April 23, 2019
by Ariel Adams
Hong Kong-based UNDONE watches has released one of its most interesting timepieces to date with the new-for-2019 UNDONE Basecamp. The watch evokes the style and poise of vintage Rolex Explorer watches, which started to become really popular in the mid-20th century as wristwatches became more and more durable. UNDONE co-founder Michael Young made his money restoring vintage Rolex timepieces and has been an avid vintage Rolex collector for years. He has not been shy about sharing that many UNDONE watches are inspired by Rolex — but to his credit, none is a direct copy.
If you feel that the UNDONE Basecamp watch has elements of vintage Rolex military and sport watches, you are on to something. But the Basecamp isn’t a Rolex clone at all. It is for people who know vintage Rolex, appreciate the look of it but aren’t even remotely interested in the type of collector investment it would take to buy one of the real things. Many of these authentic vintage military watches can go for five figure prices — but with the UNDONE Basecamp, you can get something really nicely made at a starting price under $300.
Consider me in the pool of people who feel that these types of watches look cool but I would hardly spend “antique treasure” money on a beat-up military watch from the 1950s. The UNDONE Basecamp satisfies my interest in this watch look and feels very fairly priced for a toy of this type. And when I call it a toy, I don’t mean to diminish its quality. I refer to most watches as toys, given how they are fun and we don’t need them aside from how they make us feel.
UNDONE took cues from a series of vintage sport and military watches to come up with a 40mm-wide steel case offered in polished steel, PVD-coated black, or PVD-coated gold-tone. The most innovative element of the case is the use of Lexan for the crystal. This is a harder material and more interesting to look at than most other non-sapphire crystals. I don’t know how well the Lexan plexiglass crystal will hold up over time, but if you want an interesting quasi-vintage look, UNDONE really achieved it.
UNDONE refers to the Basecamp watch as diver-style, even though it is more like a land-explorer watch. It also has 50 meters of published water resistance, though UNDONE personally told me they rate each watch up to 100 meters of water resistance. I think because of the unknown elements of using Lexan for a diver’s watch, they want to err on the side of caution and print 50 meters on the dial. The crown and caseback do, of course, screw down.
Case thickness is 15mm for the Basecamp, which is less than the UNDONE Aqua, the brand’s more serious dive watch. A nice touch is the display caseback which shows off the workhorse Seiko caliber NH-35 mechanical automatic movement. The dial offers the time, along with the date. This watch isn’t going to offer chronometric performance, but at this price, I don’t think most people will mind having to adjust the time every few weeks.
Around the dial of the Basecamp watch is a bi-directional non-clicking rotating bezel. I think UNDONE got it right in terms of the friction, meaning that the bezel turns easily but not too easily. The single marker on all but the gold-toned Basecamp watches is cool looking but also allows for more relaxed types of hour timing. It is also part of UNDONE’s ethos about the watch, which is more about relaxed exploration rather than precision timing, per se.
On the supplied 20mm-wide khaki green NATO-style strap with its thick, rounded software, the UNDONE Basecamp watch is really cool looking, given the theme it is going for. Little details, such as the execution of the “Rolex Explorer GMT hand” type of hour hand on the Basecamp, as well as the shape and crown of the case, make it a superior timepiece at the $300 price-point than most of what else is out there. UNDONE is always good about delivering great value for the money, and the Basecamp fulfills that promise to consumers with the Basecamp watch collection. UNDONE’s momentum continues to impress, and I think watch lovers benefit from these affordable and fun projects. Price for the UNDONE Basecamp watch starts at $295 USD in polished steel. Learn more or order at the UNDONE Watch website here.