Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds: Hands-On Review of the GPHG Award-Winner

Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds: Hands-On Review of the GPHG Award-Winner

Raymond Weil, founded in 1975 by its eponym and now owned and operated by the Bernheim family, is one of only a handful of independently owned Swiss watchmaking companies, alongside historic, prestigious maisons like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. The Geneva-based company, however, occupies a different niche than those two high-horology powerhouses, having firmly established itself as a purveyor of “affordable luxury”  — producing well-designed watches with wide appeal that nevertheless rarely gain attention in the upper echelons of horological connoisseurship. That all changed in 2023, however, when the sublimely refined design of the brand’s Millesime Small Seconds model took the coveted Challenge award in the year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie Genève (GPHG), the watch world’s equivalent of the Oscars. With its sober but meticulously embellished sector dial and slender case, the watch represents a throwback to a style of understatedly elegant dress watch that few seem to be making anymore. I had a chance to wear one for a couple weeks for a hands-on review. (To get Teddy's video take on the watch on our dedicated Reviews channel, click here.)

Case:

Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds - case, crown, lugs

The round stainless steel case of the Millesime (the term comes from the world of fine wine, and appropriately translates to “vintage”) will settle perfectly into many enthusiasts’ sweet spot, at 39mm in diameter, and its thickness of just under 11mm (10.9mm, to be super-precise) will ensure that it settles nicely under the dress shirt and blazer cuffs for which it is obviously intended. The flat bezel that frames the dial has a handsome vertical brushed finish, offering a subtle contrast with the polished sheen of its bevels. This brushed finish continues on the case middle, all the way to the sides of the curving, teardrop-shaped lugs, whose surfaces are polished. The crown is small and fluted, with a polished “RW” emblem in relief over a matte surface. Because of its size, the crown isn’t that easy to grasp and turn while the watch is on your wrist, especially for larger fingertips, so wind it before strapping it on.

Dial and Hands:

Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds - dial

The vintage-inspired sector dial, which was certainly the element of the Millesime Small Seconds that most caught the eye of the GPHG jury, lies beneath a box-shaped sapphire crystal, with non-reflective treatment on both sides, which rises smoothly above the bezel. In the center is a pair of nickel-plated, silver-toned sword hands, The inner sections of those hands are filled with bright-green-glowing Super-LumiNova, which in keeping with the watch’s old-school aesthetic is the only instance of luminous material on the watch’s face. The center section of the dial appears almost matte at first glance; under closer inspection, it reveals a satin-brushed finish. The hour track that surrounds the inner circle sports a smooth surface reminiscent of pearl, and the outer minutes ring (which is actually two rings, the outermost one dividing each minute increment into quarters) is delineated by a snailed motif that is scarcely visible except under a loupe but catches the light and shadows in subtle ways that add to the dial’s perceived depth. 

Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds - lume

There is also a recessed crosshair element in the dial’s center, which radiates outward from the axis of the hands, adding to the retro, sectored aesthetic. Below the center point, and directly above 6 o’clock, is the display that distinguishes the award-winning Small Seconds model (available with an anthracite dial, as well as in the silver-dial version I was sent for review; both models pictured below) from the even more minimalist three-handed models that launched alongside it: a subdial in a recessed circular frame that offers up its own array of tasteful details.

Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds - pair

In the center is a pointed baton hand, which glides around the subdial’s sectored outer tracks to indicate the running seconds. Here is where you’ll find the only Arabic numerals on the dial, printed in the same vintage-look, serif font as the word “Automatic” right below the hand’s center, which balances the larger, sans-serif, all-caps RAYMOND WEIL GENEVA” logo beneath the 12 o’clock position. Under a loupe, the subdial appears to bear the same finishing as the main dial’s center. If we want to get overly technical, the presence of the small-seconds display, and the corresponding lack of a central seconds hand, makes the small subdivisions on the main dial’s outermost ring somewhat superfluous, unless you’re squinting at the minute hand for a super-precise time reading, 

Movement:

Raymond Weil MIllesime Small Seconds - back

A clear sapphire pane in the watch’s caseback affords a view of the self-winding movement that Raymond Weil has dubbed Caliber RW 4251. It is based on the Sellita SW260-1, itself an offspring of the ubiquitous Sellita SW200, and features enhancements from Raymond Weil that add both value and aesthetic charm — chief among them the partially openworked oscillating weight, with the brand’s signature “W” and a radially brushed finish. Mounted on a ball bearing, this rotor swings in both directions to amass a 38-hour power reserve in the movement’s barrel — not quite weekend-proof, but fairly standard at this very respectable price point. You can also glimpse the golden balance wheel chugging along near the 12 o’clock position, achieving a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz), and anchored by one of the caliber’s 31 jewels.

Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds Caliber CU

Caliber RW 4251 is also equipped with Incabloc shock protection and a hacking seconds function, which allows you to instantly stop the running seconds by simply pulling out the crown, in order to synchronize them with an outside timing device. The architecture of the base Sellita movement also incorporates a 3 o’clock date display, which Raymond Weil has wisely chosen to dispense with in its modifications, as the window would almost certainly detract from the harmonious symmetry of the Small Seconds dial (and to a lesser extent with that of the three-hand version as well). 

Strap and Clasp:

Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds - wrist

The teardrop-shaped lugs fasten to the gray, genuine calf leather strap via tiny screws. The strap itself is smooth to the touch with just a hint of suede-like texture and a faint pebbling that you can see under a loupe. The stitching is tone-on-tone gray, with little brand identifiers at each end of the strap parts: an engraved “RAYMOND WEIL” on the bridge of the polished pin buckle on one, and a stitched “W” at the tapered end of the other, which also hosts the adjustment holes for the buckle's tongue — enough of them for the watch to fit nicely on a wide variety of wrist sizes. Comfort is also enhanced by the reverse side of the strap, which is softer and smoother than the top side. As a daily wearer, the Millesime Small Seconds is one of those watches that you could almost forget you’re wearing, only to be pleasantly reminded every time you tilt your wrist to check it; it’s a timepiece that announces its presence modestly but demands attention, and even admiration, once it’s noticed. And at a very budget-friendly MSRP of $1,895, it’s assuredly one of the most affordable GPHG winners you’re likely to find for your collection. 

(And yes, you can purchase the Raymond Weil Millesime Small Seconds in our online store.)

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