Review: A Unique Take on the Racing Chronograph

Though the brand is inspired by one of the greatest race tracks in the world, Raidillon is a standout more for its striking watch designs.

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Andrew Connor

Raidillon Watches, based in Brussels, is a little-known boutique brand that has been making its limited-edition, racing-inspired watches since 2001. The company’s namesake is the famed “Raidillon” corner of Spa-Francorchamps, considered one of the most difficult corners on one of the greatest tracks in motorsport. But more captivating than Raidillon’s connection to motorsport are its captivating designs; the brand has churned out dozens and dozens of them, each available in an edition of 55. The number is a reference to the number of cars allowed on the grid for Spa’s 24-hour endurance race, but aside from being a neat gimmick paying tribute to Belgium’s famed race track, it’s a unique business model that allows for a lot of creativity.

Raidillon’s watches are divided up into four different collections, each with their own specific personalities, characterized by a range of distinct dial designs: Racing, which has colorful, appropriately racy looks; Design, which is clean and minimalistic; Casual Friday, which is contemporary and restrained; and Timeless, with vintage-inspired aesthetics. The great thing about Raidillon is, if the looks of one watch don’t do it for you, you’ll likely find something within any of the four collections that will. Don’t like the bright, colorful designs of the Racing 42-C10-133? Might we suggest the pared-down, industrial sheen of the Design 42-C10-127 instead?

But with Raidillon’s latest release, the Timeless 42-C10-170, the brand seems less focused on motorsport or diverse styles, instead paying much more attention to detail. Great little touches like the “Clou de Paris” pyramidal texturing on the tips of the pushers, the movement’s rotor etched out to look like the steering wheel of a vintage race car (and finished with guilloché patterning), the sculpted deployant clasp on the thick leather strap — all of these can be found not just on this watch, but across the whole Raidillon range, and it shows that the brand has paid attention to more than just the dials.

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Inside the Timeless 170 — as well as every other chronograph from Raidillon — beats a Valjoux 7750. It may not be as unique as Raidillon’s design, but as a 43-year-old movement used in countless timepieces, it’s a smart, reliable choice. The drawback with this movement is the watch’s considerable thickness — the 7.9mm height of the 7750 results in a bulky case profile. But really, it’s the only sore spot to be found with the watch.

There is a number of reasons there seems to be such a strong association between cars and watches: the mechanical similarity between an engine and a movement, the relationship between racing and quick lap times, or in many cases these days, opportunistic co-branding. And that’s all fine, but Raidillon feels different. Give a Raidillon watch to someone who’s never even heard of Spa-Francorchamps, and they won’t see a racing watch — they’ll just see a striking timepiece.

Buy Now: $3,373

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