Review: The Direnzo DRZ04

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I’ve followed the progress of Direnzo for a few years now, watching from the sides as the brand has cultivated its own distinctive combination of smokey fumé colours applied to convex dials. It would be a stretch to say that a new model would be unmistakably ‘Direnzo’, but there’s a really strong continuity from the previous DRZ 02 and DRZ 03 Eclipse through to their latest offering – the DRZ 04 Mondial.

The Mondial is a pretty sweet take on a sporty three-hander and, as is becoming par for the course in 2021, that means another sports watch with an integrated bracelet. Unlike many such watches which take heavy inspiration from the sharp case lines and lug transition of the Royal Oak, this offering from Direnzo is altogether softer. Paired with a few interesting dial colours and finishes, the result is refreshing. Today I’m taking a look of two of the colourways – crisp white and vibrant blue.

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$645

Review: The Direnzo DRZ04

Case
Stainless steel with hardened coating
Movement
Sellta SW200-1 Elaboré
Dial
White, Blue, Green, Grey or Meteorite
Lume
BGW9 SuperLuminova
Lens
Sapphire with AR coating
Strap
Integrated Bracelet
Water Resistance
100M
Dimensions
40 x 48mm
Thickness
11.9mm
Lug Width
mm
Crown
Screw Down
Warranty
2 Years
Price
$645

Case

Upon seeing the first teasers of the Mondial on Direnzo’s Instragram account, my focus is drawn almost entirely to the dish-like dial – especially when presented in brilliant white. However, in hand the soft and subtle case has my attention to a similar extent, and in my experience the appreciation of a well-proportioned and well-finished often case outlasts any initial obsession with a dial. Thankfully I think the Direnzo hits both notes.

The case is nicely sized at 40mm in diameter and feels a little tamer than many integrated bracelet watches can, which is in part due to two aspects which soften the appearance. First is the roundedness of the contour between the planes of the case and the lugs, and second is the prominence of polished areas.

Whereas many integrated bracelet sport watches take the approach of making the most of the angles and display a crisp edge between the lugs and the case top, the Mondial sets a softer tone with a slightly more gradual transition. The shape and style of the lugs is more reminiscent of the Tudor North Flag than the AP Royal Oak. This roundedness also echoes the curvature of the dial.

Most of the stainless steel case is finished with very fine vertical brushing with the exception of the slim chamfer running atop the length of the case each side (also replicated across the case back below), and a relatively large polished outer circumference to the fixed bezel that rises above. The combination of brushed and polished finished also runs through to the integrated bracelet. Outer links are brushed, but each of the center links give a fairly large area of polished surface. I would normally be quite hesitant about how such a finish might hold up with regular daily wear, but the case and bracelet of the Modial are both treated with a scratch resistant coating. I can’t report on exactly how the case finish will hold up over time, but the hardness of 800 HV should see a substantial benefit over untreated 316L stainless steel.

Dial

Thinking back to my first impressions of the convex dial, my question would be why don’t we see this more often? This execution creates a more seamless experience than a flat dial and an angled chapter ring (and also removes any potential alignment issues – looking at you, Seiko!), and gives a really engaging sense of depth within the dial. Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the notes from Sergio Direnzo that the dial manufacture requires a CNC modelling process.

The white dial, which happens to be my favourite of the lot, has a matte finish and an entire absence of any colour. The double minute track (on the chapter ring as well as inside the hour indices) is marked out in black, as are all dial text and the framing of the date window, hands and applied indices. All indices and all three hands are filled with BGW9 SuperLuminova which appears near white in the light.

As well as being a more vivid colour, the blue variant here also has a more interesting finish – a sunburst fumé effect, going from teal in the center of the dial to a deep blue at the edges of the bowl. The date wheel is colour matched on all variants, with the exception of the limited meteorite dial which has a contrasting red date wheel and dial markings.

The handset shape is slightly unusual, and may be off-putting to some, but the design is an evolution of those seen in Derenzo’s earlier watches and I’m happy to see a brand committed to forging its identity through continuity in this way.

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Movement

Direnzo are based in Switzerland and their watches are Swiss made. The Swiss movement chosen for the Mondial is the Sellita SW200-1 in Elaboré grade, an automatic caliber that features 38 hours of power reserve, hacking, hand-winding, date and a frequency of 28,800 bph. I haven’t assessed the accuracy of either of the two watches shown here with any great diligence, but during the week or so that both were running and each being wound or regularly occupying a spot on my wrist, neither one deviated greatly from the other, and the listed specs for this movement suggest accuracy between -7 and +20 seconds per day.

The Sellita is a near-clone of the well-known ETA 2824-2, but far more readily accessible for those brands outside of the Swatch Group umbrella. There is little in the way of customisation other than Côtes de Genève and ‘DIRENZO GENEVE’ engraved on the rotor, and a red Direnzo logo applied to the crystal.

Wearability

When the ability to switch out a bracelet or strap is hampered, as is the case with the integrated bracelet here, the quality and suitability of the chosen strap are paramount, and thankfully the Mondial delivers. The large polished center links may take some growing used to, but the quality is comfort are clear from the outset. Starting out at 24mm where it meets the lugs and tapering down to 18mm at the clasp, the bracelet gives great articulation and a solid construction throughout.

Included in the final package, but not yet present in the prototype bundle I’m looking at here, will be a folding clasp with micro-adjustment holes and the correct endlinks to replace the current butterfly clasp. For such an elegant bracelet I think the butterfly clasp shown in the photos here is a perfect match and I’ve been lucky enough to get a good fit from it, but I do appreciate that the micro-adjustments on a folding clasp give a little more fine tuning.

On the wrist, the thinness of the midcase becomes apparent. At almost 12mm tall, the watch doesn’t exactly scream “thin” on paper, but the polished chamfers and raised bezel leave a svelte midcase which is flat for its whole length, save for a slight downturn right at the tips.

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Conclusions

Integrated bracelet sport watches are certainly the flavour of the month, and perhaps that level of competition is a bad thing for the Direnzo DRZ 04 Mondial. I find it hard to fault many aspects of the watch itself, although I’m aware that several design choices align very closely with my own personal preferences. The design of the dial—particularly the shape—may not be to everyone’s taste, but the execution is excellent. The same can be said for the case which complements the dial so well. The ratio of polished to brushed areas on the bracelet is one thing that I feel could have been reined in a little, but the taper and articulation of the links lead it to wear very comfortably on my wrist.

It’s easy to dismiss this as yet another integrated bracelet sports watch, but that would be unfair. This latest offering from Direnzo has enough quality in both the design and execution to break free from that label and stand on its own merits. Presale for the Direnzo DRZ04 Mondial begins on 20 March, with prices starting from 599 CHF. 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.
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