Few young watch brands have garnered a following as quickly or as aggressively as independent Swiss brand NORQAIN. Since its launch in 2018, the company has built a sterling reputation in the enthusiast community, and has built a close manufacturing partnership with Tudor-aligned movement maker Kenissi to develop exclusive calibers for its watches. 2020’s limited edition Independence 20 line served as a launching platform for these “manufacture” Kenissi movements and proved to be one of the brand’s most successful models to date, selling out the entire production run in a matter of days. For 2021 NORQAIN expands the sporty Independence line with two new models, both featuring unique finishing and chronometer grade movements, but sporting wildly different executions. The new limited edition NORQAIN Independence 21 and the limited edition NORQAIN Independence 21 DLC Skeleton both serve to highlight the impressive quality and versatility of the brand’s modern sporting aesthetic, while showcasing movement work that punches far above its weight.
Both the NORQAIN Independence 21 and the NORQAIN Independence 21 DLC Skeleton start with a 42mm stainless steel case. The overall design for both models is shared with the Independence 20 series, with an angular, modern take on classic sports watch cues and a pleasing sense of athleticism in images. Like the Independence 20 series, the chamfered smooth bezel, shallow case side cutouts, and bold squared-off crown guards are finished in a blend of brushed, highly polished, and sandblasted matte surfaces to add depth and dynamism to the form. As with all NORQAIN models, the brand adds its signature 9 o’clock case side plaque to both Independence 21 models. The Independence 21 DLC Skeleton takes a sharp visual detour from its predecessors thanks to the eponymous black DLC coating, adding an aggressive and stealthy edge to the base design. Both the Independence 21 and the Independence 21 DLC Skeleton offer a solidly sporting 100 meters of water resistance.
Naturally, the starkest visual departure between the NORQAIN Independence 21 and the NORQAIN Independence 21 DLC Skeleton is in dial design. Both models share the black outer chapter ring, applied rectangular lumed indices, skeleton dauphine handset, and red-tipped spear seconds hand from the Independence 20, but nearly every other visible element under the sapphire crystal is new. For the most part, the Independence 21 carries on the visual cues of the Independence 20, including the hand applied “scratched dial” brushed finishing that leaves a unique pattern on each example. Rather than the forest green of the Independence 20, however, here the main dial surface is a deep oceanic blue.
For the full skeleton dial of the NORQAIN Independence 21 DLC Skeleton, however, the brand takes a far more radical approach. As with many full skeleton designs, the intricate web of movement bridges can create legibility issues in initial images, but NORQAIN is determined to solve another great skeleton watch drawback with this design. Due to narrow bridges and aesthetics-first construction principles, many full skeleton movements suffer from poor shock resistance when compared to traditional movements. NORQAIN takes an architectural approach to skeletonization here, ensuring each point of support is secured by at least two skeleton arms. The brand claims that the result, despite still being airy and complex, offers far more robust shock resistance. NORQAIN finishes off this complex skeleton design with ruthenium-plated bridges for an added layer of flash.
For the NORQAIN Independence 21, the brand uses the manufacture NN20/1 automatic movement developed and manufactured in partnership with Kenissi. The NN20/1 shares several similarities with the Kenissi-built Tudor MT5621 movement, including a hefty 70 hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate and a near-identical balance bridge. The NN20/1 also receives COSC chronometer certification for accuracy. Finishing is rather minimal, with a brushed rotor signed with NORQAIN’s double-N logo.
NORQAIN powers the Independence 21 DLC Skeleton with the Sellita SW200-1 S automatic skeleton movement. Despite the relatively pedestrian base movement, the SW200-1 S is COSC certified for accuracy here and represents the very first skeleton design ever offered by the brand. As with the standard Independence 21, NORQAIN’s finishing for the SW 200-1 S is clean and simple beyond the aforementioned ruthenium plating, with little in the way of striping, polishing, perlage, or chamfered edges to be seen. Unlike the beefy power reserve of the NN20/1, the SW200-1 S offers a below average power reserve of 38 hours at a 28,800 bph beat rate. NORQAIN pairs the Independence 21 and Independence 21 DLC Skeleton with either a heavily textured curved end leather strap in black, or with the brand’s distinctive take on the three-link oyster style stainless steel bracelet with grooved polished center links. For the Independence 21 DLC Skeleton, this also marks the brand’s first ever black DLC coated bracelet offering.
With two strikingly different approaches to the same base design, the limited edition NORQAIN Independence 21 and NORQAIN Independence 21 DLC Skeleton both solidly expand the brand’s visual stable while showcasing its technical and material capabilities. Only 200 examples of the NORQAIN Independence 21 will be made, while the NORQAIN Independence 21 DLC Skeleton is limited to 100 pieces. Both models are available now through authorized dealers, with the NORQAIN Independence 21 carrying a starting MSRP of $3,110, while the starting price of the NORQAIN Independence 21 DLC Skeleton stands at $3,990. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.