Hands-On: Depancel Serie-A Allure — A Limited-Edition Chronograph Co-Created With Enthusiasts
What can you expect from a former CERN engineer, an enthusiastic community, and respectable French watchmaking? A microbrand called Depancel that’s all about automobile-inspired watches created with poll results from its following. Each new Depancel collection is an opportunity for its community to actively participate in the design of a watch and the development of the brand. The latest “co-creation” is the French company’s first automatic chronograph, the Serie-A Allure, in a limited edition of 500 numbered pieces.
Depancel was founded in 2018 by Clément Meynier, a serial entrepreneur who was a CERN fellow involved in materials and mechanical projects. While working in Geneva, Meynier came to understand that the beauty of mechanics straddled automobiles and watches. Meynier, therefore, set out to build a brand to embed automotive design codes into watches.
To ensure that this was the right path to follow, Meynier did what any popular TV pilot would do — ask the audience. This approach has proven so effective that it has since formed the baseline for the brand’s design process. Exactly two years ago, Rob introduced us to one of the sell-out projects from the young brand in this article.
A co-created chronograph
Depancel has come a long way to finally bring a chronograph to the collection. The brand considers this an indispensable timepiece in its lineup due to its “nexus to motoring”. The best way to get it right was, again, to ask its Depancel’s followers how they would envisage the perfect chronograph for themselves in the present day. In early 2021, Depancel sent out a questionnaire about this flagship project for 2022. More than 10,000 people responded with their preferences on the style, design, and technical features.
“A chronograph is an essential tool for any car enthusiast, whether they drive as a profession or for pleasure. With the Serie-A Allure, we wanted to symbolize that passion for beautiful mechanics, a symbol that could be worn on the wrist every day.” ~ Clément Meynier
The production of the Serie-A Allure
The watch that Depancel sent us for review was a pre-production press sample. It contained a nicely decorated La Joux-Perret L100 movement with a blued column wheel and a 60-hour power reserve. As per the brand’s website and press materials, however, the watch will house the Swiss automatic ETA 7753. According to Depancel, “Indeed, we first prototyped the watch with a La Joux-Perret movement, but we were then forced to switch to an ETA 7753 caliber because of supply issues with La Joux-Perret.” There’s no doubt that the 7753 is a reliable movement and mainstay of the industry. It would have been nice, though, to see the higher-grade caliber from La Joux-Perret. It’s a shame that the manufacturer could not provide a more steady stream of these movements.
Despite Swatch Group’s resistance to supply movements to outside brands, however, Depancel was able to source 500 cam-operated ETA 7753 chronograph movements (hence the 500-piece limited edition). It runs at a frequency of 28,800 (4Hz) and has a 48-hour power reserve instead of the “60 Hours” denoted on the dial of the model that we received. In this press shot, the movement looks fairly undecorated except for a custom rotor with a honeycomb motif and the Depancel logo.
Automotive design cues
What doesn’t change between the model that we received and the one in the press materials is the dual-register layout. This forgoes the typical hour counter at 6 o’clock and relocates the date to that position instead. The dial also features a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a running seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock. Several contrasting finishes play off one another. In the central circular section is a honeycomb design motif, inspired by a radiator grille. Under the hour markers is a section ring in a brushed finish. The pump-style chronograph pushers draw inspiration from engine pistons, while the glossy ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale in km/h is a nod to a car’s dashboard. A box sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating tops it all off.
The wrist experience
The one thing you will immediately notice when you pick up the watch is the heft. The Serie-A Allure measures 43mm in diameter and 15mm in height. The thickness is inevitable given the chronograph movement inside. The Depancel designers were conscious of applying polished bevels to the case to reduce bulkiness. The lugs also curve down to wrap around the wrist, which enhances wearability. Naturally, all this 316L stainless steel armor makes for a weighty final package. It sits well and looks good on the wrist nonetheless. The steel case is mostly satin-finished, while the H-link bracelet with a folding clasp features alternating brushed and polished finishes. But you can always swap it out for an embossed leather perforated racing strap with a pin buckle.
A few things about the watch are confusing when referencing the brand’s own spec sheet. One of the most puzzling things is the “Swiss Made” mark on the front and back of the Serie-A Allure given that Depancel is rooted in French watchmaking. The company says its watchmakers come from the Franche-Comté region, which is a famous watchmaking area in France on the other side of the Jura across the Swiss border. Pequignet, Lip, and Dodane are all based there.
If you like what you see, though, and feel ready to support the brand’s “pre-order” sales model, you can do so for €1,595 for this watch on a leather strap. If you want the bracelet in addition to the strap, the pre-order price is €1,695. The brand does not specify when the pre-order period will end but estimates delivery by December 15th, 2022. Eventually, the regular “retail price” will rise to €1,895 for the leather-strap model and €100 more for the additional bracelet. The brand also says, though, that it sells on pre-order only, with “no inventory and no unsold items”. So, when exactly the price will go up is unclear.
That said, it is not hard to see that the Depancel Serie-A Allure chronograph is an attractive watch with a lot going on and a lot to offer. The brand aims to give people what they want and provide the best possible price-to-quality ratio. Depancel is certainly putting the money where its mouth is by offering a lifetime guarantee for all its watches. Kudos to the brand for that.
For more information on the brand and its collection, or to take part in its upcoming co-creations, visit the Depancel website.