September 11, 2020
by Ariel Adams
Undone, and brands like it, don’t get enough credit for one of the most challenging things they do. Is that making nice-looking watches for affordable prices? They do indeed do that, but that isn’t the thing I am talking about. What I am talking about is the creative ability to first understand and then synthesize a body of work into individual fashionable designs. We see that happening very clearly in the new Undone Aero watch collection and models before it, like the Urban Chronograph and the Basecamp.
For the Aero collection, Hong Kong-based Undone was inspired not just by the aviator’s watch but by the P.V.H Weems-style aviator watch. Longines produces the most direct “Weems-style” watches around, but his legacy to timekeeping was more than a look, and for many people was the introduction of the Seconds Setting Watch, which has an independently adjustable inner ring with a seconds scale on it. This system allows groups of people (like soldiers) to temporarily synchronize their mechanical watches to engage in group-based activities for which being not just on time but in complete synchronicity was important.
The Undone Aero incorporates the Weems seconds setting scale by offering a twist on the traditional rotating bezel. Here, the rotating bezel moves freely in both directions and has a 60-second scale on it. The bezel has a crown-like screw at 2 o’clock which can be used to tighten the bezel so that it does not move out of place. This allows the bezel to function like the Weems Second Setting system, first introduced nearly 100 years ago. This is also, arguably, the first aviation watch-inspired product that Undone has produced.
While the Aero is considered a brand new collection, it shares much in common with the Undone Basecamp watch platform (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here). The watches feature the same 40mm-wide middle case, caseback, and movements. The Aero includes the new bezel, bezel-locking system, dial, and hands. I think it works pretty well and feels like something new. The most controversial part of this platform is the Lexan crystal over the dial. This was a very clever move by Undone to offer something more modern that feels like acrylic crystals, but the bulbous crystal does tend to reflect some light and still isn’t as good as sapphire crystal. I happen to like the character that Lexan crystals give Undone sport watches, but it might be interesting to see what sapphire crystals look like on the Undone Aero and Basecamp models, as well.
For this initial launch, Undone renders the Aero in two forms, the Undone Aero Commando the Aero Scientific. These two approaches to rendering the classic aviator are nuanced because they comment on the great fact that military aviation watches are equally about fighting as they are about an appreciation of precision instruments. Thus, they can appeal to the scientist and the commando in us all. Both dials are nice to look at and focus greatly on proper proportions and quality materials.
One of the smartest things Undone accomplished with the Aero watches was creating contrast between the hands and the dials. The Aero Scientific takes the approach of a lighter-colored cream dial with a high-contrast blue-colored set of hands. The Aero Commando takes a different approach, here focusing on the finishing of the hour and minute hands. The dial itself is unquestionably “classic aviator” but a fashionable new amalgamation of design elements that has been shaped together to create something new. The cream-colored markers and luminant work very well with the slightly textured black dial. Undone further did the right thing by making the hour and minute hands themselves brushed versus polished. Brushed hands stand out so much better, whereas polished ones tend to be harder to read (and often cheap-looking).
The steel bezel on steel case look is one that I like a lot, and I think works well for the Aero Commando. Inside the watch is a Japanese Seiko Instrument NH35A automatic movement, which is nicely displayed via an exhibition caseback window. The 40mm-wide case is 15mm-thick, which means that while this is a modest-size watch, it doesn’t feel small. Undone continues to get praise when it comes to overall watch wearability and fashion.
Attached to the Undone Aero is a black 20mm-wide Cordura strap on quick-release spring bars. If you must go with a textile strap (indeed, they look cool), Cordura is one of the only ways you want to go as they last a lot longer than other types. That said, I find that fabric straps tend to be a bit on the stiffer side, so I wonder what the Undone Aero might look like on an aged-style black leather strap with perhaps some color-matching stitching. Undone has ever so slightly raised the prices of its watches, but not by much — and its products are still considered a very good value when compared to much of the competition. Price for the Undone Aero Commando or Aero Scientific watch is $365 USD each. Learn more or order at the UNDONE website here.