Looking at the brand today, it’s almost impossible to believe that Norqain has only been around for a handful of years. Founded in 2018, Norqain is a fully independent, family-owned Swiss watch company that has firmly asserted itself within the industry by producing high-end timepieces that embody a spirit of adventure and a love for the outdoors. In addition to having a very well-defined brand identity, Norqain also seems to be able to consistently align itself with some seriously big names from the watch industry. The first major instance of this was when it secured Kenissi as the manufacturer of its in-house movements, and the most recent has been its partnership with watch industry legend Jean-Claude Biver, who as of earlier this year in 2022, now serves as Advisor to the Board for Norqain.
Universally regarded as a true visionary within the watch industry, Jean-Claude Biver has left an indelible mark on this industry from his involvement with numerous major luxury brands including Omega, Blancpain, Hublot, and TAG Heuer. Prior to retiring from his official position in 2018, Biver was the head of the entire watches and jewelry division for LVMH, and any watch company would be thrilled to have Jean-Claude Biver’s involvement. The fact that he has chosen to work with Norqain means that he legitimately likes the brand and sees something in both the direction that the company is headed and the people who are running it. However, the collaboration between Norqain and Jean-Claude Biver dates back a bit further than his recent Advisor to the Board title. For more than two years, Biver has been working with Norqain’s teams and a number of Switzerland’s best suppliers to create a new family of 100% Swiss-Made, next-generation mechanical sports watches known as the Norqain Independence Wild ONE, which feature a brand-new proprietary carbon-based material called NORTEQ and an innovative high-performance case design that promises unparalleled shock resistance.
Created exclusively for Norqain by Swiss synthetic material masters BIWI SA, NORTEQ is a proprietary carbon composite with a marbleized appearance that is made from carbon fibers and a high-performance polymer matrix. When it comes to weight and durability, NORTEQ is more than six times lighter than steel, 3.5 times lighter than titanium, and it offers the perfect blend of density, resistance, and elasticity to promote maximum shock absorption. In addition to being completely anti-magnetic and impervious to corrosion, NORTEQ can also be produced in different colors, compared to traditional carbon composite materials that are all gray/black. While the initial batch of models showcases NORTEQ in black and burgundy, Norqain makes it clear that other colors are also possible, and it’s highly likely that we will eventually see other colors of this material appear in the future. Lastly, despite its high-performance qualities, the polymer matrix used to create NORTEQ consists of 60% bio-sourced material (castor oil), and 100% of the material left over from the production process gets recycled, which is part of how Norqain has been able to achieve a CO2-Neutral certification by Swiss Climate.
In addition to the new lightweight and highly durable NORTEQ material, the actual case design of the new Norqain Independence Wild ONE watches has been specifically designed to offer maximum protection against shocks and impacts. The case itself measures 42mm in diameter by 12.3mm thick, with a lug width of 22mm and an overall lug-to-lug distance of 49.4mm. The external section of the case is a protective shell consisting of two pieces of NORTEQ that bolt together in four places from the top and bottom to create the outer case silhouette of the watch. Inside this structure is a rubber shock absorber that encases a titanium inner container that is fitted on either side with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, with the dial, hands, and movement all tucked away safely inside. While the vast majority of the rubber bumper is covered by the NORTEQ outer cage, both the crown guards and the small raised section surrounding the Norqain plate on the 9 o’clock side of the case are formed entirely by the inner rubber shock absorbing structure. Despite its rather intricate impact-resistant design, water resistance remains more than sufficient, and the rubberized screw-down winding crown helps provide the new Norqain Independence Wild ONE with a depth rating of 200 meters.
Given its unapologetically modern and technical appearance, a traditional dial would have looked rather out of place among all of the carbon and rubber that forms the external case of the watch. Consequently, the dials that Norqain fits to the Independence Wild ONE are manufactured by Montremo SA and they feature a three-dimensional laser-cut pattern made from tiny interlocking Norqain logos. The dial surface itself has three different layers that are separated by 0.05mm, and this gives the engraved pattern a highly sculptural effect. Skeletonized rectangular hour markers sit on top of the surface of the dial and work with a set of centrally-mounted skeletonized hands to display the time, while the tips of the hands and hour markers are all finished with X1 Super-LumiNova for enhanced low-light visibility. Dial text is kept to a minimum, with the Norqain name and logo appearing just below the 12 o’clock marker, while the only text on the lower half of the dial is the word “Chronometer” and the obligatory “Swiss Made” signature placed below the 6 o’clock marker.
Internally, the new Norqain Independence Wild ONE models are all powered by the brand’s in-house Caliber NN20/1 automatic movement, which is manufactured by Kenissi and runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4Hz), while offering users chronometer-certified performance with a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. Kenissi currently only produces movements for a handful of luxury watch brands, with the others being Tudor, Breitling, and Chanel. The fact that Norqain is able to have Kenissi as its movement manufacturer is arguably one of the single greatest factors that separates Norqain from many of its competitors, and it allows the brand to successfully operate at a price point that is typically dominated by much older and larger manufacturers. Lastly, the rotor on the Norqain Cal. NN20/1 features the brand’s logo in gold, and the automatic bridge is inscribed with the brand’s core values with an engraving that reads “Adventure – Freedom – Independence.”
At the time of launch, the Norqain Independence Wild ONE lineup consists of four watches, with two of them produced as limited editions, and the other two joining the catalog as core models. The two standard-production versions both feature black NORTEQ outer cases, with one receiving a black dial, an olive green shock absorber, and the choice of either a black or matching green rubber strap, while the other version gets fitted with these same components in a bright shade of blue (a black rubber strap also available as an option). As for the two limited edition models, one of them will be produced as a run of 200 pieces, and it features a burgundy-colored NORTEQ outer case paired with gray accenting components and red gold finished hands, while the other limited edition version will be produced as a run of 500 examples, and it is created in collaboration with Swiss wildlife expert and Norqain brand ambassador Dean Schneider. Featuring a black NORTEQ outer case paired with a black dial, a sand-colored shock absorber, and a matching black rubber strap, the Dean Schneider limited edition version swaps out the Norqain logo dial of the other three models for one with a lion fur-inspired texture that extends to the strap. Both the dial and caseback of the Dean Schneider limited edition model feature the emblem of his Hakuna Mipaka wildlife oasis in South Africa, and the material of the shock absorber has been infused with actual sand taken from the grounds of the oasis to directly connect the watch to the land and animals that serve as its design inspiration.
The new Norqain Independence Wild ONE will be accompanied by an official retail price of $5,290 USD for either of the two standard-production models, while the limited edition version with the burgundy-colored NORTEQ case is priced at $5,690 USD and the Dean Schneider limited edition model comes in at $5,590 USD. Ever since it was first announced that Jean-Claude Biver was going to be collaborating with Norqain to produce a thoroughly modern, high-tech sports watch, there was a lot of speculation surrounding what the final product might be. Now that the watch is here, we finally have our answer; however, this new release might just be the beginning of something much larger, rather than just the product of a one-off passion project. The name of the model is the “Wild ONE” — and in all of the brand’s literature, the word “ONE” is always capitalized. Beyond the potential for future releases within this line, Norqain has obviously made a significant investment in its proprietary carbon-based NORTEQ material, and I would be shocked if we didn’t start to see the brand begin to incorporate it into the construction of other models from its catalog. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.