In the last few years, we have seen a proliferation of microbrands within the horological scene. Depancel, a French-based brand, is one of such newcomers.
We have previously covered the release of the new Serie-A Stradale, and we were recently offered a loaner to experience the watch and understand it better. Here are our thoughts on this timepiece, after it had spent some time on our wrists.
Review: Depancel Serie-A Stradale
The new Depancel Serie-A Stradale retails for EUR 395, and is available on the brand’s website. The watch is offered with a lifetime warranty.
When we first saw the press article, we had high hopes for the watch. Instead of the usual vintage-inspired watches, Depancel had gone a step further by subtly tweaking certain bits and injecting some vibrancy into its timepieces.
The watch did live up to its expectations, when we first handled the Serie-A Stradale. Despite its modest price point, the watch felt well-made throughout – from the case to the strap. This does not feel like some run-off-the-mill timepiece, unlike many watches from other microbrands. It seems like we were not catfished after all.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The Serie-A Stradale is fitted with a modestly sized 39mm stainless steel case. The small size is fitting of its neo-vintage theme, which is also complemented with the watch’s thin bezel and long lugs.
The dial is perhaps the highlight of the watch. Our loaner was the variant with the vibrant sunburst green dial, which is incidentally our favourite amongst the three options. It has a gradient pattern, and frankly, the dial looks superb under natural lights. Accordingly, we were told that the effect recreates the patina of classic bodywork.
The theme of a classic timepiece is further accentuated by the design of the dial. The watch features a bi-compax subdial layout, which is reminiscent of the classic chronographs in the mid-21st century. In addition, the watch also features a tachymeter and telemeter, in which the latter is yellow – together the striking centre chronograph hands.
Visually, there is a lot to like about the timepiece. From the sunburst gradient dial to the restrained use of bright colours on certain bits of the watch, we have unknowingly found ourselves stealing quick glances at the watch from time to time. There is certainly something charming about these classic designs, but Depancel’s execution of the Serie-A Stradale is worthy of a mention as well.
Movement: Seiko VK64
Powering the Depancel Serie-A Stradale is the Seiko VK64. This movement combines a quartz movement with an automatic chronograph module, and it is also commonly known as a “meca-quartz” chronograph.
As shared previously, the hybrid movement combines the precision of a quartz movement, with the beauty of traditional watchmaking in the form of an automatic chronograph module. This is most notable when the chronograph is activated, as the centre chronograph hand will move in a sweeping motion – unlike the ticking motion that is typically associated with a quartz timepiece. In fact, during our time with the watch, we have to constantly remind ourselves that this is a quartz timepiece, and not a pure mechanical watch. There is definitely some form of practicality when it comes to such hybrid or meca-quartz movements.
The Depancel Serie-A Stradale is priced at a modest €395 (approximately S$560), and it is offered with a lifetime warranty. The watch is fitted with a matching micro-perforated calfskin leather strap, which we thought was rather supple and felt akin to a high-quality product. On this same note, there is also a small French flag that was sewn on the strap, and we do appreciate such subtle touches.
Notably, there are a few timepieces that are considered as potential competitors to this timepiece.
First, we have the Mechaquartz collection from the ever-popular Furlan Marri (picture above courtesy of Furlan Marri). The 38mm watch, interestingly, also features the same Seiko VK64 mecha-quartz movement. The design of the Furlan Marri reminds us of the old-school chronographs of the yesteryear, with a very classic and restrained look. It is priced at CHF 555 (approximately S$790).
The other alternative is the up-and-coming microbrand with an equally strong offering: Baltic Bicompax 002 (picture courtesy of Baltic). The 38mm Baltic offers something different here; it is fitted with a manual-winding Seagull ST1901 movement. This is more for the purists who want a mechanical chronograph timepiece at a modest price point. The watch retails at €540 (approximately S$760).
We are pleasantly surprised with the Depancel, and that is coming from watch enthusiasts who have been exposed to some of the most stunning timepieces that the world has ever seen. This is certainly high praise for the Serie-A Stradale.
While many purists might balk at the idea of a quartz watch, there are certainly merits to such watches. It is no doubt more practical in terms of power reserve, and in most instances, more accurate as well. The fact that this is a meca-quartz – a hybrid in a way – might be a saving grace for some. This is exactly the kind of watch that you will put on your wrist occasionally, but you can be assured that most of the time when you pick it up, it will tick reliably without any qualms – even after a prolonged period of not wearing it (except if the watch has been cast aside for a few years, resulting in the battery being drained out completely). That is the beauty of a quartz watch.