This summer, we covered the Independence 20 Limited Edition from Swiss marque Norqain. An otherwise innocuous, chronometer-certified three-hander, the Independence 20 LE was notable for its movement sourced from Kenissi, Tudor's movement manufacturing facility (also part-owned by Chanel).
The latest release from Norqain is no less notable: it's a GMT called the Freedom 60, and, much like Rolex's GMT Master II (or perhaps more relevantly, the Tudor Black Bay GMT), it features an independently adjustable hour hand. Why is this exciting? Well, most affordable GMT watches these days are based on ETA or Sellita movements with independently adjustable GMT hands. With this functionality, it's a cinch to jump the second time zone: Say you're in NYC and your colleague is traveling throughout Europe. On Monday he's in London (5 hours ahead of NYC), and on Wednesday, he travels to Tel Aviv (7 hours ahead of NYC). You can easily move the GMT hand ahead two hours to keep track of your friend's own local time without messing with the local timekeeping (NYC time) on your watch.
However, if you yourself are the one traveling, an independently adjustable hour hand is often preferred: This way, when you yourself touch down in London from NYC, you can easily "jump" the local hour hand ahead five hours — and the date will update with it, and the GMT hand will remain unaffected. Now you're keeping local London time, and monitoring whatever second time zone you had previously set with the GMT hand.
The problem with that these movements — first pioneered by Rolex with the GMT Master in the 1950s — is that they're expensive. For many years, there weren't many options for local jumping hour GMTs beyond watches that utilized in-house movements from big brands, meaning, basically, that you had to pay Rolex-type (and later, Tudor-type) money to get into the game. However, with Kinessi's movements proliferating somewhat now, you can actually get in on the action for under $4,000 from a non-Rolex brand (or for much less, if you look to something like Mido's Ocean Star 60 GMT, which may be starting the inexpensive local jumping hour GMT revolution with a new movement from ETA).
The Norquain Freedom 60 uses a Kinessi movement called the calibre NN20/2 — automatic and chronometer-certified, it features a 70-hour power reserve and the coveted local jumping hour feature. This is housed within a 40mm stainless steel case, 14.5mm deep, with 100m of water resistance and topped with an anti-reflective, scratch-proof box-type sapphire crystal. The movement is visible via a sapphire case back.
As for the dial, well, it's pretty handsome: black, with applied polished indices and an inner 24-hour ring, it uses "old radium" Super-LumiNova and pencil style hands. There's no rotatable bezel on the watch, so you have to keep track of your second time zone using the inner ring, but this makes for a somewhat cleaner look than that of the GMT Master.
The Norquain Freedom 60 is available on one of five leather straps for $3,590 or on a steel bracelet for $3,860 (for comparison, Tudor's Black Bay GMT, which also uses a Kinessi-built movement, begins at $3,725 on a leather strap or $4,050 on a bracelet). This obviously isn't an enormous savings over Tudor's own offering, but it is a savings, and more excitingly, it may signal a proliferation of high-end, manufacture calibers into the larger market, meaning more diversity and competitive pricing for the consumer.