Swiss Newcomer Norqain Introduces (Relatively) Affordable Independence 20 With Upmarket Movement
Buzzwords like tradition, precision, and prestige often come to mind when mentioning the time-honored Swiss watch industry. This comes as no surprise to anyone involved in the industry, especially with luxury giants like Patek Philippe, Rolex, Omega, and other famous names shining their bright lights over the whole horological landscape.
Having withstood industry shifts ranging from the quartz crisis to the release of the Apple Watch, the world of Swiss watchmaking continues to stand for long-lasting quality, keeping loyal fans and collectors coming back for more.
With watchmaking icons that have been around for decades so firmly in place, it can be difficult for young newcomers to make a name for themselves in the elite world of “Swiss Made.” However, putting itself on the watchmaking map after just three years of operation, Nidau-based Norqain has proved that standing strong in the face of tough competition is possible in Switzerland.
Norqain is an independent, family-operated business founded in 2018 by then-30-year-old Ben Küffer, whose last name is fairly well known behind the scenes in the watch world. His father, Marc Küffer, not so incidentally Norqain’s chairman, has more than 45 years of experience heading numerous Swiss luxury watchmaking ventures.
For a quarter of a century, Marc Küffer served on the board of directors for the Swiss Watch Industry Association. Bringing additional financial support, watchmaking expertise, and scope to the Norqain management team and board are Ted Schneider, son of previous Breitling owner Théodore Schneider, and Mark Streit, Swiss ice hockey legend and Stanley Cup winner.
Today, just two years after its founding, Norqain prides itself on an extensive network of retail partners including some of the biggest and most well known in the world like Wempe, Tourneau, Westime, Govberg, and Seddiqi.
In the light of this background, it’s no surprise that Norqain’s three current collections – Adventure, Freedom, and Independence – have quickly made their way onto the tips of watch enthusiasts’ tongues as well as onto their wrists. Valuing transparency, the brand targets a younger audience who enjoys a stroll off the beaten path, appreciating quality without wanting to break the bank.
The features of the brand’s sporty three-handed models and chronographs are quite convincing: until now, all of the brand’s timepieces have been outfitted with ETA automatic calibers and sapphire crystal case backs. With a water-resistance of 100 meters and a distinctive robust charm, they are pretty cool tool watches.
As such, they are geared toward those who yearn for the great outdoors and prefer an active lifestyle. Each timepiece can be customized to the wearer’s taste, including a wide range of strap choices and the “Norqain plate” on the left case side, which can be engraved with a word or date worth cherishing.
The Adventure Sport is my favorite as it features a unique stamped dial pattern that is quite distinctive, resembling a bold but whimsical basket weave. The dial creates a strong backdrop for the instrument-style displays coated with Super-LumiNova for excellent legibility at night.
Partnership with Kenissi, movement supplier to Tudor and Chanel
Norqain’s recent decision to partner with mechanical movement manufacturer Kenissi is a big step up and a step toward blazing a trail to future success. Kenissi was founded by Tudor to produce the Rolex sibling’s manufacture calibers.
And there is another big name in this game: Chanel, which owns a 20-percent stake in Kenissi. The fact, that these two first-string players source calibers from Kenissi – and have allowed Norqain to do the same – is a reassuring sign of approval.
Independence 20 – Scratched Forest Green Dial is Norqain’s first watch fitted with the C.O.S.C.-certified Caliber NN20/1 launched in February 2020. It is time-only (no date) with a healthy 70-hour power reserve from a single spring barrel.
Its most notable technical feature is a traversing bridge with two-point fixation over the oscillator, a sturdy structure designed to improve precision and performance. And it is this component that reveals the NN20/1’s similarity to Tudor’s Caliber MT5601, right down to the finishing.
However, its rotor features an interesting cutout that is quite different from the two cutouts on the Tudor rotor. The rotor also offers space for the brand’s logo, a double N alluding to Swiss Alp summits.
Norqain’s motto – Adventure, Freedom, and Independence –is reflected in the collection names that are also on display on a movement bridge and visible when the rotor is positioned on one side.
Norqain Independence 20 with Scratched Forest Green Dial
A 42 mm 316L stainless steel case frames a distinctive “scratched” green dial, ensuring that no two models are exactly the same. This effect is created by manually brushing the dial after the blanks have passed through two galvanic baths, first black and then green.
While the faceted hour and minute hands have Super-LumiNova tips to maximize legibility, the second hand’s red tip matches the red word “chronometer” printed on the dial, together highlighting the movement’s certified precision.
Independence 20 – Scratched Forest Green Dial is also customizable. The polished Norqain plate on the left side of the case, an element on all Norqain watches, makes it simple for the wearer to add his or her own touch by engraving something personal.
The newest timepiece in the Independence collection also offers the choice between a stainless steel bracelet with brushed and polished links and an integrated black leather strap.
It’s also reassuring that Norqain offers a four-year international warranty, which is still unusual although more brands are upping their warranties.
I really like the flair of this young, innovative brand, which brings a fresh impulse by respecting the traditional values of the industry in general and Swiss codes in particular. And reading the time on the unusual dial with its charming “scratches” is a real pleasure.
Though Norqain is still a young brand, I think that the 200 pieces in this limited edition are likely to be scooped up quickly.
I am also quite excited for another proprietary debut that was announced along with the NN20/1 back in February and is due out later this year on September 9: Norqain’s GMT Caliber NN20/02, which is set to feature a jump hour for the local time and a synchronized date.
For more information, please visit www.norqain.com.
Quick Facts Norqain Independence 20 with Scratched Forest Green Dial
Case: 42 x 12.8 mm, stainless steel 316L, water resistant to 100 meters
Movement: automatic Caliber NN20/1, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, power reserve 70 hours, officially C.O.S.C. chronometer certified
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 200 pieces
Price: €2,750 / CHF 2,990 (bracelet); €2,620 / CHF 2,840 (Barenia leather strap)