Born of minds deeply established in the Swiss watch industry, NORQAIN is a still fresh luxury timepiece maker intent on offering the market both the product and personality its founders feel are wanted by consumers. One of the brand’s first “hero watches” is the NORQAIN Freedom 60 Chrono reference N2200, which is a modern take on a traditional sports chronograph. There is a lot to like here.
The Freedom 60 Chrono is the type of product a watchmaker invests in when he or she wants to show a market it can produce something they want. NORQAIN has other areas in which it can assert itself more creatively, but these days, having a product that neatly competes in an active product category area is important. To wit, the Freedom 60 Chrono is NORQAIN’s answer to a modern by vintage-style sports chronograph that, while not directly copying any specific historic design, is a fashionable rendering of themes and aesthetics that a lot of contemporary timepiece collectors are looking for.
The Freedom 60 Chrono’s face, for instance, with its high-contrast black dial with white subdials and block hour markers falls into the general Rolex Paul Newman Daytona craze, which is still going strong. Watches like this are popular, first and foremost, because they are legible and utilitarian — and because they are symmetrical, visually engaging, and also trendy. It is true that black and white dials with light color accents, such as we see in the Freedom 60 Chrono, are popular these days. Where NORQAIN gets it right is more than just the color palette but also the materials and finishes on the dial, along with the sense of three-dimensional depth.
Really my only issue with the Freedom 60 Chrono dial is the fact that the NORQAIN logo is a bit on the reflective side. A more matte-finished style could have probably upgraded the look a bit, and in the future NORQAIN will probably move in that direction. Otherwise, the assortment of applied hour markers, hands, and overall dial features is well-conceived and gives this otherwise modern sports watch a healthy “vintage character.”
The Freedom 60 Chrono case is a handsome 43mm-wide and 15mm-thick with a roughly 52mm lug-to-lug distance. That is a bit on the larger side, but I would not call this an overly large watch by any means. Case water resistance is 100 meters. Over the dial is a “box-style” sapphire crystal, which is meant to look a bit like historic acrylic crystals, but of course this is in scratch-resistant sapphire. The case is entirely polished, which gives it a more eye-catching look. Yes, this is a sports watch, but it is also a lifestyle sports watch, meaning that a bit of visual glitz is crucial when combining with utilitarian might. A small applied plaque on the side of the case is engraved with the NORQAIN name, helping to offer further visual character for the watch. It is worth pointing out that this plaque can be custom-engraved with 30 characters upon purchase of any of the watches for a surcharge of $140 USD.
Inside the Freedom 60 Chrono is a base Swiss-made ETA Valjoux 7753 automatic chronograph movement. The movement (visible through the sapphire crystal caseback) is offered in a highly polished form with a bespoke NORQAIN automatic rotor. NORQAIN calls the movement its caliber NN18, and it operates at 4Hz with 48 hours of power reserve. The 7753 is essentially a 7750 movement on its side, which offers a more symmetrical layout for the chronograph subdials. The movement is an excellent performer and features the time, a 12-hour chronograph, and the date. My only quip with the 7753 is that to quick-set the date you cannot use the crown, but rather use a small inset pusher located on the side of the case at 10 o’clock. The real issue is that you need a tool to change the date and one (especially one that won’t scratch the metal case) isn’t always handy.
At this time, NORQAIN offers the Freedom 60 Chrono with both this “1960s vintage-look” two-tone dial, as well as a cream-colored dial that is attractive in its own right. Each of the watches has an available steel metal bracelet or a few leather strap color options. The straps are particularly nice with their unique “v” stitching and nubuck style. NORQAIN refers to the straps (available in a few colors, as I mentioned) as made of Norlando Italian leather.
In the context of vintage-style sports chronograph watches today, I think NORQAIN does a good job of competing with some of the best. If you are actively considering a Tudor, Breitling, Omega, or any number of other modern-day sports watches with some vintage flair, NORQAIN should be something to consider. The brand doesn’t have the awareness or time in the market to compete when it comes to popularity yet, but this is a strong product by a dedicated team that will only continue to get better. 2020 might not be everyone’s idea of a good time to assert a new watch brand, but for those like NORQAIN who are dedicated to it, there are plenty of opportunities with watch enthusiast consumers who simply don’t feel like the big brands have them in mind these days when it comes to their marketing and communication priorities.
I also want to add that the NORQAIN Freedom 60 Chrono watch grew on me as I wore it. The familiar design was eye-pleasing to begin with, but over time the small areas in design where NORQAIN distinguishes itself became more apparent. I see that as a sign of careful design decisions and long-term thinking, two qualities that are a must-have in any luxury timepiece brand seeking to succeed in today’s market. Price for the NORQAIN reference N2200 Freedom 60 Chrono is $3,790 USD on a strap and $4,060 on the matching steel metal bracelet. Learn more at the NORQAIN website here.
>Model: Reference N2200 Freedom 60 Chrono
>Price: $3,790 USD as tested
>Size: 43mm-wide, 15mm-thick, and ~52mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a handsome daily-wear when a vintage sporty chronograph aesthetic is in order (which is often, as this is a very versatile design).
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of vintage-style sports watches who wants to try something new and fresh among a sea of traditional brands.
>Best characteristic of watch: Well-made and well-designed; proves that even though NORQAIN is a new brand, it is made up of people with lots of watch industry wisdom.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Polished logo on the dial seems out of place and could be refined. NORQAIN doesn’t offer the Freedom 60 Chrono much personality in its current marketing materials so understanding as compared to the competition can be challenging for non-experts. Los of value in the watch, but the price isn’t as aggressive as some consumers will probably want.