July 28, 2021
by Ariel Adams
Today, I take a close look at the Raymond Weil Freelancer RW1212 watch collection. Above, in olive green, is the reference 2780-STC-52001, which has an exclusive movement made just for Raymond Weil by fellow Swiss Sellita — the Freelancer RW1212 takes the popular Freelancer-style case and incorporates a distinctive-looking “open-heart” dial with a view of the movement’s operating regulation system. The Freelancer RW1212 is only now starting to be discovered by the watch enthusiast community even though many people know Raymond Weil as a legacy name in mass-market luxury timepieces. While the brand continues to focus on mainstream luxury appeal, the Raymond Weil of today has a few surprisingly enthusiast-oriented watches that are built with their solid reputation.
Note that Raymond Weil also produced a skeletonized version of the caliber RW1212 movement — which we have also written about on aBlogtoWatch. Those versions can cost about one-third more than the standard RW1212 models, which means they will be inherently more niche and limited in production. The RW1212 movement is designed around the principle of having a view of the oscillating balance wheel through the dial of the movement. This has been done before but rarely as elegantly as is done here. For one thing, the open heart window is symmetrically placed at 6 o’clock on the dial. This is a big deal since it means that the movement was designed for this purpose. Most other similar open-heart dial watches have a window that is not placed symmetrically on the dial.
Then, there is the matter of the bridge over the regulation system. Not only does this bridge allude to the design of many tourbillon watches (which also typically offer a view of their more complicated regulation systems), but it also allows for the escapement to be placed close to the dial of the watch, as opposed to the rear of the watch. That means the viewer does not need to look deep into the window to see the escapement. In other words, Raymond Weil worked with Sellita to create a novel watch movement that was all about looking good — and the results speak for themselves.
Raymond Weil was also wise to have a third party make a movement for them because it follows an important trend I hope will continue to emerge in the watch industry. And that trend is less “in-house made” and more “exclusively made for.” In 2016 I wrote an expose on how efforts by many brands to produce in-house movements had some catastrophic effects on the luxury watch market. In that article, I described how one important solution for the problem was to have dedicated watch movement makers (such as Sellita) work with individual brands to produce movements just for them (so that their watches can have novel parts unavailable elsewhere) and prevent watch makers from having to invest in the massive infrastructure necessary to produce movements. The Raymond Weil + Sellita RW1212 is a wonderful example of this concept in action. The result is a great watch with a novel mechanical movement that can be sold at a price far lower than if the brand had to develop and make the movement itself.
The RW1212 movement itself is an automatic operating at 4Hz with about 38 hours of power reserve. It indicates only the time, a bit frustratingly without a seconds indicator. That said, the clean dial is remarkably nice-looking, and one can forgive the lack of a seconds hand for style in this instance. The movement is also surprisingly well-finished from the back, which is visible through the exhibition caseback. Like I said, for the money, this is a great overall package and it’s easy to see how Raymond Weil design plus Sellita technical know-how helped make this happen smoothly.
The Freelancer case itself is 42mm-wide (closer to 42.5mm, actually) in steel, and very highly polished with brushed sides. The polished bezel and lugs remind me of how a Breitling watch is polished, which is really nice. I have to say this because polishing styles can vary greatly, and it isn’t always the case that a fully polished case looks good. It does in this case and, in general, the Freelancer collection does a great job with attractive case finishing. The case is also capped with flat AR-coated sapphire crystal, and is water resistant to 100 meters. Case thickness is 10.6mm and it has a roughly 51mm lug-to-lug distance.
The Freelancer RW1212 dial is simple but elegant. The shape of the hands and hour markers is rounded a bit, which gives the dial a softer touch to contrast the relatively bold case. The dial has a sloped flange ring and proper proportions, overall. The polished hands and hour markers do have luminant paint and contrast nicely against the textured green dial. This shade of green is very popular in men’s watches right now and I think looks best on this matching green canvas-style fabric strap. Raymond Weil also offers this same watch case and dial combo on a jubilee-style steel bracelet, which makes the watch a bit less sporty and more business or dressy in stance.
The strap comes on a polished steel fold-over deployant that gives the watch a higher-end feel. A good example is the use of the cleanly engraved “RW” logo crown that you’d expect to see on a much more expensive product. I think, in general, most people handling a Freelancer RW1212 watch model would agree that it looks and feels like an expensive watch. The price point, accordingly, feels very fair.
Given the bold case proportions, the Freelancer’s 42mm-wide case is elegant, but it does wear large, so consider the roughly 51mm lug-to-lug distance. I found its polished case, pretty symmetrical dial, and sporty appeal to be a compelling combination. Take into consideration the trendy green dial, and the Raymond Weil Freelancer RW1212 checks off a lot of the right boxes for many enthusiasts. Price for this reference 2780-STC-52001 is $2,050 USD. Learn more or order at the Raymond Weil website here.