Cushion cases have a rich history, dating all the way back to the 1920s and earlier. But therein lies the problem: history. The gently curved case shape has something innately old fashioned about it, the kind of old-world vibe that has served brands like Fears so well; rooted in heritage – all but defined by it. Which makes it a little odd that Raymond Weil have insisted on attempting to modernise it in the Freelancer 2790.
From the get-go, the Freelancer 2790 is an incredibly handsome watch. The 40mm case is pebble-smooth and, while cushion cases tend to feel a little larger on the wrist than their circular equivalents, it’s still an easy size to get away with. It’s a little more square than some cushion cases out there, but otherwise fits the template. The only change is the crown, which is a bit larger and more modern than you’d usually find on this type of watch. At the very least, it’s not fluted, thank god.
The dial too is relatively modern, in a reserved kind of way. Constructed of concentric circles for a lovely, layered look in this version in Blue Steel (no Zoolander jokes, please). The inner dial is textured, and a lighter colour, while the outermost segment is darker and more stripped-back. It’s a solid level of detail and makes a great visual counterpoint to the squared case.
The main point of interest however is the open balance wheel. Skeletonised might be a bit more to the point, as it goes all the way through the watch so that you can see a bit of your wrist on the other side. I wear watches to hide my wrists, but I have to admit the extra dynamic movement the visible balance brings to the watch is immediately appealing. Held in place by a relatively big, screwed-in bridge, it’s a design statement if ever there was one.
I’m undecided, however, whether I’d prefer it with a solid dial across the board. I’m always the first to want to cover up a date window and without that open balance, I think the Freelancer 2790 would fall more into retro territory, which I love, especially with the cool oblong indexes. But it would lose something of its personality overall, so this is likely to be one of the few times that I’d stick with the aperture as is.
One of the big issues I’m having with the Freelancer 2790, however, is its movement. The RW4200 has a 38-hour power reserve, which puts it on par with the outdated Sellita numbers I’ve criticised in the past. It’s purportedly in-house and is one of those times where I’d prefer something third-party if it meant better specs. It’s nicely, if relatively basically, finished, but not enough to warrant something with less than two days of power. At least it’s accessible – which we’ll get onto later.
Movement aside though, there’s a lot to love about the new cushion-cased Freelancer. The elegant shape is gorgeous, not to mention tactile. The dial is sleek and suits the ‘squared circle’ look perfectly, and that open balance wheel amps up the innate mechanical nature of a decent watch. It’s cool. The big question then is this: did Raymond Weil succeed in modernising the cushion case? Honestly, I don’t think so.
Sure, there are some welcome twists of contemporary flair here, especially that open balance, but it still doesn’t quite get over the hurdle that so many watchmakers have embraced, that of cushion cases being classical to a fault. That’s not to say the new Freelancer isn’t a good looking watch. It is, if you’re into something bordering Art Deco with a bit more going on. It’s well made, feels good on the wrist, is eye-catching in all the right ways, all the good things you want from a design-led watch. I just don’t think it’s cool in the contemporary way that Raymond Weil were going for. It’s just cool.
Raymond Weil being known for accessibility, that’s always a big point to consider, more so for them than many other watchmakers. I’m pleased to say then that the Freelancer 2790 matches up nicely. Sure, the movement’s a bit lacklustre, but the build quality and design across the rest of the watch more than makes up for it, enough that the £2,295 price tag is incredibly competitive. That’s on this impeccable bracelet too; on a strap it’s £100 less. Though that £100 is well worth spending. To be honest, so is the full amount.
Price and Specs:
More details at Raymond Weil.