This is a fun time to be reviewing Raymond Weil watches because the Geneva-based company is currently undergoing a subtle shift in its product strategy that is making its already well-made watches even more interesting to enthusiasts. Originally, the company found success in offering affordable Swiss Made watches with conservative designs that would be sold in mainstream luxury retail channels. Over the last few years as those traditional channels have experienced great changes (mostly for the worse), more and more mechanical wristwatch sales are going to enthusiast buyers. Brands like Raymond Weil, who understandably want to remain competitive, have taken a more watch-lover approach to product creation and design. The current outcome for Raymond Weil is often a blend of mainstream conservative looks with enthusiast-oriented passion and manufacturing construction. That is probably a good way to understand the context around the creation of this reference 7783-TIC-05520 limited-edition Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph, with some words from Raymond Weil about the Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph.
For this article, I’ll review the interesting pilot-style Raymond Weil and look at where the brand has come from as well as where it is possibly going. At this time I believe the Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph is the only pilot-style watch the company produces. It is a style it has done in the past (see our review of the Raymond Weil Freelancer Piper Pilot Chronograph watch from 2015), but pilot watches aren’t part of the DNA. The goal here was to take the larger Freelancer family and create a pilot-watch version of it that included a bicompax chronograph complication. This is, in a sense a fashion exercise, but the goal is to have a beautiful object on the wrist that evokes the personality of a traditional pilot watch while also emphasizing core Raymond Weil brand DNA. Not a particularly easy task.
I admit that I wasn’t immediately taken by this watch. Nothing, in particular, bothered me about it, but there didn’t appear to be any one thing on the watch that captured and held my attention, and I wasn’t clear in what area the watch was trying to excel. Once you handle and wear the watch, certain elements reveal themselves. For one thing, the dial of the Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph is nicely made. Not only is it very legible and easy to read, but the textures, materials, and colors are all pleasant to look at. There is also a calming effect to this otherwise sporty watch that I believe can be attributed to the lack of harsh angles on the dial as well as the earth-tone colors, including woodsy brown for the leather strap; dark, aged metal for the case; foliage green for the dial; and canary yellow for the accents. On top of that palette of colors is the legible watch face, including the applied rounded Arabic hour numerals and propellor blade-style hands.
Texture and a sense of depth (versus flatness) are important parts of the dial, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel as though the dial is too deep (which does happen). I found myself really enjoying reading the time on the retro-inspired dial and liked how the core Freelancer look had been merged with a sort of nostalgic pilot timepiece aesthetic. The face has two subdials, with one being for the running second and the other being for the chronograph’s 30-minute counter. The chronograph features a flyback complication, which simply means that you can reset the chronograph without first stopping it. For a clean and enthusiast-oriented look, the dial doesn’t have a date complication.
The watch case is on the larger side, but not too large to be comfortable — and bigger proportions are common for aviator-style timepieces. The Raymond Weil Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph case is in PVD-coated (for the color) steel and is 42mm wide and 13.8mm thick. It is water resistant to 100 meters with a screw-down crown and over the dial is an AR-coated sapphire crystal. The Freelancer-style case has those sharper-style lugs and smooth bezel. So what makes this watch look as though it is a pilot’s piece? That really comes down to two style elements which include the turnip-style aviator crown as well as the two metal rivets on each end of the straps. Take these elements out (and perhaps the sizeable plunger-style chronograph pushers), and there wouldn’t be too much “piloty” about this timepiece. It’s interesting how a few differently shaped parts and suggestive colors can easily cast a new personality costume on the core Raymond Weil Freelancer platform. That’s quite an effective design exercise!
The strap is quite comfortable, even if rivets on pretty much all modern pilot watches are for decoration purposes only. Raymond Weil uses a supple and comfortable brown calfskin leather strap on a fold-over deployant buckle. The buckle is quite comfortable compared to many others on the market, mostly because of its more diminutive size and particular style of push-button operation. With that said, on smaller wrists like mine, the lugs of the case will jut out a bit given where the strap connects to the lugs. On the rear of the case is another sapphire crystal acting as a window to the mechanical movement. The designers decided to print an airplane propellor-style motif on the rear crystal over the movement. I supposed this helps solidify the theme a bit better, but in a lot of ways, it isn’t that necessary for this to be a successful watch design. The Swiss Made movement, called caliber RW5530, looks great, and I believe is produced by Sellita for Raymond Weil. The automatic movement is nicely decorated and operates at 4Hz with 56 hours of power reserve. You can easily see the chronograph’s column wheel transmission because it is colored blue in the movement.
What I ended up liking a lot about the Raymond Weil Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph was what living with it was like. It is comfortable on the wrist, pleasant to look at, and relatively versatile from a fashion perspective; it is also a bit interesting to know that Raymond Weil isn’t going to be making that many of them. True, this is a watch that needed to grow on me, but that tends to mean it does not have any immediate whiz-bang novelty to it. That is rarely what the Raymond Weil brand is going for. Often the things with the best taste are harder to notice because they sort of feel as though they have been around all along. That sums up the appeal of the Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph — you know that it is new but what you like about it are all the things from the past that it reminds you of. Pricewise, it is a bit on the expensive side, but it is again a limited edition, and it does consist of rather finely made parts. The price for the 400 limited edition pieces of the Raymond Weil Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph is $4,195 USD. Learn more at the Raymond Weil website.