Sometimes you put a watch on your wrist that immediately feels right in any aspect. Looks, size, feeling, technics, and, what pointed out later, even the price. For me, the Undone Basecamp is such a watch. As the brand describes it, the Undone Basecamp is a premium, custom-made tool watch that is equipped with the style, comfort, and durability to brave the day-to-day madness of modern, urban existence. Wow!
Established in 2014 by Michael Young together with a team of watch industry veterans, Undone is a Hong Kong-based company. Built-up around three different model lines (Urban, Aqua, and Basecamp) Undone is very much about customization and personalization of the watches they offer. The core philosophy of the company is enabling everyone from all walks of life to create their unique personalized watch at a great value without sacrificing quality.
…every watch is made-to-order
Every watch is made-to-order within Undone’s own facilities. Their in-house operations include research and development for products, assembly, quality control, and packaging. It allows the company to have control over every aspect that goes into the making of their products. Manufacturing of components, exclusively for Undone, is outsourced, while for the movements OEM products are used.
So far, here at Fratello, we published three articles on Undone. It started with the explanation of the whole customization and personalization process by Balazs’ Undone Hands-On article. Further Robert-Jan wrote the Undone Tropical Review, and our own in-house designer Teun even did a collaboration with Undone, the Watches & Pencils Undone Limited Edition.
Where are we looking at? As Undone describes it, the Basecamp is a vintage-inspired watch. “Modern, yet loyal to the legacy of tool watches. By bringing back watch parts and finishing details of the past, Basecamp is a contemporary tribute to horological history.” So it’s a tribute. I’m glad Undone didn’t use the word ‘homage’ as to me personally a homage is pretty much the same as a copy-cat without the name of the original watch on it. Something the Basecamp certainly is not.
…spoiling the fun
Normally when publishing reviews, the price is one of the last things we mention. Of course important, but the review should reflect the watch enough to give the reader the possibility of getting an idea about the price level. It could be almost a guessing game. You read about a watch, learn the technical aspects, and look at our numerous pictures. Now you should have an idea about the price level this watch in question should fall in for you.
But here I’m gonna spoil that fun. The price of the Undone Basecamp is US$ 295,=. That’s without VAT, including worldwide shipping, and no typo. I think we should bear this in mind when reading the rest of the review. Specifically, because this review will point out that, technically and construction-wise, there are no flaws to be found.
So, why did this watch appeal so much to me at first sight? It certainly wasn’t the price; I wasn’t even aware of that. Wearing the watch already for some days now, I have to go back to the point I got this watch in my hands for the first time.
It was the totally blacked-out bezel what struck me first. Well totally blacked-out, it has one big luminous triangle on it. Talking about bringing back watch parts form the past, this type of bezel was used by Blancpain on their German Military Bund version of the Fifty-Fathoms in the seventies. Squale might have been the manufacturer of that watch and did a limited re-edition of that watch some years ago.
…a bezel seen on German Military watches
Thus, this type of bezel is not new, however, not often seen as well. And I like it very much. Like the formerly mentioned watches, the Undone Basecamp’s bezel is bi-directional rotating, and even without clicks as well. I’m not sure which material it’s made out of, but the transparent bezel looks like the classic Bakelite bezels, with lume applied underneath.
I love it! Plastic has such a different refractive index than sapphire, it gives the watch a totally different look and feels. The view on the dial under different angles, to me, is so much more attractive. Instant vintage feeling. Of course, it will scratch! So what? Silver polish, or Polywatch, will buff the little scratches out when the view gets troubled. The deeper scratches will be your battle scars, they belong there, you earned them. And the 3mm thick polycarbonate won’t break, not even when hit hard.
And if, in the end, you should decide that those scratches are now that bad that they eliminate the fun of your watch there’s the possibility to have the plastic crystal replaced. Undone informed us, however, that they won’t send out a spare plastic crystal, however they’re able to replace it when the watch is send back to them for repair.
The dial of the Undone Basecamp is appropriately matt black and has faux-patina luminous numerals and index hour markers. These numerals and markers perfectly match the color of the luminous triangle on the bezel. I love the fact that there’s no logo below the 12. The Undone brand name is situated at the bottom of the dial, below the 6. Between the center of the dial and the 6, the depth rating is mentioned. As well as the fact that then watch uses an Automatic movement.
…I would have loved it when there wouldn’t have been a date window at all
We’re reviewing the model with a white date disc here, but there’s the option for a black date disc as well, which I would have preferred. To be honest, which I always am, I would have loved it, even more, if there wouldn’t have been a date window at all.
Undone mentions, for exceptional legibility, the hands to be drastically different. Indeed the hour, minute, and second hand are immediately distinguishable. But that doesn’t immediately mean that the time is unmistakably readable as well. We’re getting to a point which started to bother me quite a bit, certainly after wearing the watch for a while.
…a point which bothers me
Being fluorescent orange, the hour hand is deliberately the most attention-attracting. The form of this hand is a rather iconic one and well know. But not, as used here, as a regular hour hand. Which in fact it isn’t. We all know this hand from the Rolex Explorer-II with reference 1655. On the Rolex 1655, this hand is properly used as an extra 24-hour hand. Its extended line-formed hand-tip crosses the minute track on the dial to indicate the time at the outer 24-hour bezel. Undone, however, uses it as a regular hour hand on the Basecamp.
Besides being a bit strange that an hour hand is orange with a white minute hand (normally that’s the other way around when using two colors of hands), the length of the hand is weird as well. Even without mentioning the long line-formed hand-tip, the arrow itself doesn’t point at the hour index markers, but at the minute track instead. In fact, the length of this hour hand is hardly shorter than the minute hand. Aesthetically I can’t see this as optima forma.
…a too attractive second hand?
The minute hand seems to be a perfect choice. Length just about right, and filled with the same nice color of luminous material as can be found in the dial. The only thing is – and you’ll probably notice this while wearing the watch for some time – that the all-white and longer second hand with luminous counter-weight attracts more attention than the hour hand. In real life, before you’ll notice the hour hand, you’ll see the second hand. Which isn’t preferable if you want to look at the time at a glance. A slightly darker color of the second hand could do the job to solve this in my opinion.
So in my perfect world, the dial would look like the picture on the right, while it does look like the picture on the left.
Made of austenitic 316L – L for ‘low carbon’ – stainless steel, the case is beautifully and very classically shaped. The sides are polished, while the upper and back faces are brushed. And I have to mention the chamfers, an extra angled and polished cut along the lugs to enrich its overall silhouette. A class act from the golden age of mechanical watchmaking when workmanship was key.
…a case coming from an age when workmanship was key
Less spectacular is the pressure and/or depth rating of the watch. 5 Bar, equivalent to around 50-meters water depth, is not something to write home about. In fact, for a toolwatch, it’s below par. Swimming would probably be possible with the watch, however, I would refrain from snorkelling and further. Strange as well, in my opinion, because the watch has a solid screwed down case back and even a screw down crown.
We’re getting to the back of the watch, and slowly to the end of this review. I couldn’t find the material in the specifications nor press release, but the Basecamp in standard execution sports an – expectedly – mineral clear glass back. A nice option, for only $20.- extra, is the possibility to have something – like a logo or initials – printed to it.
…to-the-second-precise setting of the time
Without a print, however, the case back gives clear sight on the SII (Seiko Industries Inc) caliber NH35a automatic movement. One of the most reliable and robust workhorses in the industry. Besides automatic winding, when wearing the watch, the movement can be wound by hand. Fully wound it reaches an autonomy of 42 hours. To easy to-the-second-precise setting of the time, the movement is hackable as well.
Like most Undone watches the Basecamp takes a 20mm wide strap between the lugs. No less than 7 different types of straps are available for this watch, most of them in several colors. Our review watch had a thick green NATO-type strap with blank metal heavy hardware. The strap must be extremely durable and tough, a bit too tough for my taste. I couldn’t get it comfortably around my 18cm diameter wrist in any way and decided to change it for a soft Italian made GLC strap.
Like all Undone watches we’ve seen so far, the Basecamp came in that nice little solid Undone box, including an instruction booklet.
…hard to believe
With only a few – at least in my opinion – design flaws, the Undone Basecamp is a perfect and specifically beautiful daily watch. It absolutely lives up to the promise of being fully suitable for day-to-day madness of modern, urban existence. And that all at an only very hard to believe price.
More information on Undone and the Basecamp watch can be found at their www.undone.com website, where there’s the possibility to customize, personalize and order the watch as well.
Gerard has been in the watch industry for over two decades now. He owned a watch shop in The Hague, The Netherlands, and besides that he has journalistic and photographic activities in the field of watches. Collecting watches since he... read more