Before you make your judgement about Studio Underd0g’s new watches in the 02SERIES Field collection, there are a few things to know. Across the series, it’s more sedate than the in-your-face Studio Underd0g chronographs, with just one wild colorway and three far more traditional ones. It’s got a much nicer movement — Swiss, not Chinese. And it’s got a couple of tricks up its sleeve that see it trading its predecessor’s quirk for charm. The Studio Underd0g 02Series Field watches are a shift for the brand, but in many ways still deliver on the promise of fun that made its debut so popular, albeit in a less overt way.
I want to move past the case pretty quickly, because it’s not the main attraction and it’s pretty straightforward. Just like the brand’s chronographs, the 02SERIES Field watches wear incredibly well thanks to easy dimensions: 37mm diameter, 12mm thick, and 46mm lug-to-lug with a gentle curve. The leather straps are soft, pliable, and comfortable and go well with their respective models; changes are a cinch with quick-release bars and drilled lugs (the belt-and-suspenders of watch design). The watches will also come with a single-pass strap that wasn’t on hand when I tried them out.
On my 7-inch wrist, I found them ideally sized for their style. For finishing, the watches get a brushed midcase and a polished bezel, with a big domed sapphire crystal. There’s 100m of water resistance and the pull-out crown has the brand’s logo on it and is perfectly sized, easy to grip and operate but not so large as to stand out too much.
When I was chatting to Richard Benc, the brand’s founder, about the 02SERIES, I remarked how I thought that unlike the original model, these watches had to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Particularly, it’s the soft lighting of most promotional photography that really doesn’t show the dial off. Harsher light hits it to show off the layers. That’s right: layers. If the photos haven’t made it clear, this isn’t your ordinary field watch. First, it doesn’t have the 24-hour track you’re used to. It does offer a railroad chapter ring and highly legible numerals, so should you want to meander through a field, you’d be all set. What the dial does have is a sapphire disc, raised above the dial proper by the screws at 3 and 9. Benc made a stylistic choice to keep those screws visible and I think it provides a tiny peek behind the curtain of the watch, giving away the disc before it reveals itself in the light.
And it does reveal itself in the light. All of the dial printing is done upon the sapphire disc, not the dial beneath. The result is an added layer of depth that shows itself fully in bright light when the printing casts shadows upon the lower dial. It’s certainly a bit fun to roll your wrist around and see the shadows shift.
That lower dial has its own appeal, though. Three of the four models have fully lumed dial, with the Pink Lem0nade model getting a proprietary yellow-to-pink lume gradient. In the dark, the shift is subtle if not imperceptible. The other dials have their own solid colors, with lume to match. I will say that in the cases of fully lumed dials, I think luming the hands is a silly and unhelpful exercise. The hands on such watches should be solid to allow for the best legibility possible; the contrast of solid hands against a lumed dial obviates the need for lumed hands.
I want to remark on the black Midnight dial. While I did see it in person, I didn’t bother snagging it to photograph, because in my opinion it simply doesn’t deliver like the other models do. The white printing above the black background means that you don’t get the shadow play and the lack of fully lumed dial misses out on a big part of the excitement of the 02SERIES. As such, what you’re getting is a much more run-of-the-mill watch. I’d go with one of the others.
Richard Benc took to Instagram to explain the presence of a jellyfish on the caseback. After all, the watch isn’t called The Jellyfish, it’s not a dive watch, and it can’t sting you. His rationale? The jellyfish is a “semantic reference” to both the dial’s luminescence and translucency. That’s all good and well, but I’m ok with it just being a funky caseback design. Under the caseback is movement that’s quite the jump from the chronograph. Where the chrono used a handwound Chinese Seagull chronograph movement that’s very popular with affordable brands, the new 02SERIES is powered by the Swiss Sellita SW210-1, with a 42-hour power reserve at 28,800 vph. It’s still manual wind, but on the brand’s end, it should result in a lower rejection rate, while on the owner’s side, it should provide better accuracy, reliability, and longevity.
If I were to get one of these, I’d go with the Full Mo0n model seen here. The Pink Lem0nade, while zany and impressive, is a bit gimmicky for me, and the Steffany Blue (har har har) is a bit close to the Tiffany trend (intentionally so, but still). The creamier Full Mo0n dial evokes a bit of a vintage feeling without any of the fauxtina that many watches rely upon, and I feel it would have more staying power in most collections given it’s the most restrained of the collection (aside from the black Midnight dial, of course).
There will undoubtedly be groaning and raised eyebrows about a watch that seems simpler than the chronograph and therefore, to many, seems like it should be cheaper. But I hope, dear reader, that you know better than that. That you know that’s not how costs and pricing and watches work. Creating a proprietary lume application, a unique dial construction, and upgrading a movement all add to costs, and while the chronographs may have had big silly colors, the 02SERIES Field models are more complex watches, even if they aren’t too loud about it. The Studio Underd0g 02SERIES is priced at $900 USD and will be made available during an initial 9-hour launch window today, November 1, from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM PDT (2:00 PM to 11:00 PM GMT); every order placed during the launch window will be guaranteed a watch, with the first 500 orders delivered by December 25. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.