Raymond Weil was born into a horological war zone. Eponymously named after its founder, the brand emerged in 1976, right in the middle of the “quartz crisis” that almost destroyed the mechanical watch industry when the advent of battery-powered timepieces caused the Swiss to lose half their watch companies and two-thirds of their watchmaking jobs. Yet despite this rocky introduction to life, Raymond Weil not only survived but prospered, carving out a solid niche in what’s often referred to as the “affordable luxury” end of the market. Almost half a century on, this value proposition has endured and, equally impressively, it remains a family-owned, independent brand with the CEO, Elie Bernheim, the grandson of founder Raymond Weil.
The Freelancer Collection has been around since 2007 and includes a mix of three-handed and chronograph pieces, but the latter has really come into their own in recent years with a range of watches that are good-looking, functional and, while not a total steal, certainly stack up favourably against other brands in the price stakes.
The entry-level Swiss mechanical chronograph market is a fiercely competitive market, but the Freelancer Chronograph 7741 holds its own with some assurance. It’s a fairly sizeable watch with a 43.5mm stainless-steel case that combines a variety of brushed and polished surfaces to draw the eye. Those measurements ensure that everything has ample room for legibility, a fact aided by the luminescent treatment daubed on the hands and indexes. Three dial choices are presented – two in silver and one in a deep green. With each one, the outer ring of each sub-dial is rendered in a contrasting tone to make it easier to read at a glance. In another elevating detail, the hour track has a snailed texture to the display while the dial has a slightly smoked effect, adding a further sense of refinement.
The bezel features a scratch-resistant ceramic inlay, marked with a tachymeter scale, contributing to the all-action feel that one associates with a chronograph. How far you want to run with that mood depends on your choice of strap. The watch is available on both a steel bracelet for a sportier look or a colour-coordinated leather strap for something a little more dressy.
Under the hood sits the Calibre RW5030, an automatic movement with a power reserve of 56 hours that’s visible through the exhibition caseback – another detail that adds an extra touch of value.
As a freelancer myself, it’s hard for me to be fully objective about this watch due to its inspired name. I presume the title is meant to conjure a romantic sense of freewheeling city dwellers unencumbered by the shackles of an office-bound existence. As opposed to, say, scruffy home-workers forever chasing up unpaid invoices in a state of nervous desperation. Either way, I applaud this celebration, however misguided the assumption may actually be.
On a more practical note, one of the best things about the Freelancer Chronograph 7741 is that it’s a mechanical chronograph that you can actually buy. The Rolex Daytona may be an object of desire for millions, but limited supply means that it’s basically unobtainable at retail to the average consumer. The Zenith Chronomaster Sport was then spruiked as an alternative, but now requires you to endure a waiting list, too, while the Tudor Black Bay Chrono is no longer readily available either. The black and silver variant of the Freelancer plays in a fairly similar visual realm to all the above, albeit at a lower price point. It’s a watch that you can still snap up on a whim, a happy fact that takes on extra value in the current retail environment.
The Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph 7741 is AUD$5695 on a leather bracelet, AUD$5795 on a bracelet or AUD$5895 for the version with rose-gold PVD plating.