January 5, 2019
The U1-E is powered by the Seiko NH35A automatic movement, which features a 41-hour power reserve, beats at 21,600 bph, with 24 jewels. After such long dominance of the Miyota family of movements in the microbrand diver universe, I’m glad to see more companies releasing watches with alternative movements like the NH35A. While Miyota is great, what once was an affordable alternative to ETA started to creep up in price, as well.
While some might scoff at a Seiko movement, it’s a solid movement that has made a respectable name for itself. It’s reliable, keeps accurate time, and is easily serviceable. Would I prefer the U1-E have an ETA 2824? Sure, if only to say there’s a Swiss movement inside. Would the NH35A stop me from recommending this watch? No. During my time with the U1-E, I’ve experienced no issues with the movement, or timekeeping, and I don’t expect that you would, either.
One thing I like about many microbrands is that they tend to include more than one strap option in the box, something you won’t find many Swiss brands doing, even at much higher price-points. For the U1-E, Unimatic has included a nylon Nato-style strap and a two-piece rubber strap.
The nylon strap has an interesting weave pattern resembling herringbone that is soft and pliable, and it has a nice premium feel (for a Nato, that is). This strap is on the thicker side for a NATO, and does add some noticeable height to the watch, due to the two layers added underneath. It ultimately didn’t affect my experience with the watch, but I’m sure many would opt to “neuter” the nato (cut off the bottom layer of the strap), or swap to a two-piece or single-pass nylon strap to reduce the heft and avoid clipping the watch on pesky door frames and such. One thing to note: I have relatively small wrists, and I had just barely enough of a tail to fold it back under the second keeper. Those with larger wrists might find this Nato to be too small.
I am not, ultimately, a fan of the rubber strap option. While it looks perfectly fine on the watch, and I appreciate its inclusion, it wasn’t comfortable to wear on my wrist. I’m fairly particular when it comes to rubber straps, due to my small, flat shaped wrists, and if the rubber isn’t super-soft and pliable, I tend to avoid it. Is it a bad strap? No. However, it isn’t to my taste.
At the end of the day, with this colorway, I felt the U1-E was begging to be put on a Bond nylon strap, which is what I wore this watch on most of the time, and I found it to be a great pairing. It’s worth noting that Unimatic also offers a steel bracelet for this watch, available for purchase separately. I did not get the chance to test the bracelet, but it’s another option available to would-be buyers of the U1-E.
This is something I want to touch on just briefly because the packaging of a watch is a big part of the buying experience for many. While many microbrands will differentiate themselves with an inventive packaging idea, such as a canvas watch case, a leather travel pod, etc., Unimatic went for a relatively simple black cardboard box with a standard cushioned case inside. Nothing special here, which, at the price-point of the U1-E, I think is perfectly acceptable. But if you were hoping for something special, you’re out of luck here.
Unimatic’s approach to their design is what really drew me into their line of products, specifically, the U1-E. At their price-point, I think Unimatic is offering a very competitive, attractive product, though they are swimming in crowded waters. The sub-$1000 price-point is filled with many other microbrand dive watches and even some major ones.
At around the same price-point, you have the Zelos Mako line, an equally unique dive watch. While not always easy to get due to limited supply, the Halios Seaforth, which is a classically designed dive watch from a brand with a cult-like following, is a crowd favorite I’d be remiss to not mention. And for a few hundred dollars more, you could get a Swiss-made Aquis or Divers 65 from Oris.
Unimatic stands out in this crowded space because of their aesthetic. I’ve had the chance to own and handle many different dive watches, and none have quite captured the same look and feel Unimatic has achieved with the U1-E. If you’ve been drawn in by the design language of Unimatic, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the U1-E, or any watches the U1 series, for that matter. At €525 (roughly $600 USD), the U1-E is a great option in its space that offers something new to even the most extensive dive watch collection. You can learn more at unimaticwatches.com
>Price: €525 (roughly $600 USD)
>Size: 41.3mm in diameter, 13.75mm thick, and a lug-to-lug of 48.7mm
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes! This is a very charming and fun diver.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone. The design and features of this watch can be appreciated by all.
>Best characteristic of watch: The minimalist, clean dial design.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The strap options. The Nato is a bit short for most wrist sizes, and the rubber strap was ultimately not comfortable for me.