Raymond Weil is one of a new breed of watchmakers. Started in 1976 at a time when the world of watch design needed something new, this company gained early distinction by creating a look using elements of the past in compositions for the future. The company’s watches are often named for famous operas, a tradition carried on by the Don Giovanni Cosi Grande collection introduced in 2002.
It took a lot of nerve to start a watchmaking firm in 1976. The introduction of quartz movements was making the products of high-end watch designers seem old-fashioned, and there was serious doubt about the future course of the industry. Mr. Weil boldly launched his new company in the midst of this crisis and began placing quality quartz movements in timepieces of exceptional style and precision. Raymond Weil Watches survived the crisis and emerged as one of the titans of a new style, a distinction it still enjoys today.
Unlike some of the other new watchmakers, Raymond Weil did not create weird, sci-fi timepieces. Many of their watches have a wonderfully retro look harking back to the early decades of the 20th century. The Don Giovanni Cosi Grande line is a good example. These timepieces have rectangular dials with rounded, polished cases and bands of metal links or stitched leather. Early editions featured big Roman numerals, though later ones have experimented with other face designs. There is a suave, gentlemanly look to the Don Giovannis that would have fit perfectly in the nightclubs of 1920’s London or New York.
Some of the Don Giovanni watches are automatic chronographs. Here the Roman numerals are angled to match the perspective of the dial, and the date window is under the 12. The watch has both a central second hand and a small second dial in the three o’clock position. A 12-hour sub-dial is at six o’clock, and a 30-minute counter is at nine o’clock. The inner part of the face is a rectangle of lighter color than the outer part, giving the dial a “picture frame” appearance. The lance-head hands are wide and luminous, and each hour has a small luminous marker on the dial’s edge. The bands are almost as wide as the case, conveying a sense of substantiality. The classic face design, rectangular shape and polished case have the air of yesterday’s modernity, the way the future used to look.
Later editions introduced variations to the basic design. The Don Giovanni Cosi Grande Automatic Jumping Hour edition displays the time with two round dials, one showing the hour and a smaller sub-dial in the lower face showing minutes. The date window is still in the upper dial. The design is modified again in the Two Time Zones edition. Here one zone is shown in 12-hour time, and a 24-hour dial positioned above shows the other zone.
All the editions have the cool, retro appearance that makes this line unique. Don Giovanni Cosi Grande is a crowning achievement from one of watchmaking’s great designers.