With the recent launch of the three Unimatic x Hodinkee collaboration pieces, I have had the pleasure of seeing many new collectors join the Unimatic family. This could be due to the ‘dink’ effect – where anything Hodinkee launches is met with raging enthusiasm by those loyal sheeple who can’t get enough of their preppy aesthetic… but it is nevertheless a welcomed situation, as the brand deserves all the recognition it is getting, and more. I thought I would take some time to share my thoughts on the brand and why I love it.
Unimatic was founded by a pair of industrial designers in 2015 – Giovanni and Simone – A young, Milan-based maker of minimalist sports watches. Most of their timepieces are produced in exceedingly limited runs with a keen eye toward combining value with both performance and aesthetics. With prices and limited-edition quantities squarely in the three-digit range, Unimatic is distinctive and refreshing, as it takes a design-minded approach to watchmaking, and does so while preserving the desirability of their watches without needing to break the bank.
My Unimatic story
I still remember the day quite vividly, as it is a story I have recounted many times already. I was in a meeting room with about 10 other colleagues, and several others on video conference, and I received a text message from the infamous David Sharp (@floatlite on Instagram) – it simply said “you need this” and below that, was a hyperlink and a password.
I clicked on the link, entered the password, and was taken to a page showing me a watch I had never heard of. Being a fellow space-geek, I knew why David had sent me the link – I saw a white watch for about £700, with “NASA” on the dial, the U1-SP. I wondered what the hell he was playing at, but the brevity of his message gave me the impression that he was doing me a favour, so I simply purchased it then and there, under the conference room table, and went back to my meeting.
After the meeting, I was wondering what the heck I had done – so I visited their website on my laptop, noticed it was limited to 50 pieces but still looked up their returns policy, even emailed customer service to confirm my understanding of the returns policy… and then simply waited with curiosity! Turned out this ended up being, in my opinion, the best watch they have made to date – so really, a huge thank you must go to David for thinking of me, and introducing me to the brand.
Needless to say, the rest is history, as I went on to buy 3 more Unimatic watches after that. The second one I have was a black-dialled Spongebob watch, the U1-SS – these are entirely illegible, but extremely sentimental to me, as two of my brothers also own the same watch, out of a limited run of 50 pieces.
The third one I have is a collaboration with Norwegian Rain, the U1-NRN, to celebrate their 10th anniversary. This particular one is limited to 39 pieces and this number was chosen as this was the age of one of the NR co-founders at the time of the anniversary. This is the only one I own on a steel bracelet, so it was a welcomed alternative in my Unimatic collection; the oxidised copper dial is also pretty stunning, but the downside is that it’s entirely illegible in the dark.
The most recent purchase is one of the three watches launched in collaboration with Hodinkee, the U1-H diver. I was speaking to someone today, and mentioned how the U1-SP NASA edition is arguably the coolest, but this one is probably more of a ‘go anywhere do anything’ watch. The grey dial is absolutely stunning, and the new rubber strap is incredibly versatile and comfortable.
Small side note regarding the link sent to me by David in the story above: For those who are familiar with the brand, you will know that all previous customers receive a link to pre-order new releases a day before the official launch, with a handful of these reserved for the ‘Unimatic family’. The entire production cannot sell out via this link, because this pre-release is limited to a small percentage of the total production – leaving a fair chance for new customers to purchase when the launch takes place.
So… why Unimatic?
Many collectors of independent brands will tell you they love the ability to form a relationship with the brand – it is no different here. More than this, the collectors of Unimatic watches seem to gravitate towards one another, and celebrate their watches together as the hidden gems they are.
My first story is about the NASA watch – shortly after purchasing it, I was contacted by a guy from Italy named Luigi (@timetotalk_watches), who had managed to get one in the public release. We spoke for ages on Instagram, and he eventually arranged to visit London and join a Redbar meet-up. Through this, he ended up befriending Dave Sharp, who later connected him with the lads from Scottish Watches… and he now writes for their website and so on. We remain friends, and he even sends Star Wars toys for my kid sometimes.
The second story is also through the NASA watch – similar to Luigi, I connected with Mark (@king_julien73) through Instagram and after about 2 years of chatting on Instagram, we finally got to meet in London just last week, as he came down for Wimbledon. It felt like we were long lost friends meeting up after ages, but the whole thing was made possible by our shared love for Unimatic watches. He has since amassed a collection of nearly 30 Unimatic watches too!
I have a few more stories but not sure the folks would be happy for me to share them, might edit the post later if they agree. Admittedly, I have similar stories for other watches made by other brands – for instance, fellow Journe collectors etc – and that’s kinda the point; you’d rarely find such random connections in the world when buying a Daytona.
Moreover, Unimatic watches are the brand founders’ pride and joy too – their customer service is unbelievable, and they’re always open to feedback and constructive criticism. I have had several conversations with Giovanni about something as basic as quick-release pins on the straps for example – something he is keen to implement, but only if it won’t compromise the security of the watch when serving its purpose as a diver; and that’s just one example.
Aside from my affinity with the brand and their design etc, there’s also a more practical appeal for me personally. Living in London, like many big cities, there is a lot of opportunistic crime. The way these criminals operate, is they have spotters all over the place – who tend to follow you to your car, or to your home, and rob you of your valuables. It never used to be so bad, but increasingly this sort of crime is on the rise – and it isn’t surprising, as it coincides with the rise in secondary market prices for watches. A year ago, when Journe was barely recognisable, I would happily wear my watch anywhere, as it was far less likely to attract attention; today, it has become a piece of hype – to the extent people are now even tagging Rolex photos with the #fpjourne hashtag! This is where the Unimatic serves a purpose too. It’s still very much a collector’s brand, and I love wearing it as much as any of my other watches – but it also won’t attract undue attention from would-be criminals… and yet, a watch geek or a fellow #watchfam member is now increasingly likely to recognise it – since the design is rather distinctive. This means I find myself reaching for a Unimatic far more frequently than you’d imagine.
Finally, it is human nature to want what we cant have – and Unimatic taps into this nature quite perfectly. They have created a brand with a loyal following – many of whom own vast and expensive collections of cars and watches which ‘ordinarily’ wouldn’t befit a seemingly ‘cheap’ watch at around £600-800. Yet, they love it. The validation that comes with this (unpaid, unsponsored) marketing is invaluable. Unimatic’s design speaks for itself, and as a result of this inimitable aesthetic, people gravitate towards the brand – naturally, when you couple this with the limited supply, it is a superb formula!
I find it amusing that people offer to pay me more than 3x the retail price for my NASA watch – I love it too much to sell, but it definitely adds to the appeal, and reinforces my point above that even though it is inexpensive relative to other ‘big brands’ – it is still a collectible timepiece.
Perhaps also worth mentioning, they all use the Seiko NH35 movement except for the most recent U1-H which has a slimmer Swiss movement – personally, I don’t care about the movement anyway… it isn’t a selling point, and in my use of all the watches to date, they have been more than sufficient in terms of time gained or lost. I change watches often, meaning I end up setting my watches often; this makes the accuracy only relevant to me for a day or two – during which time, the variance is negligible.
Not much more to say – I love the brand and I am very pleased with the most recent purchase of the grey dial diver. I would wholeheartedly recommend this brand to anyone who finds the design appealing – you will be pleasantly surprised by their watches.
Finally, for the avoidance of doubt – this was not a paid advert. I paid for all my watches, in full, with my own money – they were not gifted. I was not asked to write this, and in fact they don’t even know I am doing this post. I had too many different chats about Unimatic over the last few months, and after a final chat on Instagram today, I thought it would be easier for me to set out my thoughts here so I can refer back to them as I meet new collectors and end up on the same topic again.