Norqain is a new Swiss watchmaker of only a few years, but the team has a lot of industry experience. Founder Ben Küffer worked at Breitling before launching the brand in 2018, while the son of former Breitling CEO Ted Schneider is also part of the team. Ben’s father owned a Swiss private label watch manufacturer, Roventa-Henex SA. This small, family-owned brand has some serious muscle behind it, which has already resulted in a partnership with movement manufacturer Kenissi. The latest watch is a smaller version of the impressive Freedom 60 Chronograph, and it brings new dials and straps.
The original 43mm chronograph was surprisingly mature from such a new watchmaker, but the size was a bit at odds with the vintage-inspired design. That changes for 2022 as the stainless steel case is now 40mm in diameter and 14.9mm in height (49.2mm lug-to-lug), which is closer to the intended 1960s look. It lives alongside the 43mm variant, so you can still choose that contemporary size. The case is mostly polished with brushed sides and features a domed sapphire crystal that offers retro distortions at angles like old acrylic. A sapphire exhibition caseback showcases the Swiss automatic, which is still from ETA as Kenissi movements aren’t quite ready. Classic mushroom pushers are positioned at 2 and 4 o’clock, and the crown screws down for a water-resistance rating of 100 metres. On the left side, there’s a plaque with twin screws that can be personally engraved (or just have the brand’s name) and a recessed pusher at 10 o’clock for date correction.
Strap options have changed as the brand kept its promise to phase out leather and offer only vegan-certified straps and metal bracelets. Norqain teamed up with tide ocean SA (#tide), which upcycles plastic pollution from oceans into a premium granular material. This is then processed into yarn that is woven into “Nortide” fabric straps. The underside is a leather alternative made from AppleSkin that’s a mix of apple peel and core recovered from the food industry. It’s converted into a powder and then mixed with a pigment and binder and dried into a leather alternative. At least 50% of the product is Apple material. Alcantara is the second new strap type and resembles luxury suede. It’s a common material for car interiors, and the straps also feature an AppleSkin underside. The Alcantara strap comes in a rich brown colour, while the fabric strap is ivory. A steel bracelet with a folding clasp and a Perlon rubber strap are also available and already part of the Norqain portfolio.
Ironically, the two dial options are a bit more contemporary on the new retro-sized models. There’s deep royal blue or anthracite, both with a sunburst finish and white sub-dials. This has a sandwich design as the outer dials are placed over a second white base, which provides a bit of depth. It’s a tri-compax layout with a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock and small seconds at 9 o’clock, and all sub-dials have a snailed pattern. Silver applied indices have Old Radium Super-LumiNova at the inner tips, while the syringe-style hour and minute hands have the same luminescent inserts. A colour-matching, angled date window sits between 4 and 5 o’clock. Dial elements are identical on both models, other than the date window matching the respective dial colour.
Powering the watch is the same calibre NN18 from the 43mm model, based on the ETA 7753 automatic. This is a cam-type integrated chronograph and has 27 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 48-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, small seconds, 30-minute and 12-hour counters and date. Decorations are nice with Côtes de Genève and perlage, and a custom Norqain-branded rotor.
The 40mm Norqain Freedom 60 Chronograph retails for CHF 3,890 with the steel bracelet, CHF 3,790 with the Perlon rubber strap and CHF 3,630 with the new fabric “Nortide” or Alcantara straps. Perhaps a bit pricey from such a new brand, but the watches are well designed and finished with a distinctive personality. For more information and to make a purchase, please visit Norqain’s website.