Time flies in a blink of an eye as 2021 has just slipped through while clearly visible through our side mirror. I still could remember the days where Gnomon Watches dropped certain bombing watches every other month as if it was only hours back. Pardon my whiny tone here as I am still trying to breathe calmly, accepting the fact that we’re now already in February. On the contrary, I was excited when we heard that NORQAIN – a brand that caught my eyes and heart when they were first announced in 2018 – came into Singapore late last year and wanted to come onboard Gnomon. If you guys don’t know this emerging brand, fret not, as I’ll bring an in-depth article on them sometime in 2022 (yes, good things must wait). Meanwhile, I’ll briefly sum up what NORQAIN is: first they got their unique name formed through these acronyms:
N = Always open for the NEW
O = Going through life OPEN-MINDED
R = A healthy dose of REBELLIOUS
Q = Life is about enjoying QUALITY TIME
A = Seeking ADVENTURE
I = Always feeling INDEPENDENT
N = Proud to be part of a NICHE
Anchoring by the name emphasizes their offerings to be on all things sportiness and adventurous, all that with the Swiss quality. Secondly, though the brand just started a few years back, the people behind Norqain are not so newborn. The founders include the Küffer family: Monsieur Marc and his father Ben, both with more than 10 years and 45 years of experience, respectively, in the watch industry. That’s not all. Ben included his good friend Ted Schneider from the Schneider family (duh, of course), who piloted renowned Swiss brand Breitling for more than 30 years. And Swiss hockey hero Mark Streit to balanced the whole brand perfectly with him infusing the sporty and rugged attributes into traditional horology.
Since we briefly tread through the new indie brand, let’s dive straight into one of their core collections, which sums up this month’s lookbook. And that is the Freedom 60 collection. This particular article would focus much on their neo-vintage yet sporty timepieces to encapsulate the sheer watchmaking volume that Norqain’s bring. Let’s get started.
The Freedom 60 39mm Anthracite might be the quintessential watch representing the Freedom collection. The heritage design that harks back the sixties yet is rugged with its modern built. It truly allows one to wear it for adventures and exploration. The case is meticulously executed, where every single side is sharp and precise, reflecting the brand’s prowess in what they do. The crown is screwed down, guaranteeing 100m water-resistant, which caters to wearers’ everyday activities without any worries.
Found on the other side of the crown belies Norqain’s signature plate. The “Norqain plate” seemingly creates an overall balance of the watch. Its main intention is to allow its wearer to customize the watch through personal engravings. Some might find this gimmicky, but I just felt it’s brilliant as this would be an excellent way for a watch to draw a closer bond with its wearer. Pairing the watch with an equally sophisticated steel bracelet, it befits within the perfect all-rounder bracket with versatility. Oh, let’s not forget the incredible Norqain Manufacturer Caliber NN20/1 automatic movement. This powerhouse engine came to fruition through their partnership with Kenessi, forging a proprietary Swiss-made movement that is chronometer certified and delivers superior mechanical performance with 70 hours power reserve. Still not convinced? Well, the almost identical movement is in fact utilized by Rolex’s younger sibling Tudor within their modern tool watches like their Black Bays.
Norqain Freedom 60 34mm White – Norlando Leather Ref. N2800S82A/W281
Norqain excel in catering to a wider audience from the start (more sports brands should practice this) by introducing several Lady’s models within their stable. That includes the Freedom 60 collection, with equal attention and craft found within each model, just like this Freedom 60 34mm in White. Evidently, the watch is perfectly sized at 34mm, with a proper 100m water-resistant even with an open case-back exhibition. Speaking of which, this particular Lady’s watch and the rest are clad with robust Swiss mechanical movement, the Norqain Caliber NN09 Swiss-made automatic movement, a reliable workhorse engine based on the well-regarded ETA 2824. Since this is specially made for ladies, Norqain crafted a striking textured dial – a beautiful Guilloché pattern – surrounded by an iridescent pearl white outer-dial.
Speaking of cream-colored dial, this next one sits right opposite of the spectrum. If the 34mm White Ladies is demure, the Freedom 60 43mm Cream White is full-on masculine, albeit any adventurous woman would want to rock this Chronograph. Wait, a conventional 60s case design with a complication that befits professional tool watches? Yes! Because why not. And Norqain nailed the whole watch right out the ballpark. I love how they relied on the NN18, the ETA 7753 movement – resulting in a balanced tri-compax layout (think Rolex Daytona and Speedmaster sub-dials layout). While at that, Norqain kept things retro through the “hobnail” shaped pushers and a creamy white dial, giving it an enduring look over time.
Furthermore, the soothing color is synonymous throughout the dial, even on the sub-registers. Far from being a plain Jane, each register is beautifully set below the main dial, only to be separated by a sloped rehaut depicting each marker distinctly. The matching color date wheel on the dial highlights another distinction on this piece. Kudos to Norqain for paying every single attention to crafting their watches. On the sports bracelet, be it on the beach, at a race podium trying to time your favorite racer’s lap, or even just in a boardroom meeting, the watch feels like it’s ready for action.
Since we’re at complication, how about another one that’s apt for someone who loves to travel. The Freedom 60 GMT Opaline is well proportionate at 40mm, cladding an additional hour hand to indicate a second time-zone through an ingenious inner 24-hour ring.What’s interesting is the application of a two-“Pepsi”-tone for the 24-hour ring, refreshing pop of colors onto an otherwise sober monochrome dial. On the Perlon-pattern rubber strap, the watch feels equally sporty as its intention. Even if one’s taking a swim during the vacation, this watch is ever-ready for it.
Flipping onto the other side belies the chronometer-certified NN20/2 manufacture caliber, identical to the above 39mm Anthracite, but now with an additional GMT function. Handling this piece not only (or any others from Norqain) feels solid on hand, and quality can be seen throughout. I simply love how this piece is so wonderfully made from the inside out.
Last but not least, Norqain included a Freedom 60, which was entirely made out of bronze material. As with any other bronze watch, vintage fans would love one that slowly oxidizes and grows patina throughout one’s wearing journey. With the progressive darkening and turning into a complete matte watch, the watch enhances its wearer with its wabi-sabi look, all while feeling personalized as no other Norqain Bronze watch would be the same, even when one has the same tries to replicate the “aging” process. That said, the whole Freedom 60 39mm Bronze still wears like a charm due to its ideal size and continues to ooze quality throughout. The case is intricately satin finished, separated by a full-polished bevel running through each lug. In tandem with the case, the black dial gets a sunburst effect that dances iridescently in different lightings. As a bronze watch lover, my experience with this Freedom 60 39mm Bronze Black is nothing but compliments. From its Manufacture caliber NN20/1 to its aging affair, this watch simply punches way above its price point in terms of built.
Gnomon Watches first opened her doors for business online in early 2002, founded by bona fide horology suitors who share a profound passion for watchmaking and fine craftsmanship.