Review of the Maurice de Mauriac Diver L2 Bronze Deep Red Watch
One of the joys of attending Baselworld and other watch events is meeting the folks behind these little objects we like. During my first Baselworld, when I was part of a bigger team and blog, I met Daniel Dreifuss, the founder of Maurice de Mauriac. I did not know anything about his brand but I was soon to learn that it did not matter since Daniel was so friendly and welcoming that you are hard press not to spend time learning about his watches.
After meeting Daniel at every subsequent Baselworld and also at SIHH this year, I agreed to review one of his watches. And while I appreciate many of the watches coming from this small Zurich brand, it was the watch that Daniel was wearing in Geneva that caught my attention: the L2 Bronze Deep Red.
He promptly took it off his wrist, and strapped it on mine, and allowed me to use it until Baselworld. So this review is a long term (over two months) using the watch often and in many settings. Let’s explore what I liked, the quirks, and details of this watch along with my overall recommendation.
Maurice de Mauriac as a brand started in 1997 after Daniel Dreifuss (the banker) moved back to Zurich from New York after the late 90’s financial crisis. He wanted to create something that was out of his passion for people, for the love of colors, and with the goal of creating things in his home city of Zurich. The brand has since been a family affair with his two sons working by his side. Today Maurice de Mauriac is still a home-grown operation producing dozens of hand-assembled watches per week at a small atelier in Zurich.
While Maurice de Mauriac makes a variety of watches for aviation and field work, the one that most got my attention in the many years meeting Daniel at Baselworld was the L2 diver. Like many of their watches, it was designed in Switzerland and uses an ETA movement. However, what makes this model unique is the simplicity of the design.
L2 with Red Dial
What is special about this Fabian Schwaerzler-designed watch is the simplicity of the dial, almost devoid of anything not needed. The markers on the dial remain sparse and so are the ones on the unidirectional ceramic bezel. Only opting to show markers for the first quadrant, which might come handy if you used this watch to dive and needed to do a safety stop.
The Maurice de Mauriac L2 is a study in how simple a dive watch can be
The other aspect of the watch I loved immediately was the deep red color of the dial. After meeting Daniel again at Baselworld he indicated to me that the shade of red came from his friend Miguel Seabra who is Portuguese and was inspired by the red of the flag and jersey that Cristiano Ronaldo and his compatriots wear on the pitch. It’s a deep red bordering on wine but an intermediate wine color, not too rich and not too soft.
The last aspect of the watch that is immediately apparent is the lack of logos and superfluous markings. The back of the case has a simple engraving of a sea lion and that is the most complicated markings on the watch. The bronze case includes a helium-escape valve, which is overkill, but does not distract. The rotation of the bezel is firm but easy, and the crown is large enough to easily wind or to change the time. I like that the ETA-28.24-2 movement included has hacking seconds and quick date setting for the black date wheel that blends with the gradient dial.
Other L2 Models
Maurice de Mauriac makes different colors of the L2. No doubt the success of the model has encourage Daniel and company to produce the other versions. There is a blue, green, brown, and black. All have the same overall feel as the red with a deep gradient colored dial, including the same black ceramic simplified bezel and bronze case.
Depending on the color you have different strap options, from matching NATO (like the one I borrowed) to different leather options. During online purchase, the customer can decide the option that works for himself. All the L2 models come for the asking price of CHF 4,900.
The wearability of the L2 was average. My main complaint is that it was a bit top heavy. The 42 mm case sat well on my wrist (which is average at 19 cm) and the main issue was perhaps the NATO strap, which took some getting used to.
This was partly because this NATO design requires you to adjust it tight (it’s made from an elastic material) and getting the right fit took some trials and errors attempts. However, once you are used to it, it becomes easier and easier and is a great strap due to how flush the attachment is when strapped on.
Of course, a watch with a red dial means some limitations to how well it will fit different outfits. However, what I especially liked about this red watch was that the red is deep but subdued a bit as it is graded. It also works well with the black bezel and the bronze case.
It’s a great watch to wear casually and if, like me, you tend to have black outfits. It adds a pop of color that could be occasionally well needed and does not distract enormously to my overall style.
While I enjoyed my time wearing the L2, there are three important quirks I discovered and that I need to mention. None are deal breakers in the sense of preventing me from wearing or recommending this watch. And at least one could be seen as a welcome quick; so working from the most important to the least.
First, the crown of the L2 is large (as mentioned) and is screwed down and not protected, as it is in many dive watches. This means that it’s easy to grasp and turn. But maybe it was an issue with the exemplar I had but screwing and unscrewing of the crown could feel better.
It felt as if the finishing for the threads was not as perfect as it could. Now, I could always screw it back tight but I think in time this could be an area of concern, especially as the bronze starts to develop a patina or the watch is used in salty conditions and accumulate rust around the crown.
Second, was the top heaviness of the case (as mentioned before) and the fact that the NATO strap took some getting used to. This is not a big deal but I would recommend anyone buying this watch to perhaps choose or buy additional straps. The good things is a decent classic NATO strap costs less than $20 on eBay or a bit more from Maurice de Mauriac themselves. And there are always leather straps too.
Finally, the last quirk is actually one that Daniel has already addressed. This was my first criticism when I first strapped the watch on my wrist in Geneva in late January. The lettering for the logo and L2 are made from a tiny font. This of course has the consequence of making the branding secondary, but because the font is so small it makes the dial a squinting exercise to be able to decipher what is written. The new model Daniel showed me in Basel had a slightly larger font which you can appreciate in the photo.
Who is it for? What Activities?
Is the L2 designed to actually dive? I have no doubts it would survive an outing to the Florida Keys. However, like many modern dive watches I think this is a watch mainly for the beach and summer time with occasional splash into the ocean.
The lack of visibility on the bezel and markings on the dial, means that while still a dive watch, this is a watch for the dive enthusiast who wants to wear a watch with a design reduced to the essence of a dive watch. It’s almost a study in how simple a dive watch can be. So is it a desk diver? Enthusiastically yes.
In the price segment of under $5,000 there are a lot of dive watches. Some from large brands and countless from small micro brands. This range is popular because it is large enough for many varieties to be available and some really good ones too. But it’s low enough that most people wanting and able to afford a luxury watch won’t need to sacrifice too much.
Don’t get me wrong, $5,000 is a lot of money. No matter where you live in the world. But it’s also not quite in Rolex Submariner territory which I consider the bar for luxury sports watch and dive watches. Let’s explore what is available in this range. I picked three that I am familiar with, covering the entire range and one even going over a bit. I also limited my choices to bronze watches which reduced the options considerably.
Bell & Ross Bronze Diver
Bell & Ross (BR) makes uniquely styled watches. And last year, after introducing their first dive watch, using the same BR-03 case so associated with the brand, they introduced a limited bronze diver watch. Like the first diver watch that BR introduced it includes a unidirectional rotating bezel on the square case and is thicker than other BR-03 watches. The result is a well fitting watch on wrist if a bit large. At $3,990, the BR-03-92 Diver Bronze makes for a great entry-level bronze diver if you like the overall styling of the BR case. It is limited to 999 pieces.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze
Tudor has always been the baby-Rolex brand. Producing great watches but not quite as on par as the parent brand Rolex. Well since circa 2015 Tudor has been on a tear, producing watches that not only feature their new in-house movements and chronographs from a partnership with Breitling, but also novel styles and re-introduced models that are as desirable as a classic Submariner.
One such model is the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze diver. Using the case from their popular Black Bay Heritage line, Tudor created a bronze model that makes the watch even better match its name and fits perfectly the overall aesthetic of the era when it was first introduced.
The bronze is also special since it is made from a propriety alloy that will slowly acquire patina so as to avoid the sharp blemish you can experience with some bronze watches. Coming in at $4,050 this is squarely in the price range and should be considered.
Oris SixtyFive “Carl Brashear” LE Watches
First in considerations are the limited editions bronze watches from Oris. I reviewed mine here in late 2018. Coming in at almost 1/2 the price for the non-chronograph version, they are definitely a better value. However, the non-chronograph is sold out long ago. The chronograph version is not quite sold out everywhere so you might need to search for it. Coming in at $4,950 the chronograph version is a great deal if you can find one and assuming you like the SixtyFive unique styling.
The Maurice de Mauriac L2 bronze watch made for a good companion watch during the time I had it. As a sports dive watch, it has the correct dimensions, styling, and technology to meet the needs of actual diving or the more common desk usage. As an everyday watch, the optional flexible NATO strap it ships with make it a joy to wear and adjust as needed during the day — once you are used to it.
The bronze case did not vary much during the time I wore it. However, I am sure that as a daily beater or using it in the ocean or the pool should help develop the unique patina that you are promised with a bronze watch. The red dial is the star of the show and what makes this watch unique.
Besides the minor quirks putting on the strap, winding the crown, and the small logo lettering, I did not find any reasons why not recommending this watch. Perhaps the asking price of CHF 4,900 is the main point of contention. However, I tend not to dwell on pricing for watches anymore, so long as they are in the ballpark for the type of watch.
Surely Maurice de Mauriac could have priced this CHF 1,500 less and hit a better price point for a dive watch from a small independent. But who knows, with a high price this should make the L2 rarer and thus add value to whoever actually takes the plunge…
So for me the primary observation on this watch, as with any other watch, is to go for the one that matches your style and perhaps stirs an emotion in you. If you love the red dial and the bronze case; and the sparse design is to your liking then by all means this could be a watch that would give you years of joys and perfect outfit matches and also be usable in many life activities. mauricedemauriac.ch