Introducing the Norqain Freedom 60 Chrono Ice Blue Limited Edition
The Norqain Freedom 60 Chrono now comes in an attractive ice blue limited edition.
Designing new watches is a challenge. In recent months, the question of what constitutes original design has been a hot topic. With headline-grabbing watches from popular independents like the Christopher Ward 12, the Laventure Automobile Chronograph, or the Argon Spaceone drawing sometimes obvious comparisons to established pieces like the Czapek Antarctique/Tissot PRX, Rolex Daytona/Patek Philippe Nautilus, and the De Bethune Dream Watch, we in the media have been challenged with answering what constitutes newness in an industry that requires its creators to work on a minuscule canvas, just over an inch in diameter, while ensuring the result of their endeavors ticks and (for the most part) tells the time at the end of the day.
Detractors cry foul when any element associated with any famous, time-honored watch is hijacked by a “new” design. But the truth is, while there are infinite ways to realize, for example, a twelve-sided bezel or a screw-down pusher, a twelve-sided bezel is always a twelve-sided bezel and a screw-down pusher is always a screw-down pusher.
And so we turn our attention to the Norqain Freedom 60 Chronograph Ice Blue and ask, “For all its obvious inspiration, is this a welcome and worthwhile addition to the watchmaking canon?” We can dig into the philosophy until the cows come home, but I will say this right off the bat: to me, the answer is yes. This watch passes the eye test with flying colors. The most notable of those flying colors? The searing shade of ice blue used on the dial. It is, to me, Norqain’s finest effort yet, and there are some very good design reasons why I think that.
The Norqain Freedom 60 Chronograph line hit the market in 2020. A pandemic baby, it was released amid a flurry of novelties from a brand that had, after years of painstaking preparation on the part of its founder Ben Küffer finally been unveiled to the world.
In those strange times, announcements from Norqain seemed to hit our inboxes every week. First, around April, we saw the Adventure Sport for the first time. The Freedom 60 Chronograph followed before the Independence 20, Adventure Sport Chrono, and Freedom 60 GMT and time-only pieces rounded out an extremely active maiden year for the brand.
Küffer’s great skill in greasing the skids of his brand was a talent for networking he’d been developing for years prior to Norqain’s announcement. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a stunningly comprehensive assault on the watch industry media from a new brand, nor do I remember ever witnessing such a slick retail roll-out. One thing was clear from the get-go: Norqain meant business. But were the watches as good as their creators’ meticulous planning?
At 40mm in diameter, 14.9mm thick, with a lug-to-lug of 49.2mm, this is a compact and rugged chronograph with a water resistance of 100 meters. The Freedom 60 Chronograph has the proportions on paper to be a solid daily wear. It is a little boxier than the original 43mm wide, 15mm thick version, but the reduced diameter adds to its main selling point — its to-die-for aesthetics.
They recall the Hamilton Intramatic and pre-Daytona Rolex chronographs, which many watchmaking purists, myself included, regard as a high-point in watch industry design. The smaller size only suffers slightly from the additional thickness (caused by the same movement — the automatic cam-operated Sellita SW510 a — being used), but it isn’t a huge problem. On the bracelet, especially, these watches are very well balanced on the wrist.
If metal bracelets are not your thing, however, you will have two further options. There is a rubber perlon strap or a Nortide strap (made with ocean-bound recycled plastic) for the environmentally conscious among you.
The real show-stopper, of course, is the ice blue dial. This is a color that has made some serious hay in the industry over the past couple of years, with basically every brand with its finger on the pulse rolling out a baby blue stunner as a matter of urgency.
Here, the ice blue sunburst paired with the recessed black sub-dials and black minute scale (with white printing) echoes a colorway we’ve seen Breitling use extensively to great effect in recent years. Quietly and without much fanfare, the esteemed Swiss maker seems to have made ice blue and black a running theme throughout its collections, using the combination for the Chronomat, Navitimer, and a Top Time limited edition.
The color mix may not seem the most natural, with this shade of blue as serene as an alpine lake on a windless spring morning, and the black as stark and aggressive as colors come, but in most cases, the apparently warring shades have been united by an accent color. In Norqain Freedom 60 Chrono’s case, it is a warming drop of off-white lume.
This, when teamed with the demure diameter, retro-styled pump pushers, and a neatly positioned rhomboid (and color-matched) date window, nestled between four and five, makes for an incredible addition to the line-up, my personal favorite Norqain yet, and a rival to some very established brands flagship pieces.
Norqain Freedom 60 Chrono Ice Blue Limited Edition
Movement: NORQAIN caliber NN19 (Base caliber SW510 a)
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph function with 12-hour, 30-minute, and central seconds hand
Case: 40mm stainless steel (14.9mm thick, 49.2mm lug-to-lug), water resistant 100m
Dial: Ice blue with applied polished markers and radium lume
Strap: A choice between a Milanese bracelet, a black perlon rubber strap, or the “Nortide” strap, made with recycled plastic by tide ocean SA.
Availability: Limited edition of 300 pieces
Price: USD 4,590 (bracelet), 4,490 (perlon rubber), 4,320 (Nortide strap)
FROM THE SHOP
|Movement||Manual winding caliber Vulcain V-10 alarm; 42-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, seconds, alarm|
|Case||39mm × 12.7mm 316L stainless steel case; water resistant to 50m|
|Dial||Two-tone semi-matte dial with black printing and polished silver indexes|
|Strap||Brown calf leather strap; stainless steel pin buckle|