Hands-On: The Unimatic For L’Eroica Modello Uno U1-ER — Combining Great Style With A Cool Story
Earlier this week, Unimatic unveiled three new titanium models that look very sharp. Three great new releases from the Italian brand explore great future possibilities for its timepieces. But next to regularly creating new additions to the brand’s lineup, Unimatic also loves collaborating with other brands to create unique, standout versions of its different models. One of the latest collaboration timepieces that caught my attention was the charming Unimatic for L’Eroica Modello Uno U1-ER. The watch perfectly proves that Unimatic is about something more than just being a watch brand. The watch introduced me to the cool story of the L’Eroica cycling experience.
Back in 2020, when I talked to Giovanni Moro, one of Unimatic’s two founders, we discussed the unique position that the brand is in. On the one hand, serious watch fans follow the brand with a lot of interest, waiting for what Moro and his partner Simone Nunziato come up with regarding technology and design. The men chose to eliminate a watch’s decorative elements in their designs. The result is a very minimalist approach to the design of their watches. But going a step further, they also play with the elements that define the category. A good example is getting rid of the diving scale on many of the brand’s Modello Uno versions. As a result, the watches transform from adherents to a practical purpose into bold design statements.
Unimatic has multiple stories to tell
While those steps might put the purists off because it defeats the purpose of creating a dive watch, a huge crowd loves these style-focused timepieces. Besides the traditional watch fans, they also attracts a large group of people less focused on hardcore horology — people who are more interested in the brand’s design, fashion, and lifestyle aspects. It’s a unique position for the Unimatic to be in. Every new release unveils a cool timepiece that tells a visual tale accompanied by a collaborative brand’s story. On more than one occasion, it has caused me to read about brands I didn’t know, only to find out that the guys at Unimatic have a keen eye for great stories.
One of those is the story of L’Eroica, one that I was not familiar with. But when I mentioned it to Lex, our Fratello cycling pro, he immediately jumped up and told me more. For those unfamiliar with L’Eroica, it’s an annual cycling event that began in 1997 in Gaiole in Chianti, a small village in the Tuscan province of Siena. The creator of the event, Giancarlo Brocci, together with 92 other like-minded cycling enthusiasts, started an event focused on challenging routes through magnificent Italian landscapes combined with a unique way of getting refreshments along the way. Since the first event, Eroica has grown into a series of cycling events worldwide.
The story of L’Eroica
But they are not just your standard cycling events. The idea behind L’Eroica in Tuscany and other Classic Eroica events worldwide is to revive the spirit of the cycling sport of days gone by. And it’s not just the historical routes that remind us of that, but the contestants also ride historical road-race bikes in traditional outfits of the past. There is a series of events called the Nova Eroica for modern bikes, but the charm of the past allows the Classic Eroica series of events to tell a more charming and heroic story. Seeing people on classic bikes, sometimes dating back to the early 20th century, is nothing short of magical. Add the right outfit, and you will end up with a brilliant spectacle that is a feast for the eyes.
If we zoom in on L’Eroica, the original event, it is held in Tuscany annually on the first Sunday of October. Participants have the opportunity to ride different routes. The ultimate route is the Long Route which is an impressive 212.5km long. And seeing pictures of people riding their bikes through the Tuscan landscapes over the iconic “Strade Bianche” (white gravel roads) makes it even more impressive. Everyone that entered this year’s 25th-anniversary edition needed to ride a bike from 1987 or before This meant that all the bikes were 35 years old or older, with riders wearing matching vintage outfits and accessories to complete the story. Especially for this 25th edition of L’Eroica, Unimatic collaborated with the event to create a special edition of the Modello Uno that is a perfect fit for traditional outfits.
The Unimatic for L’Eroica Modello Uno U1-ER
The canvas for this special edition is the Unimatic Modello Uno. When Lex and I talked about the watch, the first thing that stood out was that the Modello Uno is a dive watch in essence. So can a dive watch become a watch for cycling? From a purist’s point of view, you could definitely debate that. But the guys at Unimatic did absolutely everything right in creating the spot-on vintage looks for the watch to fit the spirit of L’Eroica.
Let’s first go over some basic specs. The Modello Uno comes with a 40mm stainless steel case with a slightly bigger 41.5mm bezel. The case is 13.6mm thick and 49mm from lug to lug with a lug spacing of 22mm. The watch comes with a 2.5mm-thick double-domed sapphire and is water-resistant to 300 meters. Inside the case of the L’Eroica anniversary model, Unimatic uses the Seiko NH35A movement that powers many of the models that came before. The automatic movement operates at 21,600vph and has a 41-hour power reserve. It’s a reliable engine that hides underneath the special case back that features special L’Eroica 25th-anniversary engravings.
The Modello Uno’s retro-inspired design
The case back is the immediate reminder of why this model was created, but it’s all about the spirit of the design that tells the story in great detail. The watch features a beautiful dégradé dial that fades from dark red to black on its outskirts. The color is inspired by the official red color of L’Eroica, hinting back at the color of Chianti wine. The watch also features the minimalist black aluminum bezel inlay that only features a lume pip.
Unimatic deliberately chooses to put its logo on the lower half of the dial. It leaves space for the L’Eroica logo on the upper half. In terms of classical branding, this can seem quite weird. Usually, it would be the brand’s logo on top and the collaborative brand on the lower part, if mentioned at all on the dial. While it took some time to get used to seeing a brand’s logo there, it is a great reminder of the reason for this collaboration. Hovering above the logo and the dial are the phantom hands, the outline of which is executed in the same red color as the dial. This provides a visual floating effect that I love. These ladder-style hands also feature white Super-LumiNova for readability in darker conditions.
Finishing the watch in style
The watch comes with a very stylish black perforated calfskin strap inspired by vintage cycling shoes. To many, it probably looks like a classic racing strap. However, it works as a vintage-inspired cycling strap as well, and it definitely adds a ton of charm. The 22mm lug width, in particular, ensures the strap has a lot of presence. And I have to say, I loved wearing the watch with the leather strap. It’s of great quality, it breaks in easily, and it adds a ton of style and comfort. The watch also comes with a second strap, a sand-colored nylon NATO. This gives the watch a totally different presence but one that’s no less impressive.
But I loved wearing the watch on the leather strap the most. I think the guys at Unimatic did a great job integrating the vintage-inspired style into their minimalist approach to design. It shows the great versatility of the Modello Uno platform and takes a step away from the usual ultra-minimalist modern style. It’s not the first time Unimatic has done that. The Modello Uno U1-BTP made with Biotop and the Modello Uno U1-ML6 made with Massena Lab are two more great examples.
Final thoughts on the Unimatic Modello Uno U1-ER For L’Eroica
The Unimatic for L’Eroica Modello Uno U1-ER is first and foremost, a watch for fans and participants of L’Eroica. Unimatic produced 300 pieces of the watch that went on sale for €670 excluding taxes. However, a limited number of them are still available for sale. Despite not knowing about the event before the watch landed at the Fratello offices, it was great fun wearing the U1-ER for multiple reasons. First of all, wearing a Modello Uno is like coming home for me. I own two Modello Uno variants, and this limited edition is no different in terms of wearability. The 40mm case is a perfect fit for a variety of wrist sizes, the build quality is great, and the movement is a great, reliable pick for an affordable watch like this.
But where the L’Eroica model surprised me is with its great deal of vintage charm. Despite feeling familiar, I experienced this model as a great vintage counterpart to the more minimalist regular models. In that light, the watch could be a great pick if you love the style and the story it connects to. On top of that, the leather strap is an absolute winner. It is a joy to wear straight out of the box and delivers great style. All in all, I found great joy in wearing the watch and was triggered to learn more about L’Eroica in the process. And I love that aspect of the Unimatic brand. Along with making great pieces for watch fans, Unimatic also offers great watches for people interested in them as storytellers. I happen to be one of those people.
The Unimatic for L’Eroica Modello Uno U1-ER is for sale exclusively through Time Unique. For more information on Unimatic, visit the brand’s official website. Let us know in the comments section if you prefer the usual modern minimalist style or this vintage-inspired style of the Modello Uno.