Ariel Adams here from aBlogtoWatch. Today, I’m going to share with you another watch that I was responsible for creative-directing. This is the second such timepiece product myself and the aBlogtoWatch Art Director Matt Smith-Johnson created together, this time in collaboration with UNDONE Watches. In bold black and yellow, this is the UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW limited-production watch that we will produce as many of as are ordered before the ordering period closes in early summer 2019. More details on that below.
The first watch I creative-directed with another brand was the LACO RAD-AUX that we debuted here. The Aqua BLK + YLW follows it with a new theme and a more accessible price. As this is a commercial project, I’m not writing to you as a watch critic, but rather as a creative person explaining how to understand the UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW watch product collection that I am responsible for. This is a product I designed for myself, and anyone else who finds it cool can have one, too.
What is BLK + YLW?
The UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW introduces a new concept I am experimenting with, which is the BLK + YLW mini-brand. I like black and yellow watches because the colors are easy to see and bold, a combination that can make for really legible watch dials. They are also a fun way of making me think about modern tools and rugged equipment — not to mention interesting elements of pop culture. UNDONE is the first watch brand BLK + YLW is partnering with. The idea is to work with different existing watchmakers to produce BLK + YLW versions of their products that meet my specifications. These watches will be co-branded in a tasteful way and, ideally, will prove interesting both to people who like black & yellow-colored timepieces, as well as fans of the brand BLK + YLW is working with. As I said, BLK + YLW is an experiment, and I’ll chart its future in the way I think makes the most sense in terms of how I want BLK + YLW watches to be presented.
UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW Watch
The idea for the UNDONE Aqua BLK +YLW watch did not originate in one place, but the idea to produce the first BLK + YLW watch with UNDONE happened after aBlogtoWatch visited the UNDONE’s headquarters in Hong Kong. In addition to its standard-collection timepieces, UNDONE has a robust customization department that allows customers to have custom dials, casebacks, and even entire watch case and dial colors produced to someone’s specifications. When I saw the quality that UNDONE was able to offer for the price, and how dedicated their team was to detail, I knew I needed to show the world what a little imagination can do when it comes to designing a bespoke product.
The UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW is based on the brand’s existing Aqua Dive watch but is more than a merely colored version of the base model. Smith-Johnson and I designed an entirely new dial, which had to be produced from UNDONE’s dial factory supplier. We also created a customized caseback design and required UNDONE to order a series of new parts to help complete my vision for this product.
What was most important to me was achieving a yellow-colored case. Without getting into too many details, bright yellow-colored materials that are suitable for watch-case making really don’t exist. Other than the unattractive look of yellow anodized aluminum (that, to me, looks like electric snot) there is no simple way to produce a yellow-coated metal case. Other materials, such as carbon and ceramic, cannot be produced in an attractive yellow color at this time. Yellow is one of the more difficult colors to achieve in watchmaking today, and perhaps in the future there will be stable ceramic colors in yellow. Without that being a possibility now, we went with the next best thing: a Cerakote coating over a base 316L steel case.
Cerakote is a branded “polymer-ceramic composite coating” that is used for a variety of industrial and some cosmetic purposes. The latter can be found in firearm or knife coatings for owners who want to add a dash of color to their hobbies. Cerakote is designed to both add color and grip, as well as chemical resistance, corrosion resistance, and other properties to the various materials it can be applied to. Cerakote can only be applied by a Cerakote specialist, and each of the UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW cases is individually sent to an authorized Cerakote coating specialist. The cases require approximately two weeks to dry after the Cerakote coating application.
Cerakote will eventually chip off with wear, even though it is designed to be durable. I actually don’t mind this since it helps add a “worn-in patina” that I feel goes with the “Caterpillar construction equipment” look I was going for. This is important to mention because most coatings on wrist watches are thinner and use different types of molecular bonding application processes. PVD applications won’t chip off but rather can scratch off with wear. Given the constraints of how PVD coatings work, it isn’t possible to get anything close to a bright yellow color. The resulting matte “banana-yellow” Cerakote-coated steel case for the Aqua BLK +YLW looks so cool in my opinion, and I love the comments I get wearing it. The Aqua BLK + YLW is not for wearers who don’t want attention from onlookers.
The UNDONE Aqua itself is a 200-meter water-resistant diver-style watch with a 43.5mm-wide case (a bit more with the crown) and a bezel ceramic insert for the rotating timing bezel. The watch uses a thick, AR-coated and domed sapphire crystal over the dial, offering excellent durability and dial legibility. Total thickness for the case is 16mm. It is a heavy watch with all the metal, but extremely comfortable on the wrist when worn securely. We wanted to make that last part easy by including a matching yellow NATO-style strap with chunky, rounded black metal hardware.
Inside the UNDONE Aqua is a Japanese Seiko caliber NH35A automatic movement. In the prototyping phase, we actually experimented with versions of the UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW with and without the date. I finally settled on the “no-date” version because I wanted the cleaner crystal (no magnifier) and the more symmetrical look of a pure time-only dial. The Aqua BLK + YLW hands and hour markers are painted with black-colored Super-LumiNova. There is no BLK + YLW branding on the watch, save for a mark on the caseback. I feel that keeping the dial pure and about UNDONE is what I want to see each time I look at this watch face.
It makes me pretty happy that UNDONE was able to offer the Aqua BLK + YLW at an accessible price of $585 USD. The watch is not technically a limited edition, but if you wait too long you will never be able to order one. UNDONE will take orders for the Aqua BLK + YLW until August 15th, 2019. Every watch ordered before that date will be produced, and no orders will be taken after that date. This sales approach allows everyone who wants an UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW watch the opportunity to get one, but also protects the exclusivity of the concept by closing production at a certain date, allowing us to focus on future BLK + YLW concepts. If you like the UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW watch as much as I do, you can order one here at undone.com/blkylw.