Independent, family-run Swiss watch brand Norqain was founded just two years ago by Ben Küffer and is taking surprisingly confident strides. With three collections to date, Norqain designs everything in-house and is set to obtain greater manufacturing independence with its recently sealed deal with movement manufacturer Kenissi. The Norqain Freedom 60 Chrono we are looking at today has a strong 1960s vintage vibe and enough personality to stand out from the crowd.
The mushroom-type or piston pushers and raised crystal underscore the retro mood of this watch although the case size, at 43mm in diameter and with a case height of 15mm, is most definitely a contemporary choice. The solid 316L stainless steel case is finished with polished surfaces on the relatively thin, sloping bezel and the tops of the lugs and features vertical brushed finishes on the case side. Like all watches at Norqain, there is a polished plaque on the left side of the case that can be engraved to personalise the watch. Water-resistant to 100 metres, the case is reassuringly solid on the wrist and extremely well finished.
In keeping with its vintage spirit, a box sapphire crystal with anti-glare covers the warm, cream-coloured, domed dial – note that a black-and-white “reversed panda” dial is also available. Featuring a tri-compax layout with a date window (same colour background as dial) tucked in between 4 and 5 o’clock, the three slightly recessed sub-counters have snailed interiors and clear black markings: the 30-minute counter is at 3 o’clock, the 12-hour counter at 6 ‘clock and running seconds at 9 o’clock.
I particularly like the two-tone black and white applied indices with the block of Old Radium Super-LumiNova at their tips. The syringe-style hands follow suit and feature a strip of Old Radium luminescence in their centre. A tachymetre scale and a minutes/seconds track complete the dial.
The Freedom 60 Chrono is equipped with Norqain Calibre NN18, a solid ETA 7753 automatic movement. With its classic 3-6-9 layout and pusher for the date correction on the case side, the movement beats at 28,800 and offers a 48-hour power reserve for the hours, minutes, small seconds and chronograph functions.
As we mentioned earlier, Norqain has recently signed a deal with watch movement manufacturer Kenissi and will be fitting some of its higher-end watches with calibres developed with Kenissi, the industrial arm of Tudor and Breitling watches, and in which Chanel has a 20% stake. To date, Norqain has procured two in-house COSC-certified movements from Kenissi: the three-hand calibre NN20/1 and the GMT calibre NN20/2 (also used inside Tudor’s North Flag in 2015).
It is most unusual for such a young brand to enjoy a partnership of this clout but it turns out that Ted Schneider, son of the former CEO and shareholder of Breitling, is part of Norqain’s management team and Ben Küffer himself worked at Breitling before leaving to set up his own brand in 2018. His father, Marc Küffer, who owned and managed Roventa-Henex SA, a prominent Swiss private label watch manufacturer, also forms part of the ambitious Norqain team.
Design-wise and finish-wise this watch has a lot going for it and immediately caught my eye. The creamy dial, the piston pushers, the syringe hands and the distressed leather strap consolidate the 1960s vintage mood the designers pursued. Certainly, it enters a rather crowded market with serious competitors, so it isn’t going to be easy. Still, the Freedom 60 Chrono is beautifully executed and designed, and has its own personality.
Strap choices and price
Four different Norlando Italian leather strap options and a steel bracelet are available for this model. I strongly suggest the rugged vintage-style leather straps in cool earthy colours with the four stitches that recreate the company logo of a mountain. The Norqain Freedom 60 Chrono retails for EUR 3,590, plus EUR 140 for the engraving and can be ordered directly online at norqain.com.