Raymond Weil Maestro Automatic: Moving on Up

Raymond Weil Maestro Automatic

Raymond Weil as a watchmaker has never been more than a blip on my radar, coming into range occasionally but then mostly forgotten about. When the Parsifal first arrived, I thought it was a beautiful watch and very much in style with the times but I thought it was a bit high priced for a name brand that was relatively new and a quartz-driven watch at that. Like most people, I assumed the high price was for the smattering of real gold that it featured but there were just too many other, better watches in that price range to choose from.

In recent years, RW began to make more of an impression as they begin to take their product line further upmarket, with an increase in quality sufficient to justify their higher prices. Automatic movements, intricate dial details and better materials became the norm and not the exception. When the high quality RW Nabucco and Freelancer lines were introduced to the family, the newly improved family was looking pretty good by then. Recently, RW introduced a new line of watches, the Maestro collection, which seems to tie into their Tradition collection but can almost be viewed as a standalone group. The Maestro collection is very traditional in its overall design, complimented by time-tested styling cues such as the dial and hands. Currently they are all round, all stainless steel and all 39.5 mm in case diameter. When I say traditional, think of the basic models offered by Patek and Vacheron and then subtract about 85% off the price of one. As a competitor to one of these watches, there is no competition in total substance but the elegant simplicity of the Maestro pays homage to those vaunted brands.

I was looking for a new dressy watch that had some physical substance but was not overly large and pleasing to the eye and I wanted something under $1500 USD. While shopping at my favorite Atlanta watch store that carries just about every luxury brand made, I discovered this one and was captivated by how good it looked. The price fit the budget and pretty soon I was walking out of the store with it. Its appeal was that it had all the elements I like in that style of watch-and no real compromises. This included the size, the dial, an automatic movement and a subdial seconds register, a design element I have always liked in the older, traditional watches.

The case is executed in solid stainless steel and is polished on all surfaces. The plain lugs curve gently downward and protrude only minimally from the case, spaced to hold a 20mm strap very closely to the case. The spring bars have a slight curve to them to allow the strap to touch the case at the center but still allows complete flexibility of the strap swivel freely. The case appears to have a bezel slightly smaller than the case and raised about 1.5mm above the main body of the case but this is an illusion as it is part of the case sculpture. The surface of the crystal is flush with this pseudo bezel. The case back is a stainless steel ring that holds a transparent viewing crystal so that the movement is easily observed. The ring around this crystal is engraved with an elegant but traditional font stating “Swiss Made – WR 50m/165ft – Stainless Steel – Model/Serial number – Sapphire Crystal”. The back snaps to the case. It weighs enough to fell substantial but not so much that it feels cumbersome. It doesn’t tend to “roll” on my wrist like some heavier watches do. At this price point, I feel the case is solid and well-made, if not exceptional. Traditionalists will love the round, simple design of the case.

The dial is the most beautiful part of this watch and it appears RW took extra pains to ensure that the dial did not in any way look like corners had been cut. The dial is silver in color, in a muted, matte finish that catches just enough light to play with it but not get in your face. In direct light, it exhibits a nice glow and its iconic black Roman numerals stand out in stark relief against this silver. From a readability standpoint, this elegant dial is very easy to quickly get the time with a minimum of fuss. The minute track on the outside of the dial is plain silver with one minute indexes in black. A hobnail pattern surrounds the minute track along the case. The hour track features the Roman numerals against grooves that mimic the grooves of a record album. The inner dial features a “clou de Paris” relief that combines with the hour and minute track, provides a nice palate of textures, each different but all in the same matte silver. The seconds subdial sits just above the number VI and features a background similar to the hour track, grooved like a record album. The only drawbacks to the dial in my opinion is the word “Automatic” being situated on a smooth surface rectangle inside the second subdial and the date window straddling the line where the hour track meets the inner dial but neither of these detract from the beauty enough for me to worry about it. The upper half of the inner dial displays “Raymond Weil” in a readable, simple font and “Geneve” under the name, both on a slightly raised, flat surface. The watch features blued steel Breguet style hands that work perfectly with the silver dial.

The crown is large and easy to grasp as it has no protectors. Much like a gear, it has widely spaced “teeth” and the modern Raymond Weil “brand” is featured on the crown and is deeply set. The crystal is sapphire and has a subtle antireflective coating on both sides to minimize light reflections and allow the beautiful dial to stand out. Winding the watch is easy and it is easy to set the time accurately as the watch does hack when pulling the crown to the second position. The date is easily changed in the first position. The crown does not screw down but it feels well seated and of good quality construction.

The movement is a RW4250 movement, which is based on the Selita SW200 movement. I suppose as the supply of ETA blanks slowly dries up, Raymond Weil has positioned themselves to buy future movements from Selita. The movement itself is visible through the exhibition back but is very plain and functional. A few blued screws and a nicely decorated rotor are the only distinguishing marks on it. The rotor features the Geneva Stripes on the surface and is engraved in blue letters denoting Raymond Weil and indicating a 31 jeweled movement. So far it is very accurate, gaining only a couple of seconds per day and I may decide I can live without an ETA movement.

According to Raymond Weil’s material about this watch, this new collection “demonstrates once again its profound attachment to its roots and its desire to offer a piece of history. The various models soberly explore the one thousand and one ways of interpreting a certain idea of harmony and discretion”.

If that means it’s supposed to be a traditional watch in every sense of the world, they have succeeded. For the price, it is a very beautiful watch, accurate and possessing styling cues that have stood the test of time. I think Raymond Weil is definitely heading in the right direction in taking their models further up the stream and I could recommend this watch to anyone.