Why I Bought The Unimatic × Massena LAB U1-ML6
One of my best 2020 purchases was pretty unexpected. Prior to this watch, I didn’t know much about Unimatic, only that it existed. Yet this watch and I have developed quite a relationship since last February. In fact, our bond has been strong enough to resist a few buy-out offers. Interested in how much I was offered? Keep on reading!
It all started with an email from Rob, our managing editor, asking if I would be interested in looking into a watch that came in with a publishing embargo. When I looked at the early press pictures and spotted the tropical brown dial and Rolex 6538 inspired bezel, I was hooked.
Learning about the Unimatic × Massena LAB U1-ML6
Writing a watch article is often very tricky, sometimes dangerous even. If you do your job properly and dig deep enough, you can find the tiniest details about the design or the manufacturing process. Better still, it is sometimes possible to get the man behind the watch on the line. “It was not easy convincing Unimatic to do a 15 min counter bezel with a red triangle. That took some convincing arguments. And I don’t think you will see another one in their editions,” William Massena told me before the watch went public.
How I almost missed it
I forgot about the watch after the article went live. For about 30 minutes… I quickly realized something had been eating at my brain. Any guesses? I hadn‘t seen the watch in flesh, but I was nevertheless playing around with the idea of buying one. That doesn’t happen often. As you know, I am mostly focused on vintage pieces. As such, I dropped out of the checkout process twice. When I got back to it in a few days, all watches from the strictly limited edition of 99 pieces were gone.
I regretted my reticence immediately. I took a shot and dropped William a message asking if there wasn’t a piece he perhaps kept aside. Of course, I didn’t expect a happy ending, so you can imagine my pleasure when I found William’s reply saying he has one piece left. A few days later my Unimatic × Massena LAB U1-ML6 numbered 69/99 was on the way.
The galvanic charm
If you like the pictures, I bet you would be stunned by the real piece. The design is unique and very elegant at the same time. A tropical brown would probably be the closest descriptor of the color you see on the dial. In real life it’s really mysterious, varying from a deep “rusty“ brown and burgundy to a dirty-orange. It’s almost hard to believe that the original color of the dial was black. How come? Well, this is not your every day dial. The final finishing was achieved in a galvanization process, that resulted in the loss of color similar to what you can find after over-exposure to UV light.
Every one of these special dials took their chemical bath near Milan, Italy. This brings us to another exciting detail printed on the dial right under the UNIMATIC name. Let me ask you, how many watches in your collection qualify for “Made in Italy” status? To learn more about the young, ambitious, and strongly individualistic Unimatic, I really recommend reading Jorg’s article that he wrote after meeting the Unimatic founder Giovanni Moro.
Vintage versus massive Unimatic × Massena
I dare say that 95% of my collection is made up of watches that are very much below today’s size standards. Comparing my 35–38mm diameter standard to the Unimatic × Massena, it seems I show no consistency at all. Either that or I went crazy. The Massena LAB U1-ML6 truly is massive. It reminds me of Musk’s truck. If you flip the watch in your hand, it feels like a little fortress I would not be able to destroy even if I wanted to. Despite that, I didn’t hesitate to put it on my wrist for a serious meeting. I guess it’s the minimalistic dial and iconic bezel design that keeps it relatively low-key.
Tall on the wrist?
So does this watch stand tall on the wrist? Yes, maybe. I say maybe, as I don’t realize it much when I wear it. It came with a NATO strap too, but I never put it on. The original burgundy Horween Shell Cordovan strap is a perfect fit. I like that there is no stitching or any other detailing. It’s perfectly simple. It fits the 22mm wide lugs so precisely, that it looks like it has grown into them. I think the unusual strap dial combo part of the overall aura the watch creates.
One careful look through the Unimatic watch portfolio is enough to understand their aesthetic standpoints. My respect goes to Massena because I believe he managed to take the best of it and even amplify it. Some collaboration watches look like a fighting arena of different styles and you just feel something is off. The Massena LAB U1-ML6 proves the opposite. The bezel, dial, lume, and coloring blends into vintage-inspired poetry. Just look at the dirty-patina effect on the lume dots. It doesn’t feel like 2020 to me. I would not be surprised if Massena got them done 50 years ago just to sell them to us today. I mean, the old lume effect looks almost shockingly realistic.
A tool watch
The Unimatic × Massena has since become my number one choice for strolling around with my one-year-old baby girl in bad weather. Each time she falls asleep, I align the bi-directional bezel with a big fat minute hand to time her sleep. As she barely sleeps longer than 50 minutes during the day, my stroller bezel turned out to be perfectly functional. When I try to recollect other moments spent with this watch, fixing a leaking roof or a mountain trek comes to mind. You get the bigger picture now.
I often get dib requests on vintage watches. It had never happened to me with a modern watch before I bought Unimatic. The launch retail price was $850, so no wonder that it was sold out shortly after the release — 55 seconds after release, to be precise. Looking at the picture above, you might be as surprised as I was at the offer that came before Christmas. Not even a year after its release, the Unimatic × Massena LAB U1-ML6 is trading for almost triple its original price. That’s pretty impressive. When I shared this anecdote with William Massena while writing this article, he made clear it’s not an uncommon amount to be offered. He had already witnessed a $3,600 purchase…
Final thoughts on Unimatic × Massena
This was supposed to be an article detailing why I decided to buy a watch, but I feel like explaining why I haven’t sold it is a flip-side of the same coin. I don’t wear the Massena LAB U1-ML6 too often, because I am a vintage watch nerd to the bone. I have to admit, that the buyout offer was really attractive and I considered it for a few days. Finally, I just couldn’t let it go, and here is why. I don’t know if I will ever be able to buy a Rolex 6538, but I see it in the Massena LAB U1-ML6 a lot.
In an unrepeatable fashion, Massena “cultivated” that striking Unimatic spell that only seems to be growing in popularity. On a more practical note, having a durable watch on hand is also important. And let’s not forget, one day this watch will be considered vintage too. I am truly curious to see how this galvanic dial with an already patinated flair will age over the years to come.