Thinking of the word “Undone”, the images that immediately pops in my mind are sailing sheets on a yacht coming off their rigging and an unsecured neck tie. Not initially positive I know, yet intriguing that the word was chosen for a new watch brand. With almost three hundred established horological brands/groups in the market, a few of them close to three centuries old even, how can a small new player create its own ripple of commercial success in this extremely challenging market that essentially serves the most defined purpose of any man-made instrument?
Excluding the fastest growing watch segment, the smart watches/devices that heavily build on the basic principal of telling time by providing almost infinite additional digital functions, there are certainly still unique opportunities to serve mechanical analog watch/jewelry enthusiasts who are seeking bespoke yet still durable and accurate affordable time pieces.
In theory and in practice, every single Undone watch can be tailored distinctly different. The key factor though is scale, which could be only a single nuance like a different colored dial to the extreme where every single component has a unique design treatment limited only to the fundamental materials of the time piece. And that is precisely the mantra that supports the brand name, I get it now. The mindset is to break the monotony and conformity of design limited only to your imagination and budget while simultaneously providing fundamental time keeping requirements. For perspective, one way of paralleling this in the automotive world, choosing MINI as an example (almost all big car brands now offer some variation of consumer tailoring, the most discerning of them extend that customization further beyond purely cosmetic luxury appointments to equipment and dynamic upgrades as well) celebrates that any buyer interested in their cars can configure almost every single aspect of their intended purchase. If you wanted a fun little car that reflected your outlandish personality, you could choose from a deep online catalog that in essence provides over a million different configurations with additional costing naturally. Now, what sets Undone apart from that exercise, which is more a Rolls-Royce mindset, is that the buyer is not limited to the configurator options and fields; a buyer can provide their own individual color palettes and designs (whether it’s a picture, drawing, logo, and etc.) on top of selecting the basic components of the time piece to match their tastes and unique needs.
Now it is true that many important watch brands do offer some latitude for customization but at great cost and extended delivery times too. There are also, in stark contrast, many fashion and primarily jeweler brands that also offer commissioned watches but most of these have much less concern for time keeping and longevity of the movement using inexpensive quartz with more attention going to the application of the precious metals and stones. I have attended many jewelry shows in Europe and Hong Kong before and quite a few booths had companies that each tried to get into the watch business and failed precisely because the focus was mostly on design instead of the holistic approach of creating a product that had both form and function at an generally attainable price.
With practically infinite possible permutations, an Undone watch is more than just having a fun watch with a touch of individuality. You can do that with a SWATCH watch. But if you wanted a more substantial timepiece that had both form and function together with the lure of being genuinely special to the highest degree with ultra-limited production, then the costs for those can be as great as buying a supercar or small home. So what is the middle ground? I think that solution today is an Undone timepiece!
Let me break it down for you, keep in mind that I was once an avid watch collector with a fairly generous collection of important pieces from Patek Philippe, Breguet, IWC, Audemars Piguet, Franck Muller, Hublot, Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, Ulysse Nardin, and Oris to name a few. As I got older, had more children, and continued to have a complicated yet thankfully dynamic life, the collection was liquidated which made me even more particular about what I wear on my wrist. Let me be then clear and reasonable, that however attractive and seemingly robust Undone watches are as a microbrand, they are not meant to compete directly with the big European brands but instead compliment them.
I wear an IWC Pilot Top Gun Chronograph daily but I have been looking for a manageably priced watch to wear when I SCUBA dive and when I do any other vigorous activity like when I do instrumented performance testing for C!. The requirements I have for that particular watch solution are: a) a unique, preferably bespoke design, b) must be wearable underwater to at least 100 meters (330 feet), c) must have a durable steel or ceramic large case of 40 mm to 46 mm, d) must have quickly interchangeable straps with the primary being rubber, and e) must have a Swiss or Japanese automatic movement with date. So before I actually held a full production model in my hand I was already interested with Undone which seemed to have literally ticked all the required boxes on my list.
I had a charming one-on-one interview with Undone’s CEO and co-founder, Michael Young and his equally passionate head of marketing Barry Cheung when they launched the brand at the Rustan’s Makati Men’s Department last June where he admittedly describes choosing the iconic designs from Rolex as the Undone’s design and build inspiration, which is certainly a great place to start. Michael has been a big player in the watch industry in Hong Kong for many years and is still a rabid watch collector. Having been completely immersed in the most critical watch market in the world, Michael has also been working behind the scenes supporting the vast industry through every aspect of the business, from watch repairs, restorations, and customizations to designing and building the boxes that the goods are sold in as well, so he definitely knows what a consumer wants.
Keeping up with the times, Undone may operate and manufacture out of two offices to serve the global demand for these unique watches, Hong Kong and New Jersey, USA, but most of the business transactions, customization process, and delivery are done digitally through the internet (https://www.undone.watch). I invite you to try to build your custom watch, without any obligation, on their website beginning with the current collection base of three designs; Aqua, Aqua without date, and Military, and see if you don’t get smitten. On the site, you are allowed to individualize the case, bezel, dial, hands, strap, and color of the movement with proprietary case printing or engraving at the back. Every major customization point does have a cost but it is definitely manageable given the end product. At even further extra cost you can create truly bespoke textured dials. Undone promises to deliver their watches within a week with less complex customization. More complicated design requirements will push the delivery date to a maximum of 6 weeks from the time that a final design is committed.
For a refreshing perspective, Michael submits that the customer is more important than his branding, so even the Undone moniker is very discreetly located below 6 o’clock. He strongly encourages personalized customization not to make more money but to generate a closer emotional connection between his client and their time piece. The financial rewards from the sale are only enhanced by the joy and satisfaction of his customers. Michael emphasizes that every single Undone watch is hand assembled at their laboratory using premium quality components, followed by strict quality control procedures above industry standards. The current movements used are Seiko’s latest very dependable and accurate mechanical automatic Japan-built Caliber NH35A which features a hacking-second hand, ball-bearing bi-directional winding, 24 jewels, 41-hour power reserve, and Vibration frequency at 21,600 beat per hour, with date. The Seiko movement was a great choice and very reassuring, in case you may not be aware, the Japanese watchmaker traces its history back to 1882, making it one of the oldest traditional watch manufacturers still doing business in the digital age. My first diving watch was an awesome Seiko 6309 back in 1982 and it never failed.
The Aqua model is the best seller with its 45 mm stainless steel case guaranteed solid for a diving depth of 200 m (660 feet) though Michael says it can actually do 300 m, and you can chose the color and finish. The glass used is an AR-coated sapphire crystal with an asymmetrical magnifier at 3 o’clock, and a 120-click unidirectional diver’s bezel. Undone’s latest finish option uses their own Cerakote™ which seals the steel in military grade ceramic for extra protection. You can either have a solid steel or sapphire crystal back, each along with the rotor can also be customized. The watch straps are equipped with quick-release spring bars so switching them is effortless to suit your needs once again. Future products include an Aqua Chronograph with a Swiss ETA 7750 movement, an even more affordable model line called Urban with supposedly three different Swiss Ronda movement variations, two chronographs, one Gérald Genta-inspired 3-hands model called the Terrain in smaller case sizes, and a pilot’s chronograph named the Hemisphere.
I strongly believe that Undone, unlike its name, will not unravel but soar successfully. Their foundation and purpose are sound. I have always wanted, like a perfectly tailored suit, an affordable and dependable watch that is bespoke to my exact requirements.