Raymond Weil recently released their new limited edition Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph, and as the official launch partner, we’ve had the pleasure of testing it out over the past couple of weeks. Here’s the results…
What We Love
- Vintage Styling
- The multi-faceted dial
- Flyback functionality
What We Don’t
- Stiff strap and clasp design
- No date window
- Overhanging lug design
Overall Rating: 8/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Wearability: 7/10
- Design: 9/10
- Build quality: 8/10
Sitting in a café in Sydney a few weeks ago, my colleague and I laid eyes on the the Raymond Weil Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph for the first time. We knew they were releasing a new pilots watch to add to the Freelancer Chronograph line, and having only seen the press pics, in person it looked the goods, especially the dial.
Playing around with it for a little while, it seemed solid and well done, and being a limited edition of just 400, with a price point of AUD $6,995 for a good-looking flyback chronograph that was well built, seemed fair to us based on the competition and price points out there now. And if you missed our article on the release of this watch, before you dive into this review, check out all the details with more live pics here.
The design of the new Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph is quite multifaceted, to say the least. Raymond Weil has used different design cues and inspiration to craft the watch to look and feel vintage, but it is anything but. The dial is the star of this piece, and it’s wonderful to look at and changes in different lighting, but it has so many elements to keep you coming back to it.
The outside track with the lumed applied numerals is designed to mimic the tarmac of a runway. The texturing on it is super cool and helps to give the dial the three-dimensional effect that’s created between it, the inner dial and the circular-grained sub-dials. The pop of yellow used for the chronograph seconds hand and the 30-minute register at 3 o’clock are a nice touch and contrast well with the green dial, as does the “FLYBACK” writing on the dial.
The case is well constructed, and Raymond Weil has given it more of an aged/vintage look by coating the stainless steel with a grey PVD coating. This is a good move I feel as it gives you the sense the watch is more a tool watch than for show, or at least it could be and when looking at the overall look and feel, it makes sense. This treatment continues on the bezel, chronograph pushers and onion-style crown, completing the aesthetic.
The strap is fairly sturdy, and like most watches, is stiff when you first put it on. Whilst many leather straps of new watches are like this, I always feel that if you can make it with softer leather as some brands do, then this should be more of a common practice. The one small critique I have is the design of the folding clasp. The buckle is on the longer side and is designed to curve around the side of the wrist, but this means that it doesn’t sit all that flush. This, coupled with the underside where you thread the strap through does dig into the wrist a little making it slightly uncomfortable to wear for more extended periods, at least whilst the leather is being broken in.
Raymond Weil has used a similar case design to the new Freelancer Chronograph that came out last year, which we reviewed here, albeit 1.5mm smaller here on the Pilot. The lug design is the same, and one thing I commented on with this in the Freelancer Chronograph is the way the lugs protrude out and past the strap. I’m not a fan of this, but this is more a personal preference, to be honest. If this doesn’t worry you, then this isn’t an issue at all!
The Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chrono is well-lumed too. Each of the applied numerals are filled with generous amounts of Super-Luminova® as are the hour and minute hands.
How It Wears
Other than the aforementioned clasp issue, the watch wears well overall. The 42mm case sits nicely on the wrist, and whilst 42mm is a larger size, this is a pilot’s watch, don’t forget, so it’s designed to be easy to read at a glance, which it is. The lug-to-lug distance is approximately 47mm so it wears fine across my 17.5cm wrist, and being less than 14mm thick with a flat case-back, sits fairly flush.
Doing the photo shoot for this, we spent the day in the city as we looked for good spots and lighting for the other pieces we needed to shoot, and the Freelancer held up fine. Pairing this with my jeans/jacket combo, it looked the part. For me, how the watch looks and wears is essential, just as it is for many people. And at the end of the day, I’m not flying vintage planes, unfortunately, so it needs to work with my lifestyle, both leisure and work.
The engine that powers the new Freelancer Pilot is the RW5530, a flyback chronograph movement with a 56h power reserve. The flyback chronograph works well; the pushers are fairly seamless with their action – not too easy to start avoiding accidental timing, but not so hard either; just enough resistance to both. Whilst you may not use this in everyday life, it’s still good to know that you’ve got the option to use it should the occasion arise. For me, it’s one of those functions that is fun to play with or entertain my young daughters, which they love seeing the seconds hand go around and then flick back to start again!
The RW5530 can be seen through the case back, which has a 3-bladed propeller motif and “One of 400 Limited Edition” inscribed on the back, signifying you have a rare piece on your wrist and adding a little more modernity to the vintage styling. You can see the column wheel and coupling through it, which are thermally blued, adding to the look and also serving to enhance corrosion resistance.
Whilst the movement isn’t COSC certified, the time ran accurately over the course of the week or so I had it with no major noticeable time variations. However, having this for a lot longer and taking it off and putting it on over and over may change this as it does with all automatic watches.
Coming back to my initial thoughts, I feel these still stand with the Limited Edition Raymond Weil Freelancer Pilot Flyback Chronograph. With so many brands these days increasing their price points, finding a good-looking, well-built chronograph for under AUD $7,000 is a hard task.
Whilst the movement isn’t in-house, at this price, I don’t feel this matters at all. When you consider the alternatives out there, most watches with this styling, build and in-house movement are mostly now sitting around the $10,000+ mark, with the exception of maybe a Breitling Super Avenger 43 on the rubber for AUD $7,590. But even this piece isn’t in-house as it has the B13/TECH-209 calibre based on an ETA 7750, not to mention it doesn’t have the vintage styling or the Flyback complication this piece does.
The closest direct comparison I can think of in today’s market with the same kind of styling may be the IWC Pilot Chronograph 41 or 43 at $11,400 and $11,900, respectively, but you’re not getting a Flyback chronograph complication. If you’re after this function, then TAG Heuer’s Autavia has this at AUD $9,800; alternatively for a pure pilot watch, Zenith’s Pilot Dig Date Flyback is AUD $17,300.
So, if you’re after a vintage-styled pilot’s watch with a design that you don’t see on everyone’s wrist, and with a flyback chronograph function, no less, then maybe consider the new Raymond Weil Freelancer Pilot. With only 400 pieces worldwide and at an affordable price point, you’ll be safe in knowing you’re in rare air!
Reference: 7783-TIC-05520 Limited to 400 pieces
- Case: 42mm, 13.8mm thick
- Case Material: Stainless steel with grey PVD coating
- Case Back: Screwed-down, with propeller engraving on the sapphire glass back
- Dial: Green with textured outer ring, Arabic numerals and pilot arrows with Super-Luminova®
- Crystal: Flat Sapphire crystal with antiglare treatment on both sides
- Movement: Mechanical flyback chronograph with automatic winding – RW5530 Calibre
- Power Reserve: 56 hours
- Water Resistance: 100m / 10BAR
- Strap: Brown genuine calf leather with rivets, Grey PVD RW folding clasp with double push-security system