doesn’t require any strain to check the time, just an extra fraction of a second. I like the laser-cut Wild ONE dial and its scattered pattern, which adds a lovely texture and depth.
There are two things on the dial that are laughable, though (beyond it being completely black). The first is the minute markers on the chapter ring. In the photo above, I’ve ensured they caught the light perfectly, but in day-to-day wear, they’re almost impossible to see; setting the time each day (as I do) involves no small amount of tilting to bring the markers out. The second is the lume. Yes, there is black Super-LumiNova, and yes, the brand has used it here, and no, it doesn’t work well. Again, in the photo below that I’ve edited, you can at least see it to prove that it’s there. But it’s so absurdly faint in the metal that I would’ve just left it out altogether.
The Norqain Wild ONE All Black, like all Wild ONE models, is equipped with the Swiss automatic Norqain NN20/1 manufacture caliber. This chronometer movement has been at the center of discussions as to what qualifies as a “manufacture” caliber. Usually, it involves some real level of exclusivity or in-house customization, but neither of those seems present here. The Kenissi-built caliber appears to be the same as Tudor’s MT5402 from Kenissi (which Tudor owns), with a 70-hour power reserve at 28,800 vph, the same dimensions and layout, and the same finishing. All that seems to be different is the rotor. The issue is the nomenclature, though, not the movement itself — it’s a great movement.
I’m a vocal fan of the Wild ONE design. It wears well, looks great, and whatever similarities may be drawn, the watches aren’t quite like anything else out there. It’s hard to rationalize an all-black watch in any way other than some try-hard style flex, so I won’t try. What I’ll say is if you’re into the black-out look, the Norqain Wild ONE All Black is a great option. Personally, I’ll just keep pining for one of the other colors. In addition to the All Black, Norqain has also introduced the Norqain Wild ONE Gold, with 18k rose-gold case components, the first Wild ONE to feature a precious metal. The Norqain Wild ONE All Black is priced at $5,290 USD with no production limit, while the Norqain Wild ONE Gold is priced at $12,990 USD (or $14,690 if you want it with matching red-gold buckle) and limited to 99 pieces. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.