There are still a handful of truly independent entry-level luxury Swiss watch brands out there, if you can believe it. The brands that often receive undue criticism for their lack of heritage, as if heritage can just be created out of thin air. The brands that are maligned as “department store” fare. In reality, though, these brands compete in one of the most challenging segments of the watch market, where they must convince potential buyers that it’s worthwhile to spend the extra money on a Swiss luxury watch from their brand but that one needn’t go so far as to spend as much on bigger brands like Rolex or Omega. They face market pressure from above and below, and each brand has its own way of demonstrating its worth and carving out its niche. For Raymond Weil, even a cursory glance at the brand’s website and catalog will demonstrate the influence that art and music have and how the brand has embraced those as its milieu. The brand’s collections are named for operas and dances and musical styles, and they have limited editions inspired by Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and the Beatles. The brand’s Freelancer line captures its name well: it’s where Raymond Weil releases watches less obviously inspired by the arts and music, models that are a bit freer to do their own things, just like a freelancer. The latest addition to the collection is the Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph 7741, a modern watch with a couple of vintage cues that comes in four colorways and offers something for everyone.
The new Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph 7741 comes in the familiar case of the Freelancer collection, which is defined by its sharp, angular, beveled lugs that call to mind vintage Heuer Carreras. The 43mm stainless steel cases feature horizontally brushed sides, with brushed interior lugs and a wide polished wedge along the top of the lug. The contrast gives that dash of refinement that RW is looking for, without making the watches too delicate, which would be decidedly out of place on a chronograph like this. Aside from the green model, the lineup features a black ceramic tachymeter bezel insert. The pushers and screw-down crown add a bit more polish, with the monogrammed crown helping to ensure 100m of water resistance. On the two-tone model, the pushers, crowns, and bezel are rose-gold PVD-coated. The watch is fastened to either a matching curved-end strap or a five-link bracelet, though the bracelet only appears to be available on the silver and black dial (as shown). A truly pleasant surprise is the case’s 13.7mm thickness. For an automatic chronograph from a brand like Raymond Weil, that’s refreshing given that most brands in this segment seem to ignore most case dimensions as they focus solely on aesthetics. Instead, this Raymond Weil is sure to wear well for its type.
The dial is where Raymond Weil has differentiated the Freelancer Chronograph 7741 from the other chronographs in the collection. It’s the first dateless 3-6-9 chronograph from Raymond Weil and allows for a much cleaner dial in images (never mind that the brand refers to this as a “tri-compax,” a term traditionally (and a bit confusingly) reserved for the rare chronograph with four sub-dials). A sloped chapter ring surrounds the main dial, with minute demarcations. The main dial is encircled by circular grooves onto which hour markers are applied; just outside the grooves are small Super-LumiNova pips. The markers and pips are complemented by similarly shaped polished, lumed hands (on the two-tone version, the hands and indices are rose gold PVD coated). The sunken subdials — 30-minute chronograph, 12-hour chronograph, and running seconds—all feature the same satin finish as the center dial and are surrounded by silver tracks. The overall layout is easy-to-read and logical, though it does look like legibility will be best on the green and two-tone options, as they provide better hand-dial contrast.
Through a sapphire crystal in the screw-down caseback, the new caliber RW5030 is on display. Like most Raymond Weil calibers, the RW5030 is based on a Sellita movement, this time the SW510. The SW510 is Sellita’s take on the ETA 7753, and Raymond Weil’s RW5030 version features blued screws, perlage, and a customized rotor with the brand name and caliber printed in blue. The movement features 56 hours of power reserve on a full wind, 27 jewels, and a frequency of 28,800 vph. The RW5030 is a cam-operated chronograph which can mean a chunkier tactile experience and that requires greater exertion when using the pushers but, in my experience, it’s never been an issue — the debate between cam and column-wheel chronos is more subjective than anything else.
The Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph 7741 expands the line’s already diverse collection with four dateless chronographs with inarguably timeless styling, plus a pop of color for the more adventurous amongst us. There’s very little to nitpick with these additions to the Freelancer collection, and even with just four watches, there’s something I think everyone can enjoy. The Freelancer Chronograph 7741s are priced from $3,150 to $3,250. You can learn more at Raymond Weil’s website.