Back in September 2022, aBlogtoWatch was onsite in Zermatt, Switzerland where watchmaker NORQAIN launched its most ambitious watch collection to date: the WILD ONE series that exists as part of the larger NORQAIN Independence collection, an important focus for the brand. From a cultural perspective, the most noteworthy fact about the collection is that it is the first major result of the brand’s deep relationship with Jean-Claude Biver. On stage at the original launch event, Jean-Claude Biver (a legend in the modern luxury watch industry) shared a heart-filled story about how he chose NORQAIN co-founder and CEO Ben Kuffer as a mentee and how he sits on the still-young brand’s board of directors.

The Independence WILD ONE is a luxury sports watch like no other, as well as a fashion platform for the NORQAIN brand. In that sense, it is a perfect “Biver watch” because it is both youthful in its appeal and highly modular in its construction. This latter element allows NORQAIN to vividly change the look of the watch while maintaining the same overall construction and platform. Nowhere is this better typified than the watch dial, which can be printed with any number of graphics but also produced using 3D laser cutting, which allows for a nearly infinite variety of textures, patterns, and overall visual aesthetics. Of course, pretty much all of the watches can be rendered in different colors given the ability to color rubber, as well as to a more limited degree the carbon material used for much of the WILD ONE case construction.

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In this review, we have two NORQAIN WILD ONE watches to look at that represent two different approaches to product design. The first is the reference NNQ3000QBK1A/B002 in black NORTEQ (the brand’s name for its particular carbon case material formulation) and khaki green. It makes use of a three-dimensional laser cut dial and is part of the WILD ONE collection’s non-limited edition pieces. The second model here is a limited-edition model made to honor the New York City Marathon (the reference NNQ3000QBW1LA/B004) in black NORTEQ and white rubber. It has a printed dial but one done with a map of Manhatten and an accompanying marathon race route. Again, each of these Independence WILD ONE watches shows a different style and design direction that the highly versatile platform can take on.

I speak a lot more about the genesis of the WILD ONE watches, as well as their technical development, in the above-linked article from September 2022. In this article, I want to share some thoughts about wearing these watches and where I think NORQAIN should take this collection. The strongest thing about the WILD ONE timepiece family is what NORQAIN has achieved in terms of a modern luxury watch with a modular structure. The platform isn’t just cosmetic; it’s actually functional in that the WILD ONE is extremely shock- and vibration-resistant compared to most mechanical watches. The platform adopts a lot of the logic behind the Casio G-Shock, namely in using shock-absorbing materials (like rubber), as well as bendable materials (like carbons or resins) which in tandem with shock-absorbing materials allow for excellent armor to protect the relatively fragile mechanical movement within. Most luxury sports watches suggest functionality like this, but NORQAIN actually delivers it. Now all you need is some wearing situation where a watch like this would make sense. NORQAIN tries to suggest wearing scenarios given the partnerships they have, for example as a watch to be worn by running in a marathon or playing ice hockey. That said, I think the actual situations where people will wear the WILD ONE when its performance limits are pushed will be limited. People simply tend to baby their high-end watches a bit more. The idea of how much abuse these watches can take is, however, part of the story that compels us toward them.

On the wrist, wearing the Independence WILD ONE is a very comfortable experience. The Independence case shape and profile are comfortable as it is, but the WILD ONE is lighter thanks to the case materials and has a very comfy fitted Swiss Made rubber strap. The case is 42mm-wide and weighs just 84 grams. It has 200 meters of water resistance with a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial, and the case is 12.3mm-thick (with a 49.4mm long lug-to-lug distance). All-day wearing comfort is no problem for the WILD ONE.

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Through the caseback, you can view the caliber NN20/1 automatic movement, which is produced for NORQAIN by Tudor-owned Kenissi. The movement operates at 4Hz with 70 hours of power reserve and is officially certified as a COSC Chronometer for accuracy. The movement has a unique rotor for NORQAIN and other cosmetic touches that are unique to the brand. Even though the movements are capable of displaying the date, NORQAIN opts for a cleaner time-only dial layout, which offers a nice symmetrical look.

Given all the cosmetic and creative options available with the Independence WILD ONE case and dial, it makes sense that NORQAIN will want to play around with the options for a bit. That tends to mean that it could be a few years before NORQAIN establishes a lot of best practices for perfecting the dial design and determining the most attractive mixture of colors between what is available for NORTEQ and the larger variety of rubber color options that are available. In my opinion, the weakest part of the dials is the skeletonized, polished metal hands. While I know that luxury watches prefer having a bit of “lifestyle suggestive” shine to them, the look of the hands and hour markers does sharply contrast with much of the rest of the WILD ONE’s materials and finishings. I for one think it would be very interesting to experiment with hour markers and hands done in a way that matches the “matte” look of the NORTEQ and rubber materials which form the personality foundation of this watch collection.

Unlike most other sports watches out there with a lot of theoretical performance value, the best thing about the NORQAIN WILD ONE is that it has performance you can “see.” The construction of the case and its materials are not only suggestive of its intended functionality but are also integral to the construction of the watch. All that is really hidden is the titanium metal core that the mechanical movement is contained in. That makes the NORQAIN Independence WILD ONE watches not only visually attractive but also intellectually attractive for people who like the geekier side of how modern watches can function.

NORQAIN will no doubt continue to play with the look and feel of the WILD ONE for years to come, offering new aesthetics and refinements to the overall design. Price for the NORQAIN Independence WILD ONE 42mm NNQ3000QBK1A/B002 in black and khaki green is $5,290 USD, and price for the reference NNQ3000QBW1LA/B004 TCS New York City Marathon limited edition is $5,490 USD. Learn more at the NORQAIN watches website.

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