Hi guys, and welcome to another Singaporean watch review! A month back, I posted an article detailing my experience customizing the Undone Aqua watch. It’s taken a while, but my customized Undone Aqua (pictured below) has finally arrived!
Undone Aqua – Build Quality
After seeing the watch in person (and wearing it for a month), I’m pleased with the build quality!
The Undone Aqua comes equipped with sapphire crystal that has been applied with AR (anti-reflective) coating. I stress in almost all my watch reviews the importance of sapphire crystal. Sapphire crystal makes the dial virtually scratch-proof, thus adding durability and longevity to the watch. The presence of an AR coating increases dial legibility as well by reducing reflection.
During my customization process I opted for the Cerakote coating on both the case and the bezel. If you didn’t read the previous article (and why haven’t you?), Cerakote is a coating that’s typically applied on firearms to increase corrosion and scratch resistance, as well as improve general strength and hardness. This is actually the first time I saw Cerakote being applied to a watch, so when I saw it as one of Undone’s customization options I immediately jumped on it. Due to it’s inherent properties, the Cerakote coating won’t wear off over time like a standard PVD coating might. It’s more scratch-resistant than PVD, thus adding durability to the watch. Basically, the Cerakote coating makes the watch much tougher. Be forewarned though – there is a steep premium for the Cerakote coating. Having both the case and bezel Cerakote coated will add US $90 to the tab.
Horween is probably one of the most established names in the leather industry. Founded way back in 1905, they have been manufacturing quality leather products out of downtown Chicago since the last century. Their straps are hand-made, hand-stitched, and likely to be some of the best in the market. Other than making watch straps, Horween has also been making American footballs as well as baseball and baseball gloves for over 70 years. When it comes to leather, you don’t get much better than Horween. Furthermore, the strap also comes with quick release spring bars to facilitate easy strap changes. I appreciate this feature, as it means that I can switch between the Horween leather strap and a rubber strap when I’m bringing the watch out to the pool or the beach (this is billed as a dive watch afterall). In a thoughtful detail, the buckle is Cerakote coated as well in matching color! I find this not only a nice touch aesthetically, but also in practicality. On standard stainless steel watch buckles, I find that the buckle tend to get scratched easily (especially on polished ones). Given the scratch-resisting properties of Cerakote, the buckle should look pristine for a long time.
You guys know I like the Seiko NH35A. It’s affordable yet reliable – I much prefer it to the Miyota 8 series. The rotor is finished decoratively as well, so that’s a nice touch. Overall, nothing spectacular about the Seiko NH35A – it’s a tried and tested workhorse. Some specs: 21600 vibrations per hour, 41 hours power reserve, 24 jewels, hacking, and a date indicator.
Where I personally feel the Undone Aqua fall short is in it’s diving features. This is Undone’s dive offering – there’s a reason they named it the Aqua! However, the water resistance rating, at 100M (though it doubles to 200M for closed case-back), is rather paltry for a “dive” watch. Furthermore, I find the unidirectional bezel a touch too small, making it a bit difficult to rotate. If you’re looking for a tool watch (customized), the Undone Aqua is probably not for you. But let’s be real here – how many of us who own dive watches actually dive? And for those who do, how many would dive to a depth greater than 100M? Even Panerai watches, for all of their navy heritage, have a water-resistance rating of 100M. The Undone Aqua, with 100M of WR, should be more than adequate for 99% of us. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a hardcore dive watch, this probably isn’t for you.
Of course, a dive watch must come with lume. I’m happy to report that in this aspect, the Undone Aqua doesn’t disappoint. The lume on the Undone Aqua glows quite strongly in a rather cool ice blue. I would have loved for the triangle tip of the bezel to be lumed as well though (something that should be standard on dive watches), but this might have been impossible due to the Cerakote coating.
Overall, I’m happy with the build quality of the Undone Aqua – it has a reliable movement, sapphire crystal, Cerakote coated case and bezel, and comes with a quality Horween strap. I don’t dive (I barely swim), so the low water resistance rating doesn’t bother me too much.
Undone Aqua – Design
Now usually this is the portion where I’ll dissect the design of the watch, but given that it was me who configured the design, I can’t really critique my own design ethos (or lack thereof). As such, I’ll be focusing on areas that are inherent to the Undone Aqua’s design.
During my customization process, I picked the carbon fiber dial. I’m glad to say that it actually looks rather nice in person! The dial seems to take on different textures when viewed from different angles. Look at the dial straight on, and it’s checkered. View it from the side, and the checkers turn to ripples. It’s really cool, though it is something best seen in person. My initials turned out well too! However, I still dislike the cyclops lens. In person, it looks more obtrusive than it appeared on the configurator. It lacks the subtlety of say, the cyclops lens on a Rolex Submariner or Datejust. Of course, those are watches that’s 10-20 times the price of the Undone Aqua, so it’s a bit of an unfair comparison. Still, I think the cyclops lens makes the dial look a bit cheap, akin to something to see on a Rolex submariner knock-off. In my opinion, Undone should definitely include an option for dials without the cyclops lens.
Case-wise, I love the beveled edges that leads to the crown. The angular lines that it creates – it makes the case-side look striking. We get an embossed screw-down crown as well. Though hard to rotate in practicality, the teeth of the bezel actually look visually appealing, especially when viewed from the side.
The caseback is rather interesting as well. I like the play of shape involved – if you look carefully, the upper layer is an octagon, while the bottom layer is circular. This creates attractive lines, and makes what’s usually boring about a watch (the caseback) intriguing. In addition, Undone offers you the opportunity to have a logo/text of your choice printed (for an additional price) on the exhibition caseback – I gave them the vector image of a Gyphon, and again it actually turned out looking quite nice!
However, I would have preferred a signed rotor by Undone, or better yet the customization option of personalizing the rotor. If a small microbrand like Schaffen can do it, I don’t see why Undone can’t! Furthermore, if you’re going to decorate the movement, decorate the entire movement and not just the rotor. Oh and one more thing – while I like that the strap loop is hand stitched, I would have preferred it to be slimmer. It’s a bit too fat for my taste.
All in all though, I’m delighted with the way my design configuration has turned out.
Shootout: Undone Aqua vs H20 Helberg CH6
H20 specializes in customizable dive watches, therefore making them the natural pick in this shootout.
Spec-wise, the H20 Helberg trumps the Undone Aqua any day. The Helberg houses the Miyota 9015 movement (a movement with a higher beat rate than the cheaper Seiko NH35A), and is water-resistant to 1000M! That’s a whooping ten times higher than the 100M WR rating on the Undone Aqua.
If you’re looking for customization options though, the choices on the Helberg is rather limited. You get to choose between 4 different colored dials, a stainless steel or ceramic bezel, and a flat or domed sapphire. Yup, that’s all. If you want more customization options, you would have to look at the H20 Kalmar, starting at 870 euros excluding VAT. That’s more than twice the price of the Undone Aqua! In terms of customization options, the Undone Aqua wins the H20 Helberg hands-down. You get differing options for the case, bezel, dial, hands, straps, and even the choice of personalizing the dial and the caseback!
So who wins this shootout? Starting at 445 USD/~$593 SGD (after the promo code below), the Undone Aqua is significantly cheaper than the H20 Helberg CH6, which starts at 600 euros/~$980 SGD. Value-wise, the Undone Aqua definitely makes more sense. At the end of the day, I think it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a dive watch first, and customization second, the H20 Helberg CH6 with it’s 1000M WR rating fits the bill. On the other hand, if you love the idea of personalizing your own unique dive watch, go for the Undone Aqua. I personally wouldn’t pay almost twice the price just for additional WR rating. Like I said – how many of us actually wear our dive watches out to the beach or the pool, much less dive to depths greater than 100M with them? As such, I would say that for the vast majority of us who like the look of a dive watch but aren’t serious divers, the Undone Aqua makes much more sense financially as well as in its customization options.
Conclusion: So the Undone Aqua “shiok” or not?
There are a lot of watch companies offering customization features nowadays (Eoniq, Schaffen, Horae, just to name a few). Admittedly, many of them offer customizable watches at a lower price point than Undone. Yet, Undone is one of the rare few that successfully marriages the idea of customization, and the increasing demand for dive watches (The market seem awash with them nowadays). Today, dive watches seem to be getting to a point where all of them starts to look the same. With Undone’s customization features, you get the chance to make a dive watch unique to yourself. I know that no other dive watch will look like my Undone Aqua!
If you’re interested in getting any of Undone’s offerings, the promo code WAHSOSHIOK will net you 10% off. I suggest tinkering around with Undone’s customization tool first, see if there’s a combination that you like, then commit. I’m loving my Undone Aqua so far – hopefully you will too!
View Undone’s full range of offerings here.
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Specifications as reviewed:
- 45mm stainless steel case
- 52mm lug to lug
- 16mm thick
- 22mm lug width
- Cerakote bezel
- Cerakote case
- Carbon fiber dial
- Sapphire Crystal with AR coating
- Horween Leather strap
- Exhibition case back
- Seiko NH35 Movement
- 100 meters water resistant
Nigel Gomes, @the_lone_cadre