I appreciate that Raymond Weil is one of the last remaining independent luxury watch brands, as opposed to most brands like TAG and Baume & Mercier belonging to large luxury houses like Richemont and LVMH. While Raymond Weil makes good-looking and high quality watches, and while the brand has taken strong steps toward increasing brand prestige and awareness, I would argue that such independence should result in a more individualized DNA that shines through every reference. Alas, when it comes to pieces like the Freelancer, I find the quality to be top-notch but the designs a little too conservative for my taste.
My dad got a great deal on this watch and he gave it to me as a gift. He works in retail in the Midwest at a department store that, at one point, sold the brand as an authorized dealer, but being unable to move the watches the store broke off the dealer relationship. The leftover inventory went at insanely low prices. This Freelancer, which normally retails for around $2,000, was mine for about $500 after an extreme price cut and my dad’s employee discount on top. I don’t love it at $2K, but at 75% off, it’s not only a good deal but an arbitrage opportunity (on the forums or eBay, I could unload this for $1,000 easily).
When I saw this watch, my first two thoughts were that the dial was big and clean, and the jubilee bracelet looked a lot less dainty than that of the Rolex Datejust.
Let’s start with the dial. While nothing to write home about, it’s clear with all of their watches that the brand cares about legibility. You should be able to know what time it is. Maybe watches aren’t worn for the sole purpose of telling time anymore, but when you plan to use it to see the time, you shouldn’t have to struggle. With the Freelancer, that will never be a problem. Additionally, the dial has multiple textures, which adds to the interesting factor. I’m not a big fan of the triple-date. I call it the “yesterday, today, tomorow” date window. The red accents add some sportiness to the look, which at times can seem dressy. Raymond Weil did a great job with the AR coating on the sapphire crystal–it is completely invisible.
The case is 42mm wide and about 10mm thick, so the general size is contemporary while still remaining practical enough to go with sporty, office or dress attire. At 100m water resistance, the watch should take most conditions that you can throw at it. You can see the not-so-decorated ETA 2824 or SW 200 through the sapphire exhibition caseback. For the price I would have expected a more decorated movement. The rotor just has “Raymond Weil” on it. My $500 Hamilton Khaki had a more ornate rotor.
I have mixed feelings about the jubilee bracelet. While it’s refreshing to see another watch use this style of link, it’s disappointing because it robs the watch of originality. The bracelet is sturdy with screw pins, and it looks good with polished center links, but it’s hard to see this and not think “Rolex.” The bracelet tapers only slightly unlike that of a Rolex, and combine this with a 22mm lug width and you have a more masculine jubilee. The bracelet opens and closes with a butterfly clasp signed with the RW logo just like the crown. Although there are differences, someone did stop me at the office because he thought I had just purchased a Datejust. Anyhow, I have to admit, the bracelet not for me. I have hairy arms and this thing causes me pain from the hair pinching, so I’m not going to wear this until I have a leather alternative. I think a brown alligator strap would complement the silver dial nicely.
You could argue the price is a little steep for what you get, but you are getting a sharp looking and high quality piece if you purchase this. If you’re looking for something less conservative or more sporty, the chronograph variants are also handsome watches.