While the overwhelming majority of the biggest names in watchmaking date back to over a century old, there’s a little brand named Norqain that’s making a decent name for itself. Ben Küffer founded the company in 2018 and it has remained family owned since. He hasn’t done things alone though as he’s brought in a number of big names to help the brand get its footing. Among them are Ted Schneider, part of the family that previously owned Breitling, as well as former NHL player, Mark Streit. The latter’s experience likely helped lead to the recent release of a Norqain watch created in conjunction with the NHL Player’s Association. The fact that Jean-Claude Biver serves as an advisor to Norqain’s board should further solidify Norqain as a watchmaker that many watch collectors should take note of.
To cover the basics, this is a 41mm, 100M water-resistant watch in 316L steel. The watch has dual AR-coated sapphire glass on the dial side, as well as a sapphire glass exhibition case back. It has a black ceramic bi-directional bezel with knurling for enhanced bezel grip. The watch also has a screw-down crown with crown guards. Turning to the dial, the watch has hand-applied indices and hands with X1 Superluminova, and while almost all of these components match the steel case, the GMT hand does have a blue tip to match the “GMT” text on the dial, as well as half of the inner 24-hour ring with the other half being in white. The dial pattern itself is what Norqain simply calls a “special Norqain dial”. On the left side of the case the watch has a polished Norqain plate that can be customised, for an additional fee, with whatever you’d like it to say. The plate reminds me of the ones Ulysse Nardin tends to put on the side of their watches as callbacks to their marine chronometer heritage. It’s nice that, in this case, the plate is fully customisable by the customer.
Inside the watch is the Cal. NN20/2. Norqain’s Calibre NN20/2 beats at 4Hz and is produced in conjunction with Kenissi, a movement manufacturer founded by Rolex’s sister brand, Tudor. While Kenissi was founded by Tudor, Chanel also owns a 20% stake in the company. Coming back to the movement at hand, this COSC-certified, automatic movement features a 70-hour power reserve and a jumping hour hand for setting the GMT function. The rotor itself, as seen in the picture above, is engraved with Norqain’s logo. The watch also features an engraved bridge with the words “Adventure – Freedom – Independence”, what Norqain calls their “core values”. The movement also allows for hacking seconds, and, therefore, more precise time setting.
Overall, I really like this watch and it’s nice to see something outside of the more established brands that looks like it can compete well in an already well-entrenched market. The bezel looks nice without running the risk of copying something like a Rolex GMT-Master II. Instead of copying the 126710BLNR’s blue and black ceramic bezel, like so many watch brands do, Norqain stuck with an entirely black bezel and an inner ring in half blue and half white. I really like this move and think the watch, on almost all fronts, definitely is able to compete with the GMT-Master II and many other similar watches… especially when you factor in the price of this watch. The dial itself is very special and helps to set this watch apart. It’s a black basket weave pattern that’s subtle, but unique enough. I don’t know why this pattern isn’t used more, it reminds me a bit of a carbon fibre pattern dial. So many brands have done variations of carbon fibre pattern dials over the years, but this honestly looks even nicer than almost all of the carbon fibre dials I’ve come across. This dial stands out without being as ostentatious.
I’m still getting used to the split center link look on the bracelet version of this watch… I’m not sure how I feel about seeing a distinct line running through all the center links where I’d normally just see one continuous piece of metal, but maybe it’ll grow on me. I do really like the strap versions though, especially the blue rubber nato option. Overall, I think this is a solid watch and easily becomes a contender against many GMT watches by brands like Rolex, Tudor, Omega, and Breitling. The nice thing about a watch like this that can hold its own is that it gives those in the market for a GMT something really quality that they also won’t likely see as much as the usual suspects when out in the wild. This watch hits high marks for quality, design, and uniqueness. I think it’s safe to say I’m looking forward to more of what Norqain releases in the future.
10% of all proceeds of the Neverest GMT line go towards the Butterfly Help Project, an organisation that helps families of sherpas who have lost their lives in the Himalayan mountains and offers their children access to education. The watch is available on a blue flex fabric strap for 3,920 USD, a blue rubber nato strap or black rubber strap for 3,950 USD, or a satin steel bracelet for 4,150 USD. The watch is also available in a second color option where green replaces the blue accents on this model.
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