I really like being excited by a watch, especially when I never saw it coming. The more time I spend studying timepieces, the more I realize I don’t know. There are so many brands today, there is always something new to discuss, disparage, or desire. The Raidillon Maya Chronograph, designed in Belgium, yet inspired by Mexico and made in Switzerland is one such piece that slapped an unforeseen smile across on my face.
The Raidillon Maya Chronograph has two major inspirations that have their roots in Mexico: the Mayan culture and the culture of motor racing. The Mayan influence can be seen on the charcoal chapter ring which is decorated between 1 and 10 o’clock with the Mayan symbols for the numbers 1-10. Conveniently, the numbering system stops when we get to 11 so that the customary “55” can take precedence. The significance of the 55 is twofold: this is the maximum number of race cars that are allowed to compete in some historic events, and it is also the number of watches that Raidillon produce of each model (omitting the sometimes unlucky number 13, as they do in motor racing as well). The prominent number 55 is a cool brand identifier that can be found on all of Raidillon’s surprisingly extensive range.
The Raidillon Maya Chronograph sets out its stall on first glance. It’s a bold watch, identified immediately by its unusual, and instantly palatable color scheme. The strange, orangey, mustard yellow (they call it bronze, but it isn’t really metallic) is not one we’re used to seeing in haute horlogerie, but it marries exceptionally well with the charcoal background of the watch face, and the rustic brown of the scaly Python strap. The snake theme has its origins in the Mayan legend of Kukulkan, the mythical feathered serpent, and the yellow/orange color is supposed to recall the needles of vintage car dashboards. The three differently sized sub-dials are also intended to evoke the display of an old-school dash. Whatever the source of these cool quirks, I think they look very handsome together.
It’s also a nice number for a limited series. Sure, the difference between 50 and 55 is much in a muchness, but it strikes a nice balance between an established run size and another brand quirk which may cause it to stick in the mind. That kind of marketing awareness appeals to me personally, as does the congruity between the subtle snakeskin dial pattern and the sumptuous serration of that python strap. I know that fancy straps, especially those made of natural materials are not for everyone, but I think the application of this leather when teamed with the snakeskin pattern and the sympathetic colorway of dark grey, stainless steel, and orange/yellow is just superb.
I checked out the rest of Raidillon’s products to see if this kind of sharp design is a theme and came away feeling that this watch is definitely a stand-out from a brand that has plenty of hits and a fair few misses. That said, what I love, plenty will hate and vice versa, so I can do nothing but applaud this brand for trying to be different and, in my opinion, carrying it off with aplomb.
I’ll be honest, a textured leather strap can sell me on a watch before I even get down to the nitty-gritty. I was a sucker for the Clerc Hydroscaph from the moment I got an eyeful of the rubberized alligator band, and similarly, I wanted to like the Raidillon Maya Chronograph from the second I saw its striking strap. As with the Clerc, further inspection of this watch did not leave me disappointed. This is a watch that will not win you over with its complexity, but the cleverness of its design has a shot at stealing many a heart.
The Raidillon Maya Chronograph features a Valjoux 7750 with a customized Raidillon rotor in the style of a steering wheel. This subtle, non-functional movement modification is a nice stylistic nod to the brand’s racing associations, and doesn’t go too far (unlike the recently reviewed Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Tour Auto Edition). The case is 42mm wide and features a screw-down crown stamped with the “55” motif. The case is water resistant to 100 meters and is held on your wrist by a natural python strap, hand-sewn in Belgium and fastened by a folding butterfly clasp engraved with the Raidillon logo.
For a price of €2,990 the Raidillon Maya Chronograph can be yours. It’s about what can be expected for a watch running off the Valjoux 7750, which is an industry stalwart and aficionado favorite for its tireless and reliable performance. So really, the analysis of this watch is all about the style, which is defined by a number of thoughtful and interesting details. raidillon-watches.com