The latest watch collection from UNDONE is the Urban Tropical, and it is perhaps the most remarkable example of what the novel Hong Kong-based watchmaker is all about. The idea was to take the fashionable appeal of some extremely uncommon Rolex and Omega watches and replicate them in an easy to digest (and afford) product that retains the tool-style theme, which collectors typically prefer. In essence, this is a fun and functional watch for people fascinated and seduced by the world of vintage watch aesthetics – who have no desire to fight to acquire an actual vintage watch. UNDONE created the Urban Tropical with three dial options, including the brand’s typical host of customization options. In all, these are immensely stylish and fun – also slightly controversial because they are a form of “faux patina” (not everyone is into that), and the type of product we really only see coming from UNDONE.
Let me clarify that last statement. Yes, there are other nice looking fashion watches at this price. UNDONE, however, has a unique combination of in-house talent and manufacturing access which allows them to apply actual R&D to executing something as seemingly simple as “an aged looking dial.” I spoke with UNDONE co-founder Michael Young at length about tropical dial watches. The man is both an expert and an enthusiast of the look. It was his goal to make sure that the UNDONE Urban Tropical collection satisfied him in the same way that you might be satisfied by looking at a 1950s or 1960s vintage Rolex Submariner or Omega Speedmaster with a “tropical” brown-toned dial.
What is a tropical dial? To answer this question UNDONE’s Michael Young drafted a guest post here on aBlogtoWatch to explain what tropical dial watches are. If you are new to the concept, I recommend reading that article prior to reading more about the UNDONE Urban Tropical timepiece collection.
In addition to a new dial (or set of dials), the UNDONE Urban Tropical also has a new case bezel and dial arrangement. The case is now available with a tachymeter bezel (homage to Omega), and the dial now has a trendy-looking two register chronograph display in a horizontal versus vertical orientation. There is a very specific reason UNDONE chose this dial layout in addition to its attractive and symmetrical aesthetic. The movement inside of the watch is the Japanese Seiko Instruments caliber VK64. People like to call this a “hybrid” movement or a “meca-quartz.” It is a quartz-based movement but the chronograph system is designed more like a traditional mechanical watch. The result is a traditional feeling and looking chronograph with a sweeping seconds hand. The removal of the normal subsidiary seconds hand at 6 o’clock means that there is no ticking hand on the dial. If you want to activate the chronograph in order to have a seconds display, the hand will sweep versus tick. Thus, UNDONE has designed a dial for the Urban Tropical that feels more mechanical than it does quartz. This isn’t my first rodeo with a watch that has applied such a concept, and I have to say that I do appreciate the lack of a ticking hand on the dial of a vintage-styled watch. Not everyone will want the date window on the dial, which is something most real vintage watches of this style didn’t have.
There is something about an aged look which offers more immediate personality to an item versus something brand new. That “lived in” look is what I am referring to and you have it in full glory in a watch like this – especially when you match the case with one of the vintage-style leather straps which have their own manner of discoloration, going from lighter to darker at the edges. The porthole design echos the look of many mid-20th century sport and racing watches. Let’s get back to the dials because the effort involved with developing them is worth mentioning.
There is no standard texture or color available that allows for a discolored look on a dial. UNDONE not only needed to work with their dial supplier to create a new technique to produce this aesthetic, but it needed to make sure they looked like actual tropical dials. UNDONE specifically chose to go with a more scattered discoloration rather than a perfectly smooth one as can be seen in some actual vintage tropical dial watches, which go from black to a soft chocolate brown. UNDONE actually developed three tropical dials that each represent a different “extent” of aging.
The “least” aged look is the Urban Tropical Amazon. Here the black colored dial is not really discolored but the luminant features a cream versus stark, white look. This is probably the least “tropical” of the dials but is nevertheless very handsome. It is also the least exclusive because other brands (usually at much higher prices) also offer a “faux patina” lume color. Next is the Urban Tropical Caribbean, which starts to speckle in brown colors with the black. We see the interesting look of not only faded color but also texturing. Finally there is the “most aged” tropical dial look with the Urban Tropical Sahara. Here we have a dial that is a grayish brown and is what many collectors associate with the look of a really valuable tropical dial. Undone offers distinct straps with each of these Tropical collection watches.