Hands-On: the Direnzo DRZ 02R Aerolite

Direnzo is a brand that I’m fortunate enough to have followed closely over the last few years, first taking a look at the DRZ03 ‘Eclipse’ and following that up with hands-on reviews of the DRZ 04 ‘Mondial’ and DRZ 05 ‘Solaris’. It has been fun to see the early stages of the evolution of the brand while it remains resolutely faithful to its design language. The next stage of this evolution is to revisit and rework an early, but important, model for the brand – the DRZ 02. That happens to be the release before I truly became aware of the brand, so isn’t a reference that I’ve had the pleasure of going hands-on with before.


While the DRZ 02R ‘Aerolite’ may be similar to its predecessor in case outline and dial layout, the ‘R’ in the model name stands for ‘Reduced’, which gives a hint to one significant change. It could equally stand for ‘Refined’ as Direnzo founder and designer Sergio Godoy continues to hone his design skills and pursue quality. Another major update is the presence of a stainless steel bracelet to complete the package. I couldn’t fit this in with the ‘R’ theme, but if you have a suggestion, drop it in the comments!


Hands-On: the Direnzo DRZ 02R Aerolite

Stainless steel
Sellita SW-200-1 Elaboré
Black, Purple, Gray, Blue, Burnt Orange
BGW9 SuperLuminova
Sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Steel bracelet
Water Resistance
100 meters
39mm x 44mmmm
Lug Width

There are a total of 12 variants to choose from at launch. Black, blue, and gray dials are joined by striking purple and burnt orange colorways, plus a special black and red variant in a PVD-coated case. Each of these six will be made available with or without a date display. Today, I’m looking at the two extremes: the relatively tame black dial, and the eye-catching purple.

A common feature on all of the Direnzo watches I have looked at is the dish-shaped dial. The chapter ring, in this case with minute/second markers, is a concave surface that stretches from the flat central dial up to the top of the inner part of the bezel where it meets the sapphire crystal. You’ll notice that additional depth comes from the sandwich dial, with a layer of SuperLuminova beneath the black or purple dial visible through the hour marker cut-outs. Additional lumed areas border the date window (where present) and connect hour markers on both sides of the dial.

Each variant of the DRZ 02R Aerolite gets the same familiar feeling handset, with tapering lumed areas sitting in polished steel frames, and a lume plot on the second hand that sits perfectly above both the date window and the two arcs in either half of the dial. Whereas the black dial is perfectly handsome, the purple variant with radial brushing is a whole different creature. Both of these options work well with the dial design and handset and create quite different feeling watches when considered as part of the whole package. Direnzo describes the design as “retro-futuristic”; to my mind,there’s a fairly clean-cut split between the futuristic dial and the retro styling of the case.

The case lines are interesting, to say the least. Looking directly at the watch, face on, there isn’t much to see in the way of definition or exuberance. The soft lines that run up the left and right flanks are bordered by a polished chamfer, but what remains is an expanse of brushed steel. Even as you pick the watch up to strap it to your wrist though, you know that’s only part of the story. In profile, the elliptical case sides—taking inspiration from vintage Bugatti automobiles—play well against the rather flatter top surface. Those case sides are also slightly concave, which makes wearing the watch a very tactile experience as well as an aesthetic one.

Fast becoming a trend among smaller brands is the presence of surface hardening treatments. In this case, the case and bracelet feature a scratch-resistant coating, which increases the hardness to 800 HV. I haven’t spent enough time with a scratch-resistant coated watch to know how well it should hold up over years of daily wear, but the two samples that I’ve been spending time with are yet to show any blemishes despite being passed around for review and shipped from country to country.

The display case back mirrors the form of the front, with vertically brushed stainless steel surrounding the view of the automatic movement and the red Direnzo logo. The movement in question is the Swiss-made Sellita SW200-1 in Elaboré grade, with incabloc shock protection. This automatic caliber gives 42 hours of power reserve and beats at 28,800 bph (or eight beats per second). I have observed very good timekeeping over the short period I have been wearing these examples, but this grade should typically see accuracy between +/-7 and +-/20 seconds per day.


As mentioned right at the start, a significant development from the original DRZ 02 model is the presence of a stainless steel bracelet, and more importantly, it’s a bracelet that enriches the overall design of the watch. At its widest, the bracelet measures almost 30mm across, tapering down to 16mm at the clasp. Each of the links is vertically brushed, save for a small polished central section in each. The gentle curves of the bracelet links echo the lines of the case, and the combination brings to mind “streamline modern” influences.

On my seven-inch wrist, this Direnzo model wears very well. It feels larger than the 39mm diameter might suggest, mostly due to the expanse of steel across the whole of the top surface. The watch is relatively thin at just under 11mm in height, but does wear flat. This isn’t a problem on my wrist though, thanks to the short 44mm lug-to-lug length and continuation of the watch through to the bracelet.

In terms of versatility, I got as far as removing the bracelet but didn’t find another strap that looks like it would be at home on the DRZ 02R. In part, that’s because of how successful the strong organic flow is between the bracelet and the case. But also, adding any 20mm strap to a case that is significantly wider throughout its form just looks wrong to my eye. Your opinion may be different, but a large part of the success of this design update is in pairing it with a suitable bracelet.

It would be difficult to summarize how I feel about the DRZ 02R Aerolite without an admission – the watch leaves me a little cold. However, I struggle to find fault with any individual part of the design, or even how it all fits and interacts together. The dial design and colorways are attractive and undeniably ‘Direnzo’. The case and bracelet are well thought out, and well made. The futuristic dial both complements and contrasts with the flowing case. It wears comfortably on my wrist and performs admirably. Perhaps my own reservations are in feeling the black dial a little too sedate, and the purple altogether too bold. Either way, the DRZ 02R looks to be another hit for Direnzo. Pre-orders are open now, with prices starting at CHF 700. Direnzo

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.