* Prices may differ from that shown
Raymond Weil are a pretty young Swiss watch house.
Established in 1976, they lack the rich and turbulent history shared by their aged rivals such as Omega and Longines, both of whom have been around for more a century and a half!
Because of this fact, they are looked upon as more of a 'fashion watch' brand than an established Swiss manufacturer of precision timepieces. Collectors seem to steer clear of them, especially collectors of vintage watches like myself, as their back-catalogue is fairly sparse.
They are not cheap watches, with 'entry level' pieces being found around the £500 mark, and professional dive watches stretching into the mid thousands.
They can be found on just about any high street, with their watches touted as luxury Swiss items and priced in the very competitive Circa £1000 bracket with Rado, Omega, Gucci and Longines just as a few examples.
Yet, despite these things, Raymond Weil has carved itself a nice little corner of the watch market and doesn't look to be in danger of losing its position any time soon!
The majority of Raymond Weil watches seem to be quartz (battery) movements.
All but a very select few of their watches use bought in off-the-shelf movements from ETA, a maker who supply quite a lot of the smaller boutique brands along with a selection of large watch houses without the funding or the inclination to set up manufacturing and development of their own movements.
(Raymond Weil do, however, often customise ETA movements with their own minor complications).
A small few do use self winding automatic movements though, which leads me to the Freelancer!
Introduced as a small range in 2007, the watch was a sporty/dressy crossover and quite well received.
The name Freelancer sprang from the founders desire to 'go it alone' and set up the company without external help, and his insistence that Raymond Weil remained an independent watch company rather than sell-out to a larger holding corporation.
The model I had was the same as pictured above, but with a bronze dial and a gorgeous chocolate brown strap.
The watch is a beast! Despite its elegant look, it is a solid steel 42mm case. Given the very slim steel bezel, it means that almost all of that width is dial space. The crown is oversized, protruding a further 2mm from the case, giving this some pretty hefty dimensions.
As this houses one of the automatic movements mentioned, it is a deep case too; at almost 14mm off the wrist it certainly isn't slim and really won't be to everybody's tastes.
That said, it passes my 'shirt-cuff' test easily and doesn't take long to get used to, and it isn't particularly heavy given that it isn't a thick steel 'divers watch' case although it is water resistant to an impressive 100m. Another 'sports' addition to what is essentially a smart looking dressy watch.
The glass is sapphire crystal, which I admit is just about essential for me now when I shop for watches. I am prone to walking into walls, bus-stops, doorways and any number of other obstacles while out and about, and I've never scratched a sapphire glass yet - they are made of very strong stuff! Some of the lower end models use mineral glass which scratches quite easily, so the sapphire is something to look out for.
I don't know why, but I have a terrible time with leather straps. This one was never worn in water, never pulled or damaged to my knowledge and worn very sparingly - a few hours a time maybe once or twice a week. Of course, after about three months of kid-gloves, the strap broke! This is supposed to be a high end watch, so I took it back to the shop. The case was in such good condition that the assistant actually asked if it'd been worn, but refused a replacement as strap damage comes down to 'wear and tear' which isn't covered by the guarantee.
There's your first star gone, Mr Weil.
The dial, and indeed the whole display in general, is very easy on the eye. The numbers and batons are super clear given the huge dial and the hands are long, slim and pointed with full luminosity, so another tick in the legibility box.
The dial is twin textures, with the outer section having tight concentric circles and the inner being ridged in a geometric pattern. I love it, but it plays tricks on your eyes if you look at it for too long!
My negatives with the dial are small, but they matter (to me anyway).
First, the date window is just a bit rubbish. It's a 'wide date' watch, which shows three dates instead of one. The arrow on the dial points to the centre date, thus showing today's date, but why on earth would I need to see yesterday and tomorrow too?
"Hmmm, today is the 10th, which means that yesterday was..... Aargh, I'll have to get the diary out"
Secondly (and this is only a gripe with the brown version I had), some of the text is in red and is very hard to see against the brown. It looks stupid. Cheap and stupid!
It would cost them half a star, but I can't mark in halves so I'll see how I feel in a minute about rounding up or down!
The watch was available in all dealerships when I got mine, though the brown was a little harder to come by - hence my choosing it! The retail price was in the region of £1150 but I picked mine up just as the newer model came out and I snagged this for almost half-price.
Yet, despite that fact, when I came to part exchange it I really struggled to find a buyer! It's one of the few watches I've owned and swapped out making a significant loss. Usually buying at half price you'd break even or lose a little bit of value, but I lost half the value again.
This is because of the reasons stated at the top, collectors don't really go for brands as new as Raymond Weil so the second hand market is pretty weak.
Still, a sellers loss is a buyers gain, and these can be found pre-owned right now around the £400 mark which I think is tremendous value given that the current model is £1700!
Honestly, and taking my collector head off, I rate this watch very highly indeed. It's beautiful looking apart from the red on brown text and feels extremely high quality. The strap issue is a concern, but I've never heard of another faulty one, so maybe I'm just cursed with leather straps! Still, if it's a problem they come with a metal bracelet as well.
A good watch from a great manufacturer. Terrible re-sale value and shocking depreciation, but some cracking second hand bargains out there.