What We Know
Big news out of Biel, Switzerland today as NORQAIN announced their new Wild ONE (cue the Sia) line. While the release of four new rugged and colorful sport watches – including one Limited Edition collaboration with Dean Schneider – would be exciting enough, the real headline is the introduction of the brand-new material found in said line. NORTEQ is a proprietary material that, according to the press release, is six times lighter than steel and three-and-a-half times lighter than Titanium (cue the Sia!).
The material and subsequent Wild ONE line are the brainchildren of new NORQAIN advisor to the board Jean-Claude Biver (cue the Sia! Just kidding, but can you imagine?) and the result of a collaboration with BIWI, a Swiss company known largely for rubber straps but with a background in watch parts and other composite materials. Not only is NORTEQ light and strong but it is also able to break out of the black-carbon box with a variety of composite colors. The new line includes two black dial options (a black dial and khaki strap watch and the limited Hakuna Mikapa watch with a “lion fur” dial) both with a black case, along with a blue dial option with black case, and gray dial with a burgundy case. The case of each watch has separate front and back parts made from NORTEQ with a rubber shock absorber and titanium container housing the movement for maximum protection.
Inside each Wild ONE watch is the three-hand “NN20/1 Manufacture Calibre” produced in collaboration with Kenissi. With a respectable 70-hour power reserve and 4Hz frequency, it is a reliable automatic movement made even more so by the shock-absorbing case. There are moments of delight to be found in the details, the dials are “three-level laser cut” with either Mandala or Lion Fur patterns adding depth and texture to the watch. Weighing only 84 grams, the Wild ONE line is designed to be put through its paces. With prices ranging from $5,290 for the blue and black dial options up to $5,690 for the limited-to-200 gray and burgundy joint, one gets both cutting-edge technology and the freedom to knock it around a bit in a colorful (if you want it) package.
What We Think
While I certainly do not live the sort of life that requires a watch that can withstand a 5000 g laboratory test it’s nice to know that somebody out there is thinking of the folkswho do. NORQAIN gets a fair bit of flack for its medicinal-sounding name but the commitment to innovation it has shown in this line is deserving of respect. Light, tough, and not hideously ugly it has found a section of the market that could use a little pizzazz, with the laser-cut dials adding visual interest to the otherwise utilitarian-looking case. The higher-end touches like the rose-gold plated skeletonized indices on the gray dial option make it feel like the G-Shock’s cousin who went to boarding school.
The Hakuna Mipaka LE, designed in collaboration with NORQAIN ambassador and wildlife sanctuary founder Dean Schneider, has an interesting philanthropic bent with 10 percent of the earnings donated to the Hakuna Mipaka Oasis. So it’s a shame that this is the busiest of the watches, with a “lion fur” pattern on both the dial (sort of successful) and the black-vegan rubber strap (less successful), and a 20-ish word statement engraved on the back, potentially narrowing the appeal.
There’s a lot to respect about the Wild ONE line – the technical innovation, the charitable aspects, the collaborative partners – and it is certainly an interesting start for the brand’s relationship with Biver. I think the watch could benefit from a little less stuff. Scale back the pattern or lose some of the dial text and you’ve got a watch that is still interesting but a little more refined. It is hard to get a true sense of this watch from the pictures when what is most interesting about it, its lightness, has to be experienced in person. I look forward to seeing how else NORQAIN will apply NORTEQ and what else they may have up their sleeve in the coming year.
Model: Wilde ONE
Case Material: NORTEQ carbon fibre
Dial Color: Gray, blue, or black with “mandala-like” pattern, and black with “lion-fur” pattern on the LE
Indexes: Rhodium-plated indexes on all but the gray option, which comes with rose-gold indexes
Lume: Hands and markers
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Mesh rubber straps for gray, black, and blue dial models, “lion fur” vegan rubber strap on Hakuna Mipaka LE
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Chronometer Certified: Yes
Additional Details: Bridge text reads “Adventure – Freedom – Independence.”
Pricing & Availability
Price: $5,290 for blue and black dial, $5,690 for gray dial, $5,590 for Hakuna Mipaka option
Limited Edition: Gray dial limited to 200 pieces, Hakuna Mipaka limited to 500