back to top

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Fortunately for me, I actually like swimming. That quality does not define everyone who has a passion for dive watches. Every chance I get, I like to do something in the water with a timepiece designed for that purpose. Recently, I got the chance to take a watch I designed — the Undone Aqua BLK + YLW — with me to one of the best swimming spots in the world: the Bahamas (more specifically, the Island of Nassau, where I traveled for the first time). I spent at least two hours a day (often more) in the water while in this popular travel destination. There, a dive watch is not just a luxury status item, it is a tool.

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

No one ever thinks about watch durability until they actually consider getting their timepiece wet. There is a moment of worry each time you put a fresh watch into the water for the first time. I have had watches fog up before – but never flood – so the worry is not without merit. Dive watches aren’t just about water resistance; they must also be really easy to read, durable, and — most importantly – comfortable. On the customized black and yellow NATO-style strap, the Undone Aqua is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist for a 43.5mm-wide timepiece that also happens to have a surprisingly weighty case.

For hours on end, while sweating or snorkeling, the NATO strap didn’t cause me a hint of bother. It is sort of amazing how endlessly versatile and effective these sometimes crude and not at all luxurious straps can be. There is no way a leather strap would have been that pleasant to wear in so many different circumstances.

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

I think I did a pretty good job with the black and yellow color palette, along with aBlogtoWatch’s Art Director Matt Smith-Johnson, on making a new Rolex Submariner-style dial for Undone to produce for this special version of their Aqua product we call the Undone Aqua BLK + YLW (debuted on aBlogtoWatch with more information here). Legibility is excellent in most lighting conditions and underwater. The only drawback of having black-colored lume is that it isn’t very bright – but then, again, it is so darn bright in the waters of the Bahamas, you just need a clear dial — not a glowing one.

I’ve long wanted a watch with a yellow case, and Undone finally made one for me with this special edition that I’m happy to say is also making other people happy. Yellow is a difficult case color to achieve for a few reasons. The bottom line is that even though there are materials in any color you can imagine, not every material is good for a watch case. PVD coatings (which make for excellent metal watch case coatings) only come in a particular spectrum of colors, ranging from a sort of metallic green to black. Ceramic is the most logical material to construct a yellow case from, and soon, yellow ceramic will be available. At the time, it is not.

Advertisement

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Lighter colors have proved very difficult to render in stable, smooth colors in ceramic. Dark colors or white is what ceramic (zirconium oxide or dioxide) is best for. We are starting to see blue ceramics becoming more popular, but brighter colors such as red or orange are still rather exotic, and mostly only produced as bezels as opposed to entire cases (with Hublot being an exception with its red ceramic case).

The lack of availability of yellow ceramic as a case material, as well as the inability to coat or color metal, has made yellow cases unavailable. If you want a yellow case, you need to make one out of ABS plastic (which honestly wouldn’t be the end of the world – though it wouldn’t be very durable). For the Undone Aqua BLK + YLW, we took a sort of shortcut to get the 200-meter water resistant thick steel case in yellow — each was given a Cerakote application. Cerakote is an industrial coating that happens to come in a lot of colors. While it is very durable by coating standards, it is of medium coating strength by watch standards. That means Cerakote – with enough hits and scuffs – will begin to chip off. It is just the nature of the beast and, frankly, it makes me want to tell people that in order to enjoy the Aqua BLK + YLW watches the most, get two — one you can wear and abuse, and another that you can keep in pristine condition. Come on, watch collectors have done far weirder things.

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

On the topic of durability, I will say that, after wearing several Aqua BLK + YLW prototypes, I have yet to damage any of them or have the Cerakote coating come off. I also happened to take the watch into salt water many days in a row and, so far, it looks unblemished. The rest of the watch is pretty durable, such as the black ceramic (Yachtmaster-style) bezel insert and the thick AR-coated domed sapphire crystal.

With a case inspired by Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms and other design elements inspired by Rolex (depending on the version, that is), the Undone Aqua is not trying to be a wholly original product, but rather a platform for fashionably playing with tried and tested good ideas in watch design. Pretty much anyone can customize the watches, thanks to Undone’s customization department (though I have to admit I did need to pull a few strings to get them to put this many new parts into something, as compared to one someone can order as a one-off piece), which is what makes the concept so fun. That said, it has taken me more than 10 years as a watch collector to even considering having the confidence to make my own designs. Some of you out there might have the confidence to design your own watches sooner. I am only coming into the designer mindset after years of critiquing some of the world’s best horological products.

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Wearing the Aqua BLK + YLW is an interesting experience because you start to notice everything else around you that is black and yellow. Black and yellow represent two-thirds of the colors of the Bahamian flag (and against the turquoise blue waters around Nassau it becomes the flag). There are countless black- and yellow-colored fish swimming in the water, and lots of the diving equipment you’ll find is also black and yellow. There also happens to be a surprising number of outfits and bikini combos around the islands with the same coloration idea. I bet that, in different parts of the world, this and future BLK + YLW watches will take on all sorts of identities.

Powered by a Seiko Instrument NH35A automatic movement, the Undone Aqua is serviceably a workhorse and does a decent job in most conditions. It isn’t going to win any chronometry competitions but it is a pretty good value for the money and gets the job done (error free, in my experience). We decided to leave out the date window in this watch, even though I tested versions of the Aqua BLK + YLW with the date. Perhaps those might come in the future. Who knows….?

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

In fact, the future of the BLK + YLW watch theme is in collaborations – and Undone was the first. It isn’t trying to be a watch brand but rather an aesthetic concept whereby I will design BLK + YLW (black and yellow) versions of products by brands I choose to work with. They will be (predictably) focused on a black and yellow color theme.

It merits repeating what the sales concept for the Aqua BLK + YLW watch is since the model is (at least for now) uncommon in the watch industry. I prefer to do limited-edition watches as infrequently as possible. I don’t like the idea that not everyone who wants to purchase something can. Who is a watchmaker to say no to good money? So, I agreed with Undone to keep sales open for a few months until we feel everyone who wants to order one of the watches has an ample chance to. We then close sales, and production of the watches will end for good. This way, the people who got one will feel that their exclusivity is protected and, at the same time, no one feels arbitrarily left out of purchasing something when they were there ready with cash in hand. Clearly, I have a lot to say about limited-edition marketing — and I will save that for another discussion.

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch Hands-On In The Tropics Hands-On

Yes, I have a business interest in the Undone Aqua BLK + YLW but at a retail price of just $585 USD (with margins being split multiple ways), I don’t think I need to defend against unfair profits here. My goal is to bring fun, accessible, and interesting wristwatch experiences to timepiece lovers just like me — and after wearing my Undone Aqua BLK + YLW, I feel that I have been able to deliver (at least to myself) just that.

Order Undone Aqua BLK + YLW Watch until August 21, 2019 here.

Read more about

Watch Brands

Explore

Comments

Disqus Debug thread_id: 7584687912

  • A version with a yellow Cerakote coated stainless steel bracelet would be great.

    • Agnar Sidhu

      Yes, that would look awesome. But I do think the wear and there the links in a bracelet receives would ruin the cerakote…

      • Ariel Adams

        I am investigating a few materials that might make this possible in the future. I agree it would be cool.

      • SuperStrapper

        In-between the links I’m not sure how long it would take. I assume the added microns to be a bigger problem in a well made bracelet than problems with abrasion. When the product was new I was skeptical but there are a lot of independent test studies and YouTube videos that show just how abrasion resistant it is. The act of of 2 cerakoted bracelet link pieces against each other (oyster style, etc) reminds me of a popular abrasion test I’ve seen.

  • Mikita

    The island – 10/10. The watch – is it an ICE watch? Just kidding.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9892da7fa68c6b35f6aad4b7205274a0a8ead987129181721b96bf0943aee4bb.jpg

  • Chase Foundry

    I actually purchased one of these when it was first announced, however I wish I’d fully read the specs of the watch before doing so. I found the watch to be comically thick. 17mm for the watch itself and then another 3mm for the nato strap. That thickness brought with it some serious weight and without a bracelet to balance that out I found the combined thickness and weight created a watch that was uncomfortable to wear. Ultimately the watch was sent back for a refund and I’ve learnt my lesson not to order watches online without fully checking the specification first. Ultimately I still hope this watch is a success because I want to see this BLK + YLW project continue. I love the look but just wish it was applied to a better model of watch. For now, I’ll be going back to my Casio F-91W on a yellow nato for my yellow watch needs.

    • Ariel Adams

      The watch is large for some wrists, but I haven’t had an issue. That is the core Aqua case and it wasn’t possible for us to deviate from it for this project.

    • gwd

      I was wondering how thick the case is. In some of the shots above, it looks like the dial is sunk 1/4″ below the crystal

  • James Honour

    Looks a great, fun tool watch. Would place the Undone branding above the hands though.

  • Ariel Adams

    I mean… can you think of a better way for me to write about my own watch? It is a balancing act for sure.

  • H.S.M.

    Hmmm
    I am always happy to see watches using uncommon colours. But somehow this yellow is a bit too much.
    Any future plans of swapping the colours up?
    Having a black case with yellow dial and yellow bezel. Or even with stainless steel case with black bezel and yellow inserts and a yellow dial. Or black dial with yellow hands and indicators. The possibilities are endless.
    A matching bracelet would be great as well. As much as I love nato straps, sometimes you just crave for something with more heft to it.

    All in all, it looks like a happy fun time watch.

  • How about having a yellow or black isofrane-style strap to choose during checkout? This nato doesn’t look right to my eyes.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Loving the action shot 🙂
    Best of luck with the watch. It’s a little too ” fun ” for me.

  • SuperStrapper

    A quick note on cerakote: it’s a great product, I’m a firm believer in its attributes. I don’t have any cerakoted watches but know a number of people who have had it done (there are a few aftermarket shops with good reputations on this stuff) and every one I’ve seen looked pretty good. Ariel is correct that it could potentially chip off if struck, but I would wager the strike would need to be so significant that you’d be less worried about the watch than you would be your arm at that point. I have had cerakoting professionally done to a number of my rifles (including this vintage guy I totally refurbished top to bottom for a bit of fun) and I think it’s a game changer. Blueing is nothing in comparison. Once, while in the bush I rolled an ankle and fell, and a cerakoted rifle barrel collided with bare Canadian Shield. There is certainly a mark but it didn’t get all the way through the cerakote. Quite remarkable. Even the bolt/action is treated and after 1000’s of pills shows no wear.
    Like many things, the quality of the coating will rely heavily on the quality of the surface it is applied to. As long as whoever undone is shopping the cerakote service out to prepares the watch cases correctly before the cerakote process, the watch should hold up and then some against anything you’d normally treat your watch to. Personally I think being cerakoted is the most redeeming feature of the watch.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e775dea264ad5284168b1c9e7f167a63ba505a17e25ced2e9db3f0ef5e610545.jpg

    • Raymond Wilkie

      What on earth do you need so many firearms?

      • DanW94

        Same reason many of us here need 20 or so watches. Because we like them and we can.

        • Raymond Wilkie

          A watch can’t kill you.

          • Mikita

            Are you sure? How about throwing Invicta?

          • Independent_George

            Wasn’t there a scene in one of the John Wick movies where Keanu used a Bucherer beat to death a baddie?

          • Raymond Wilkie

            I lost count of the body count after the first 10 minutes of that film ( loved it ) Yes, knifes can kill. So can a well placed rolling pin. It’s sole purpose is not for killing like a firearm though.

      • Lurch

        Probably thinks he was in the military or wish he was but couldn’t. There are so many of them.

    • Agnar Sidhu

      I was hoping your rifles would be yellow!:)

      • SuperStrapper

        None yet!

    • Swiss_Cheese

      Lee Enfield Jungle on top?

      • SuperStrapper

        Good eye. I have 8 Enfields, 2 of them jungle carbines. Rough to shoot but lots of fun.

  • Pedro Lambareiro

    Clearly, I have a lot to say about limited-edition marketing — and I will save that for another discussion.

    But its one that clearly has to happen.

  • Jared

    needs a lume shot.

    actually come to think of it, what ABTW should do a controlled comparisons. Pick one watch…lets say Rolex Submariner, and then compare all future hands on watches with that to see how the lume compares side by side. Because lume shots by themselves aren’t that reliablesince with enough exposure you can make even the crappiest lume look amazing.

    That way people can see how the lume level compares to a Submariner. Maybe make it two shots, the first shot is lume immediately after “charging” it for 2 minutes. And then another shot taken 30 minutes later.

    • Mikita

      Interesting idea! May I suggest other lume benchmark – Citizen Orca?

      • Jared

        for a cheap watch I think a Seiko SKX007 would be better. Pretty much everyone either has one or had one at some point…or at the very least saw one in person

  • Independent_George

    I like yellow as accents on watches, and it should be used more. This watch is a bit too yellow for my tastes, I could never pull off wearing it. I agree with Panagiotis, the nato isn’t working for me either.

  • Ayreonaut

    Too much yellow. I dislike it more than the first time I saw it. Now I think it could be improved with a black rubber strap, and a black or white dial. Let the yellow case be the only yellow thing…

  • DanW94

    Lots of things can be used as instruments of death. Some are just more effecient than others, like an assault rifle. Some take a bit longer to work, like a steady diet of corn dogs and deep fried Oreos or a fifth of Jack and a pack of Camels every day.

    • SuperStrapper

      I absolutely agree that cigarettes are a far bigger scourge on society than rifles.

    • Mikita

      I believe a fifth of Jack is the least harmful from the list.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I refer the Gentleman to my previous answer to George.

  • Pete Yo

    I thought this was posted once before as a limited edition?

    • Ariel Adams

      “Limited edition” as implied in the watch industry means that a certain arbitrary set of watches are being produced and no more. This watch is not that. We promised that everyone ordering during the open order period would get one but that after that period no more will be made.

      • Pete Yo

        thank you Ariel for the clarification

  • Lurch

    Lego brick watch. Also something a Transformer would wear.

    • Ariel Adams

      Thank you!

  • Mark

    It’s killing me to know. Did someone actually clip that Cohiba and spark up that smoke wagon? Or did it just go to waste? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Ariel Adams

      It was a satisfying Cohiba, not just to hold.

      • Mark

        Well I’m glad you took the time to enjoy it. I’m partial to Padron 1964 Anniversary Series Maduro’s. Any of the sticks in that collection. Just something about how Padron dries the leaves between layers of cocoa beans that just adds a distinctive flavor to both the cigar and the smoke. About the watch, I really like the contrasting colorways.

  • Ariel Adams

    Sounds like you have a situation that needs remedying. This is the first I’ve heard about Undone customer service issues but clearly something happened that shouldn’t have. Why don’t you email us via the contact here on aBlogtoWatch and I’d like to hear about what happened so I can help get to the bottom of it. No doubt that you should have a straight forward customer service experience when buying or repairing something you are excited about. Thanks for bringing this matter to my attention.

  • Svetoslav Popov

    I absolutely love mine. No issues with it, still pristine and waspy 🙂

  • Again, this is just a poorly done early TAG Heuer F1.
    Also, name should’ve been Undone Aqua YLYL.

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, png.