Offering the accuracy and durability of quartz without the need for routine battery replacements, a solar-powered movement is hard to beat when it comes to outright practicality. Given that RZE primarily produces value-driven tool watches, a solar quartz movement is ideally suited for the brand’s catalog, although up until this point in time, all of RZE’s watches were powered by either automatic or meca-quartz movements. However, joining the lineup for 2024 is the RZE Urbanist, which is a solar-powered quartz field with a hardened titanium case that has immediately claimed the top spot as the brand’s single most affordable model.

At the time of launch, the RZE Urbanist is offered in five different colorways, which include Metropolis (blue), Onyx (black), Lodge-Pole Pine (green), Prairie Tan (brown), and Medallion yellow, which is the version featured here. All five models have cases crafted from sandblasted grade 2 titanium, and while the Metropolis, Onyx, and Medallion Yellow variants feature RZE’s proprietary UltraHex coating (which brings their surface hardness up to 1,200Hv), the Lodge-Pole Pine model features a dark green Cerakote coating and is dedicated to Project Forest (a mission that captures carbon by rewilding Canada’s wilderness), while the Prairie Tan version has a khaki Cerakote finish and is dedicated to STARS (a helicopter air ambulance service in Western Canada). Additionally, 15% of the proceeds from the sales of these two special-edition Urbanist watches will be donated to the organizations they honor to help support their respective goals.

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In terms of their dimensions, the RZE Urbanist is the brand’s smallest model, and its case measures 36mm in diameter by 10mm thick, with lugs that are set 18mm apart and extend to create an overall lug-to-lug profile of 43.5mm. Once you factor in the cambered sapphire crystal (with anti-reflective treatment on its interior surface) that slightly sticks up above the rim of the fixed 12-sided bezel, the total height of the watch measures 11mm, and the weight of the RZE Urbanist comes in at just over an ounce at 31 grams (or 42 grams if you include its strap and springbars). The reverse side of the watch receives a solid screw-down caseback, while a signed crown with a black DLC finish sits between a set of guards at the 3 o’clock location. Additionally, just like the rest of RZE’s models, the Urbanist features a threaded crown, which screws down to the middle case to help guarantee the 100 meters of water resistance that is offered by the collection.

The dial of the RZE Urbanist features a grain-textured surface with a traditional field watch layout that consists of printed Arabic numerals with a secondary 24-hour track appearing along their inner perimeter. Unlike most solar-powered watches with transparent dials, the dial fitted to the Urbanist collection is completely solid. Instead, its solar panels are located around its perimeter, with the light passing through a clear polymer rehaut. The three centrally-mounted hands are finished black on the Medallion Yellow version to provide maximum contrast, and two different types of Swiss Super-LumiNova are used on the dial and hands of the Urbanist. The Arabic numeral indexes, along with the hour and minute hand are finished with blue-emission lume, while the tip of the seconds hand and the small luminous markings printed along the minute track glow green in the dark to help provide better at-a-glance legibility.

Powering the RZE Urbanist is the Miyota Cal. 2070 solar quartz movement, which is the smaller sized option between the two solar-powered calibers that the Japanese manufacturer sells to third-party brands. Due to the placement of their solar panels around the periphery of their displays, Miyota offers two different sizes of this design, although the two movements are identical in terms of their specifications and performance. While the Miyota 2070 is a simple three-handed movement with time-only functionality, it features a battery detector feature where the seconds hand will tick in two-second intervals when the power is low, along with a quick-start function, where the watch will begin running after just ten seconds of light exposure. Additionally, the Miyota 2070 is capable of powering itself with either natural or artificial light, and it can run for up to four months at a time in total darkness on a full charge.

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Fitted to the lugs of the RZE Urbanist is an 18mm black nylon NATO strap with chunky titanium hardware that has been given a black DLC finish. The material used for the strap strikes a nice balance of being substantial without feeling thick or bulky on the wrist, and it is definitely a solid step above what you get from a standard entry-level NATO. However, while I typically enjoy straps that have robust hardware, the keepers are almost too large relative to the fairly modest case size of the watch, although the titanium tang-style buckle is a nice touch that makes the entire strap feel a bit more elevated compared to most NATO-style straps. Due to the fairly large size of its hardware, I ultimately feel that the Urbanist would wear best on a simple pass-through strap, although with conventional 18mm lugs and standard springbars, a virtually endless list of third-party straps will also be compatible with the Urbanist’s case.

While some people may feel that the RZE Urbanist is slightly too small for their personal preferences, I find its compact profile to be ideal for this style of casual easy-wearing timepiece. Given that the Urbanist is designed to be an everyday field watch, it simply doesn’t need to have an oversized case to provide it with a massive depth rating or an enlarged dial to promote maximum legibility while underwater. Instead, the RZE Urbanist was created to be a simple and versatile daily timepiece that can easily integrate into a modern city-dwelling lifestyle, while still offering all of the durability and legibility to be a practical option for more strenuous activities and demanding environments.

With its hardened titanium case, solar-powered movement, and simple time-only display, the RZE Urbanist is the definition of a grab-and-go timekeeping companion. Additionally, with an official retail price of $259 USD for the trio of standard models or $279 USD for either of the two special-edition versions, the RZE Urbanist is the single most affordable model in the brand’s current lineup, and it makes a highly compelling alternative to the known-quantity offerings from big-name brands such as Citizen and Seiko. While the Urbanist may lack some of the refinement and premium features that are characteristic of RZE’s more expensive models, this is more-or-less to be expected from the brand’s most utilitarian no-frills timepiece, and the RZE Urbanist stands out as one of the least expensive ways to get your hands on a titanium watch with a solar-powered movement. For more information on the RZE Urbanist, please visit the brand’s website.

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