In the span of two short years, young Swiss independent NORQAIN has built an impressive reputation among enthusiasts for its team of major industry players in leadership roles, its stellar finishing and construction work, and its dedication to quality movements. This movement focused philosophy took a major step forward early in 2020, when the brand announced a partnership with Tudor’s movement manufacturing arm Kenissi to develop exclusive calibers for future watches. The sporty Independence 20 three hander is now the first beneficiary of this new partnership, with the all new manufacture Calibre NN20/1 making its debut in the line. This limited-edition NORQAIN Independence 20 showcases a major step forward in quality for the young marque, combining this impressive powerplant with an exclusive textured green dial variant.
While carried over from last year’s Independence 19 collection, the 42mm stainless steel case of the new NORQAIN Independence 20 feels masculine and fresh with a distinctly utilitarian feel. The general lines of the case are classic sports watch with athletic wide-set lugs, prominent crown guards, and a wide flat bezel, but the Independence 20 sets itself apart in the small details. There’s a blocky, solid feel to the design that adds a comfortable weight to the package, particularly through the width and the sharp angles of the crown guards and the corresponding flange on the 9 o’clock side that houses the signature NORQAIN plaque. While every angle and facet feels hefty and deliberate, the finishing work is extremely deft, especially highlighting the transition from the circular brushed top of the bezel to its mirror-polished sloping sides. The tall case sides are given a cutout treatment as well, adding a touch of bead-blasted texture in the recessed areas and preventing the profile from feeling too slab-sided. Of course, with the brand’s first manufacture movement inside, the case of the Independence 20 wouldn’t be complete without a sapphire display window, offering a handsome showcase while maintaining a respectable 100-meter water resistance.
The dial of the new NORQAIN Independence 20 is equally sporty and modernist, with a unique treatment that highlights the brand’s talent for unique dial finishes. The main dial surface is a rich, vibrant forest green, reinforcing the watch’s outdoorsy ethos and adding a distinctive yet versatile color palette. The dial finish is what really elevates this treatment to a new level, with NORQAIN itself referring to the chaotic crosshatch pattern as a “scratched dial.” While the actual look is less random and damaged than that name might imply (although each dial pattern will be unique), the overall effect is a hard-worn feel that gives the Independence 20 a purposeful edge. Outside of the main dial surface, the rest of the Independence 20 feels cleaner and more contemporary, with a black outer minutes track flanked by faceted rectangular lumed indices and a set of skeleton dauphine hands. The prominent arrow tipped seconds hand adds a flash of red to complement the main dial, along with red “Chronometer” text at 6 o’clock. This vibrant contrast, together with the clean modern forms at play, make this perhaps NORQAIN’s most cohesive and balanced three-hand dial design to date. The lack of an intrusive date window only adds to the sense of smooth visual flow.
Of course, the real focal point of this new NORQAIN Independence 20 lies right at its center. The manufacture Calibre NN20/1 movement, developed in collaboration with Kenissi, is an astounding achievement for a young brand at this price point. Beyond the prestige of being an exclusive in-house designed movement, the Calibre NN20/1 offers COSC chronometer rated accuracy, along with a hefty 70-hour power reserve at a smooth 28,800 bph beat rate. Decoration is kept to a sporty minimum, with the only major flourishes being a radially brushed rotor with a gold inlaid engraving of the NORQAIN emblem and the brand’s core values of “Adventure – Freedom – Independence” engraved across the main bridge. The brand has put significant faith in this new movement, offering a solid four-year international warranty with each Calibre NN20/1 equipped watch.
NORQAIN offers the new limited edition Independence 20 with two distinct strap options. The first is a three-link oyster style bracelet, featuring polished center links with a unique split design. While the actual fit and finishing on this bracelet are well done, this split center link style can come off as clumsy or unintentional. In addition, the thick solid links run the risk of adding too much visual weight to an already large watch. The black leather strap, on the other hand, provides a less flashy alternative that keeps attention on the unique dial. With a flush curved end fit and a dynamic distressed treatment, this leather option fits well with the modern, purposeful style of the rest of the watch while remaining visually versatile.
With the new Independence 20, NORQAIN has taken a major step forward on an already rapid brand trajectory. While the new in-house movement may not appear in the brand’s regular production offerings quite yet, this is a fitting specialty showcase for what may be on the horizon. Only 200 examples of the new limited edition green dial NORQAIN Independence 20 will be made, and are available now through authorized retailers at a starting MSRP of $2,840. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.