Hands-On With All-New RZE Aspirare Dive Watch
Wonderful things happen at watch shows — things that let us appreciate a watch brand rather than just a solitary piece. Last September, I saw a whole table of watches from Singaporean brand RZE, nestled between a couple of other microbrands trying to forge their pathways to success. With field watches, dive watches, and pilot’s watches all bearing the same branding on one table, it struck me just how successful RZE has become in constructing and sticking to its carefully crafted design language. Furthermore, with such direct competitors only yards away, the relative value of a brand is laid bare.
With all branding removed, I might be unable to pick an RZE dial out of a line-up, but the case lines and angles are becoming familiar and welcoming. The watch I’m looking at today follows that blueprint. The all-new Aspirare is RZE’s largest and toughest watch to date, ready to take on any challenge. Our previous review of the RZE Endeavour isn’t strictly required reading, but I can’t help but make some direct comparisons with that watch — so feel free to keep that one open in another browser tab as we continue.
Even more titanium from RZE
Let me start with the case. That’s where I have always felt RZE excels. If you are familiar with the brand’s previous dive watches (such as the aforementioned Endeavour), you’ll recall the sharp angles formed by the crown guards and the areas where the lugs and case meet. It’s an aggressive look, softened only a little by the titanium grays. The Aspirare case is upsized to 44mm in diameter but toned down slightly in boldness. The case is still multi-faceted towards its four lugs, but those angles are best described as “creases” rather than full-on corners. Additionally, no guards are flanking the crown on this model.
Positioning the crown at 4 o’clock may be a valid reason for doing away with the crown guards on the Aspirare. Still, I suspect that RZE intended for the slightly tamer case design to counter the largeness of the watch. That is understandable, but I wish this watch had the same edgy attitude as its predecessors. Blasted titanium is still the canvas of choice, though. This amplifies the angles present in the case and the scalloped bezel edges.
Diving into the dial
With the case giving off a substantial tool-watch vibe, finding a matte black dial and large white indices is no surprise. When also taking in the chapter ring, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with the Tudor Pelagos. But I won’t for now. Although lacking in color, the dial has a lot to appreciate. There’s a ton of lume spread throughout the large, applied indices and fat hands. It’s satisfying to see the minute hand, seconds hand, and bezel markings shining bright blue, with the hour hand and dial markings green. What’s surprising, though, is that the mishmash of differently sized trapezoids and a sizeable irregular hexagon somehow manage to work together on the dial. Even the date window isn’t a simple rectangle, but again, it works.
What a difference a bezel makes on the Aspirare
But wait, there’s more. Adding an extra level of customization, the bezel is swappable, with both options included in the package. Three screws hold the bezel assembly together, and in less than five minutes, I could switch the standard black-insert bezel out for a full-titanium one. Neither option brings any new colors into play, but the gray bezel feels even more monochromatic somehow. As much as I like how blasted titanium reacts to light, there are limits to how much of the material I want to see. Nevertheless, interchangeable bezels are something I would like to see more of, so I applaud RZE for its efforts here.
Inside the RZE Aspirare is the Miyota 9015. We commonly see this automatic movement in watches in this price bracket and for good reason. The 9015 has proven reliable, accurate, and efficient in self-winding. In stock form, this caliber isn’t the prettiest, not that you’ll have to worry about that here as it’s hidden beneath a very plain solid case back. The screw-down case back and crown help the Aspirare achieve a 300m water resistance rating.
Although I’ve suggested that Aspirare’s case features a toned-down version of RZE’s aggressive architecture, the same can’t be said of the titanium bracelet. Each short link is angled, giving a corrugated look as it wraps around the wrist, tapering from 22mm at the lugs to 20mm at the clasp. The comfort is excellent, though, thanks to the good articulation of the links. The clasp is a little bulky but features the brand’s new on-the-fly adjustment, another nice touch. To help keep all that titanium looking fresh, RZE uses its proprietary UltraHex coating. The case, bracelet, and clasp are all treated, which increases the surface hardness up to ~1200Hv.
The Aspirare on the wrist
I love how titanium looks, especially coupled with a blasted finish on a tool watch. Where it especially excels here is in making a substantial watch feel incredibly manageable. I’m no stranger to a larger watch; the dial, bezel, and case diameter pose no problems. However, the 53mm lug-to-lug length is pushing the limits of what I feel my 17.5cm (7″) wrist can handle. The general flatness of the case doesn’t help here either. Shorter lugs or steeper angles would give a better look on my wrist, but if you’ve been impressed by RZE’s other watches and have been holding out for a larger version, this watch is for you.
Only hours after taking receipt of this RZE Aspirare, I read Lex Stolk’s article about the Certina DS Action Diver. In that article, Lex asks, “Is it a Tudor Pelagos 39 killer?” My initial reaction to unboxing this new model from RZE was about how well it might stack up against the original full-size Pelagos. Well, there is no shortage of pretenders to that throne, and, in all honesty, it’s not fair of me to compare the two. However, when it comes to value, the Aspirare comes out swinging.
The RZE Aspirare is available for pre-order starting today, June 14th, starting at US$599. For more information, visit RZE’s website.