Today, I will attempt to write about a brand that has special meaning to me and hope that I do it justice.
This is one of the first few brands that I was exposed to a long time ago and it kick-started me on my horological journey. My nascent watch fascination began not with the likes of Seiko-es or Rolex-es, but, it was the unique detailing that stood out from a certain timepiece. A behemoth of a watch and an equally commanding crown cap connected to the side of the case with a clasp mechanism was something I has never seen. It stood out to me and demanded that I gave it my every attention.
And for this, I have U-Boat to thank. For its physical arresting pieces that took me off the mainstream route and forced me to explore more uniquely styled watches that stood out for other more interesting reasons.
Since then I have always had a predilection towards this brand and watches styled in such a similar fashion. It has inevitably led me down the road of loving bigger and chunkier pieces. In this range of larger and more masculine styled watches, U-Boat has acquired some very notable fans. Stallone has been to known to like his watches larger and has even been spotted with some U-Boats. To some, larger watches make bigger statements, are bolder, allow better legibility and for a mix of more complications or unique designs or themes. U-Boat has done all of the above. U-Boat, over the years has had many interesting styles, designs, concepts and with some pieces that has had some very intricate engravings on the side of cases, show casing some of Italy’s finest monuments such as the Colosseum.
For me, U-Boat embodies the best of military and nautical styled pieces with a very distinctive Italian flair. U-Boat has carved out a very singular path in which it has excelled in and has grown much bigger and has been garnering a lot more attention from people and watch collectors a like. While the likes of U-Boat may never be a watch that ‘fits the bill’ for everyone, it still is a very definite statement piece. Personally, as someone who has been following the brand for over ten years, I feel that in the past few years U-Boat is more singularly focused on improving their craft and removing the dross in the sense of making pieces that now seem more refined and embodies the Italian philosophy of Sprezzatura. For that we have Italo Fontana to thank, a designer and the brains behind U-Boat.
Another certain with a U-Boat is having exquisitely built pieces with the highest of craftsmanship. Most of their pieces are assembled by hand, from the best of Italian artisans from the heart of Tuscany and beyond. Really no details are spared, and that is really something I appreciate and love and it’s a very positively met trait of U-Boat. Every aspect of the timepiece from the centre stage being the case and dial, from the caseback, to the strap and down to the buckle, very fine details are placed and attention to ensure each part is finished finely and with perfection. Another distinctive trait of U-Boat pieces is that due to their bigger sizes, they place their crowns and chronographs on the left. This is done so that they do not dig into the wearers’ wrist and would be less prone to getting damaged. Oddly, it seems that this style has also taken off with other watches that come in at a similar or lager size.
Without further ado, I have with me today a very finely crafted Classico Sommerso bronze ceramic in 46MM that I have the pleasure of reviewing today.
The Case & Bezel
Undoubtedly, when I laid eyes on this piece, the tone of the bronze case was the first thing that stood out to me. Unlike the bronze shades that we are very much used to, offered by many Swiss brands, this bronze had a very unique copperish look to it and a nice shine to it. This is very welcomed and refreshing. It is bronze yet it feels somewhat more interesting to look at and got me imagining how would it patina. As with all U-Boats the case is thick and very well crafted and has the feel of being very robust and seemingly indestructible. A true testament of a tool watches and could definitely take some serious action and beating and still come out with just a few scratches.
The bronze case as well has some very natural rough polishing and brushed strokes to give off a more industrial and rougher feel that is completely in line with what a U-Boat is meant to be. On the right side of the case etched and engraved with high precision into the case is the U-BOAT name and right beside it as a small bronze plate screwed into the case with the number of the piece in the format “N.0XXX” and below that the words Made in Italy. It seemed lasered onto the plate and is in a black shade. What I really like is that the plate fits seamlessly into the case, nicely flushed, so when you run your fingers against it, it is completely in line with the case and does not stick out even a millimetre. This is another remarkable show of exquisite craftsmanship from U-boat.
Undeniably, the star or the pièce de resistance on this piece is the iconic screwed down crown cap, which is an iconic trait of U-Boat. As I briefly mentioned earlier, the crown cap is connected via a clasp mechanism to the case. It is done in a very industrial and grunge style which further adds to the ruggedness of the piece. One of the quirk things is that under the massive crown sits the actual crown which pales in comparison and is significantly smaller. Oddly the actually crown is screw down as well, which goes to show that there two layers of resistance to water and could be considered slightly amusing to some but it goes to show the level of detailing that has gone it this piece.
To top it all off, the ceramic dial insert placed into the bronze bezel is perfectly well balanced and is very well assimilated together. The smooth slightly dirty brown bezel is the perfect accompaniment to the slightly coppery bronze case. To add further depth, the side of the bezel is gear toothed to aid in having good grip as well as compliments the overall industrial military inspired look of the piece. The numerals are of an ample size that is very clearly visible, cause lest we forget this is meant to be a dive watch. It has a 120 click uni-directional that is sturdy yet does not require much effort to rotate.
Overall it is lug to lug at 51MM with short tapered lugs with the rough brushing staying consistent through the whole case. These short steep styles of the lugs work nicely and the strong sharp angles have a more masculine feel that conforms nicely to the size of the piece. Another thing that U-Boat has done well which I appreciate is that they have stuck to their principals and have used screw down bars as opposed to the very commonly used spring bars. This reinforces their image and philosophy to stay well built from even the smallest of aspects.
The Dial & Caseback
The thing I like about U-Boat dials are the consistency in their use of oversized numerals of ‘4’, ‘8’ and ‘12’ for most of their Classico pieces. It creates a very nice identity and sets them apart from other pieces or even collections from U-Boat. Here we have again this similar style and together fitted with baton hour markers. In terms of tones, U-Boat has stayed true to the Classico style and opted for everything on the dial to be coloured with a beige tone, except for just a little exception being on the half of the hand on the 24 hour sub-dial being red and have a ruby visible sitting at six o’clock.
This piece is showered with copious amounts of SuperLuminova all over from the hands, to the numerals and batons on both the dial and sub dial. With the exception being for anything that is an alphabet. Again going back to basics, with a simple black dial all the features placed in juxtaposition further allows more clarity and legibility. With the piece being 41MM it has allowed a lot of details to flourish nicely on the dial without giving off a suffocating feel of everything being cramped to closely.
On the opposite side, keeping in line with the bronze theme, even the screw down case back is bronze. This time the bronze is much more aged and shows signs of what we call patina and has some dark dull tones that adds more depth and shows further how much thought has gone into conceptualising this piece. To cap it off, a naval mine is engraved in the centre to sort of complete the whole naval military inspired theme of the pieces from U-Boat.
Movement & Strap
Fitted into this brute of a piece is a highly refined and robust movement, a Swiss movement is powering this finely crafted timepiece made in Tuscany, Italy. The movement is fitted with 26 jewels, has a BPH of 28,800 and a power reserve of 44 hours and is finished with very high level of personalisation to U-Boats specifications. With this high level of personalisation, it has allowed this piece to be fitted with a 24 hour sub dial and date feature as well. It is interesting to note that U-Boat has mentioned that this piece has a skeletonised rotor which is hidden behind the case back but would be a sight to behold if it was ever exposed to the eye.
U-boat has once again gone above and beyond to give you the whole Italian superior craftsmanship experience, opting not to use a generic everyday leather strap but crafted something bespoke and avant garde styled leather strap that looks like something out of a designer boutique in Milan. Apart from the watch case, this was the next detail of this that caught my eye and got me slightly grinning. As I can safely it is probably the first brand I can recall making a specific styled strap to accompany one of their pieces.
It comes in 22MM and is fitted with an equally exquisite bronze buckle treated with special antiqued anti corrosion treatment. It is hand finished with a vintage styled brown leather strap with fonts on the front end looking as if it was etched in. U-Boat has been said to have processed the leather in accordance to traditional techniques to give off a very naturally distressed aged look.
The laser cutting on the surface on the strap and stitching of the cutting back together was probably the most unique feature of this strap. It is probably the most elaborate strap I have seen and I guess sometimes it is better to let some pictures do the talking instead of me.
U-Boat has been a brand that is always hovering under the radar as their pieces may not connect with everyone, but, stand out to a more selective group of individuals. However, if one were to take that out of the equation in terms of very much oversized pieces, U-Boat watches are probably the ones leading the way in terms of quality and style. They are usually very highly legible and of immense quality. Their pieces are distinctive and marry very nicely classic Italian designs with retro military feel to their pieces.
Their founder, Italo Fontana, never fails to impress and excite with his new designs and bold steps he takes to keep U-Boat consistently refreshing and relevant. They have come a long way and are making serious noise globally with escalating sales whilst being leaders in designs and quality. It is exciting to see how U-Boat grows in the years to come.
One can almost describe U-Boat like fine wine; one that is aging very well and maturing in essence. I have been a keen admirer of this brand, am constantly watching (pun intended) and will always be amazed by this behemoth of a watch brand.
Somehow, I am certain, that I will always continue to do so. And who knows? The next person who may be smitten may be you.
You might also like: Closer Look: At U-Boat Darkmoon 44mm Red IPB Ref. 8466/A, Bronze Ref. 8467/A & Green Ref. 8702/B.