U-Boat U-42 Limited Edition *REVIEW*
To make a breakthrough today in the luxury watch industry is quite a feat.
As in all industries, only those that are innovative and unique survive. And in the world of watches that means two things - to be distinctive by design or by the mechanical properties of its movements.
U-Boat does not belong to a particularly young manufactory, at least not if we look at the year when its name was mentioned for the first time. In 1942 the Italian engineer Ilvo Fontana was asked by the Italian Navy to design and build a new watch model for their pilots and divers. Watches have been deliberately oversized because they were intended for wearing over suits while huge indicators existed for good visibility in dark conditions.
However, for reasons not known, the design of U-Boat was not accepted and drawings had remained buried in drawers for the next 58 years.
Year 2000 can be seen as the year in which U-Boat brand was officially born, at least in the form we know today. The grandson of the U-Boat founder, Italo Fontana, was inspired by original designs dating from 1942, and started a new history of their brand, which made a boom in the market.
U-Boat had a glorious start. In the very beginning it presented Lefthook, a model with a distinctive crown on the left side of the case with Japanese quartz movements that were of questionable quality and finish. As the brand developed over the years, it arrived to the point where it should have decided whether to focus on a quality approach with a small scale production or become a watchmaker with mass production. According to the models they represent and the limited edition U-42 which we received for review, it is obvious that they have opted for the first option.
Although today still regarded as a fashion brand, U-Boat began to penetrate the higher segment. To judge their performance, it is enough to look at their booth in Baselworld (the most famous watches and jewels fair in Basel), where small booth turned into exhibition space on several floors in just few years. When it comes to design, it is obvious that a very large number of design elements are very similar or almost identical to Panerai watches, another Italian brand that was the Italian Navy official supplier.
The model we received for review was originally inspired by the original design dating from 1942, and was named U-42. Massive steampunk case design is of serious dimensions - 16mm thick, 47mm diameter and 55mm lug-to-lug, and is a challenge even to the strong wrists. But the consolation is that the watch is completely made of a very light metal - titanium of very dark anthracite color that accentuates the case lines and the military look. The crown is in the left side of the case, constructed in the form of leverage that you need to put in a horizontal position to wind the watch or adjust the time. The crown is not a screw-down, so we were surprised with declared 300 meters water resistance. Because of crown' specific position, you can not set or wind the watch when on your wrist. There is an interesting detail located close to the crown - a plate with the engraved number of limitation, as well as the country of origin (Italy, of course).
The opposite side of the housing is far from boring too. In this position case hides additional leverage, which serves as a lock to the bi-directional lunette. Lunette, unlike most diving models, has no teeth through which one can fine-tune the position, but turns without friction. In the open position, a lunette has a few millimetres idling which technically does not affect functionality, but we would like to see that part to be solved better, at least with an additional seal that would reduce idling to a minimum.
The dial will almost instantly be recognizable to Panerai brand fans.
Although U-Boat indicators are opposite to Panerai's (12-4-8), their design and hands shape are very similar. In a sense it is not a coincidence, considering that both designs were created at virtually the same period, in the same country and were designed for the same function and military application. Because of above average major indicators and hands readability is ideal, but the 'little things' that distinguishes this dial to Panerai's is readability in dark conditions. Namely, unlike SuperLumiNova that can be found on the Panerai dials, U-Boat uses C3 illuminations which unfortunately is not of the same intensity and longevity.
Nice details continue in the case back with all the important details engraved (including the diameter) and the calibre - U/28. U/28 calibre is the internal name for a standard ETA 2824, Swiss movement known for its durability, precision and low maintenance costs. In somewhat chaotic layout, nine screws prevent water from entering the case, out of which three are security screws, which means you'll need a special tool to open the case for servicing purposes.
Most of the time when we review the watches, we are not overly enthusiastic regarding straps. They are either too hard or do not have a nice texture and to get a much better quality we generally always recommend an aftermarket alternative . But in this case, we have not met with many of such good and high quality belts. Strap is of incredible softness and patina that usually comes with years of wear, blended with a fantastic design. The package comes with a watch and associated tools, so all you have to do is choose one of the hundred leather belts on aftermarket. Believe us, most of them will fit phenomenal!
Over the years, we met with various types of packaging. From cardboard, miniature, to massive mahogany boxes. However, we have not yet seen such packaging. If you are going to order this watch on the Internet, the cost of postage could come as a very unpleasant surprise as the solid few pounds aluminium box is something most impressive we have seen recently. Made from a single block of aluminium, box is made in a way that resembles the shape of a submarine, largely because of the central "window" with a convex lens.
Although this is unlikely to be a model oriented towards purists and collectors, U-42 is a very interesting and impressive watch that will surely be noticed on your wrist. Only if we could find a way to carry the box too ...
Complete U-Boat offer, as well as limited edition model U-42 can be found on DICTA Web shop.