Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! This week, I’m reviewing the newest offering from UNDONE – the Tropical collection.
UNDONE describes their new Tropical collection as the story of “Perfect Imperfection”. There are three different tropical dial variations to choose from – the Sahara, the Carribean, and the Amazon. UNDONE has kindly sent me the Carribean version (seen above with a tachymetre bezel) for review – let’s see how perfect it is!
UNDONE – the Brand
UNDONE is a brand that I’ve covered multiple times before on this website – I’ve previously reviewed the Urban Vintage chronograph, as well as the Aqua. I’ve actually covered UNDONE as a brand in detail here, so check that out if you’re interested in UNDONE’s brand story!
UNDONE Tropical – Build Quality
Specifications wise, the build quality of the UNDONE Tropical is actually near-identical to the Urban Vintage chronograph that I’ve reviewed previously.
Firstly, the UNDONE Tropical uses a hardened domed K1 crystal instead of sapphire crystal. While I felt that a hardened domed K1 crystal was acceptable on the Urban Vintage due to its low price point ($239 USD after promo code), the MSRP of the UNDONE Tropical is substantially higher – at this price, I really do expect to get sapphire crystal. As stated in my previous reviews, I almost always advocate for the use of sapphire crystal in watches due to its high scratch-resistance. While I understand that a domed sapphire crystal is significantly more expensive than a flat sapphire/domed K1 crystal, the Aevig Valkyr I reviewed last week have shown that domed sapphire crystal can be had even at affordable price points.
Like most mecha-quartz chronographs, the UNDONE Tropical utilizes the VK64 Seiko movement. For those uninitiated with mecha-quartz movements, a mecha-quartz movement basically allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds – the accuracy (and affordability) of a quartz movement (which also negates the need to wind the watch), and also the sweeping second hand that’s characteristic of a mechanical chronograph. With the Seiko VK64 movement, you get the capability to instantly reset the chronograph by pressing the bottom pusher. However, despite UNDONE’s claims otherwise, the Seiko VK64 is not a flyback chronograph movement. I pointed out a similar inaccuracy in my review of the UNDONE Urban Vintage, which uses the Seiko VK61 movement. While the second hand can be instantly reset (without needing to be paused first), the second hand does not continue timing thereafter like a true flyback chronograph movement would. I believe this is an inaccuracy on UNDONE’s part, and would (again) advise them to correct this on their website. That being said, if you’re looking for a fully mechanical flyback chronograph, you will need to look at 4 figure price-points, probably something from Longines or Baume & Mercier.
I was quite blown away with this rally strap from UNDONE! There are a bunch of different strap options (alligator print, cordura, perlon, etc) available in the customiser, but I feel that the rally strap option is by far the best option on the Tropical. Firstly, the rally style strap complements the inherent racing/sport vibe exuded by the chronograph and its tachymetre bezel. Secondly, I loved how the strap fades to black at the sides – it keeps the discolouration theme of tropical dials going. Thirdly, I like the hand-stitched elements at the tops and ends of the strap, as well as the stitched strap loop. Lastly, the straps are quick-release, meaning that you can easily swap the strap over to say, a calf leather strap from UNDONE (UNDONE sells straps on their web-store as well!) if you’re looking to dress the watch up.
Japanese lume is utilized on the UNDONE Tropical, instead of the usual Swiss Superluminova. As a result, the lume is unsurprisingly weak. It’s there if you need it, but the lume-heads out there certainly won’t be satisfied. I definitely would have preferred UNDONE to utilize a stronger lume (C9 perhaps) here.
Overall, the specifications of the UNDONE Tropical is largely similar to the UNDONE Urban Vintage that I reviewed previously, with the exception of lume present on the Tropical. The build quality of the UNDONE Tropical is overall decent, but at $310 USD/ ~$435 SGD (after promo code below), it’s definitely not the bang for buck value proposition that I heralded the Urban Vintage as.
UNDONE Tropical – Design
The UNDONE Tropical, as the name suggests, refers to the use of faux “Tropic” dials on the watches.
For the uninitiated, tropical dials were essentially manufacturing defects. Most commonly seen on vintage Omega and Rolex watches, tropic dials arose from the application of a chemical coating on the dial, which was meant to protect the watch dial from discolouration even under prolonged exposure to sunlight. However, the chemical coating had the opposite effect instead, resulting in accelerated discolouration of the dial (especially in equatorial regions such as Singapore where the sun is out all year long). Due to the rarity of tropic dials (Rolex and Omega stopped applying that particular chemical coating soon after), watches with tropic dials are often higher valued than their counterparts with the regular dials. Furthermore, tropic dials are often seen as unique, due to differing ways and rates in which each dial reacts to sunlight exposure. In theory, no two watches with tropic dials look the same. This uniqueness, coupled with their rarity, makes watches with tropic dials highly prized in the collector scene.
With the Tropical, UNDONE sought to offer a taste of tropic dials at an affordable pricing (Rolexes and Omegas with tropic dials often command 5 figure sums). I have to say, for the most part, they have succeeded in their mission! I really love the “tropic” dial on this watch – it is evident that UNDONE has spent months of R&D perfecting this. The dial does a great job of mimicking actual time/sun-aged tropic dials – it is an imitation, but a good one. I also liked the faux patina on the hour indices, as it complements the theme of aging and discolouration. Elsewhere, I appreciated the usage of thin, slender white hands, a feature undoubtedly inspired by the design of vintage Omega Speedmasters. As always, the UNDONE logo is almost inconspicuous at 6 o’clock, allowing the wearer to fully appreciate that beautiful tropic dial without the intrusion of a gaudy, in-your-face logo. Due to the Seiko VK64 movement inside, there are no running seconds on this watch – nothing to give away the fact that the movement within is not a mechanical one. Instead, we get a minute timer on the left sub-dial, as well as a 24 hour indicator on the right. Overall, I find the dial on the UNDONE Tropical well-executed, succeeding in its goal of capturing the character of actual tropic dials. In addition, UNDONE also allows for text personalisation on the dial, albeit at a $20 USD premium. If I had a gripe, it would be the date window – I would have preferred a black date window instead, which would have blended more seamlessly with the dark-coloured dial. As it stands, the white date window (to me) breaks the beauty of the tropic dial, and is a bit of an eye-sore.
Aside from the dial, the other major change on the UNDONE Tropical (compared to the Urban Vintage) is the tachymetre bezel. I absolutely love it on this watch. Again, the Omega Speedmaster inspiration is apparent here, but I feel that the bezel complements the racing vibe of the watch perfectly. With the rally strap, Omega Speedmaster-styled hands, chronograph sub-dials, and the tachymetre bezel, one really does get a motorsports feel when wearing the Tropical on the wrist. The stainless steel tachymetre bezel also provides the watch with some much needed heft, thus making the Tropical feel much more substantial on the wrist as compared to the Urban Vintage. While the tachymetre bezel commands a $50 USD premium over its stepped bezel counterpart, I definitely feel that the tachymetre bezel is the way to go here.
We get a nicely signed and grooved crown, as well as substantially sized pushers that makes using the chronograph function on the watch a breeze. Like on the Urban Vintage, I’m very pleased with the contrast in finishing on the case-sides of the Tropical. The middle strip of the case is brushed, while the bevelled edges are polished to a gleam. This contrast in polishing extends to the lugs as well, whereby the sides of the lugs are brushed finished, whereas the front are polished. In addition, the tachymetre bezel protrudes a little on the sides, creating a contrast in depth as well. Really impressed by the finishing on the Tropical!
UNDONE offers the choice of either a solid caseback (pictured above) or a glass exhibition caseback. With both options, one can opt for personalisation options such as text or image engraving, though this comes at a price premium of $20 USD. I’ll recommend going for a solid caseback on the Tropical, with a personalisation of your choice – I don’t really see the point of having an exhibition caseback on a mecha-quartz movement.
Overall, I really like the design of the UNDONE Tropical. I think UNDONE has really struck a gold mine here. To my knowledge, no other microbrand (or watch brands in general) offers “tropic” dials at this price range – if you like the inherent character of watches with tropic dials, the UNDONE Tropical is probably your only affordable option on the market. Due to it being a modern watch with a mecha-quartz movement, one does not have to worry about bumping it around or serviceability issues as one would have needed to on a vintage watch. The watch is very nicely finished as well, especially considering its $310 USD (after promo code below) starting price point (with the tachymetre bezel). With the exception of the date window, I think UNDONE has knocked it out of the park in the design department with this one! Definitely one of my favourites amongst their current collection, along with their Mystique line.
Shootout: UNDONE Tropical vs UNDONE Urban Vintage
If you’re looking for a customisable vintage-styled watch that you can personalise, the UNDONE Urban Vintage (which I reviewed previously here) is probably the other option you should heavily consider!
In terms of build quality, both watches share near identical specifications. They both feature a domed K1 mineral crystal, Seiko mecha-quartz movement, and nice complementary straps. However, I would say that the Tropical has a slight edge over its Urban Vintage counterpart due to the presence of (albeit weak) lume, a stainless steel tachymetre bezel that adds reassuring heft, and the inclusion of a date window which increases the functionality of the watch.
From a design perspective, whilst I enjoyed the look of both watches immensely, I would again give the edge to the Tropical. The vintage “Killy” dial on the Urban Vintage is nice, but vintage-inspired designs have been making a comeback lately, both in the microbrand sphere as well as in the luxury sphere. In comparison, I find the “tropic” dial on the Tropical more unique and full of character. Yes, the design inspiration from Omega Speedmasters of old (especially those with tropic dials) is evident, but it’s definitely not a homage in any way. If you’re a fan of tropic dials, the UNDONE Tropical is probably the best (and perhaps only) affordable option there is on the market currently!
However, I would say that the Urban Vintage probably presents the better value proposition. As compared to the Tropical, the Urban Vintage is ~$70 USD (after promo code below) cheaper even though specifications are largely the same. The price difference lies in the uniqueness of the Tropical’s dial and the tachymetre bezel, so if you’re aren’t a sucker for either, the Urban Vintage would definitely offer you better bang-for-buck without skimping upon the vintage vibe.
Conclusion: so the UNDONE Tropical “shiok” or not?
Personally, I really enjoyed the wearing the UNDONE Tropical on the wrist. I loved the character of the “tropic” dial – it makes for a stunning watch. More so than any other UNDONE watch I’ve reviewed till date (and I’ve reviewed a couple), I find that the elements of the UNDONE Tropical came together in a very cohesive, and attractive package. My main knock on the UNDONE Tropical is the price – at $310 USD (after promo code below) for the tachymetre version, it is significantly more expensive than the Urban Vintage ($239 USD after promo code) I’ve reviewed previously. While the Tropical is an improvement over the Urban Vintage, I’m not quite sure it justifies the $70 USD increase. If you appreciate the uniqueness of the “tropic” dial, I’ll say that the UNDONE Tropical at $310 USD is still a good buy – if not, the Urban Vintage can be had for a steal at just $239 USD!
If you would like to grab yourself an UNDONE Tropical, simply use the code “WAHSOSHIOK” upon checkout on their web-store to enjoy 10% off store-wide! The discount code applies on UNDONE’s full-range of watches. After the promo code, the UNDONE Tropical (with tachymetre) can be had for just $310 USD/ ~$435 SGD. If you always wanted a watch with a tropic dial, there’s literally no other affordable options in the market currently, especially considering the fact that you can still choose to customise and personalise the watch. I really enjoy wearing this piece out and about – I hope you will too!
View the full UNDONE Tropical collection here.