Sterling Silver U-Boat Classico

Sterling Silver U-Boat Classico


U-Boat may seem like a fairly recent newcomer to the world of horology but they have been hand making watches in Italy for a few years now, and the original drawings that inspired their complete collection of large, stylish and legible men’s wrist watches were first conceived nearly 70 years ago.

Ilvo Fontana was a well known and highly regarded creator of precision engineering instruments in Lucca, Italy. In 1942 he was commissioned by the Italian Navy to design and manufacture a brand new design of wrist watch for their pilots. The brief given to Ilvo included “maximum visibility and reliability in any light or weather condition”. This prestigious requisition also meant satisfying the high quality standards expected of and demanded by the Navy and respecting their very precise technical specifications. Thus Ilvo Fontana came up with the following technical drawing for a radical new design of wrist watch. The hand written text in the bottom right hand corner reads “Lucca 5-3-1942, Ilvo Fontana”.

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It is not known what happened next but certain circumstances meant that this new design was never used. Fast forward 57 years and Ilvo’s grandson, Italo Fontana, happened upon the original designs which were still relevant in today’s market. Although, the diameter of 65mm was pushing the boundaries of even today’s fixation within the world of horology that bigger is better. Incidentally, a limited run of just 29 65mm examples of the U42, as it was to become, were produced a few years back and sold out immediately. Today’s Limited Editions of the U42 are available in diameters of 53mm and 47mm. Still no spring chickens, of course. This watch design can still be considered contemporary 70 years after it was the brainchild of Ilvo Fontana.

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This fantastic find by Italo Fontana is the basis for the entire catalogue of U-Boat watches. These currently include the Classico range, to be featured here, the FlightDeck, the aforementioned U42s, the U51s plus the Limited Edition U1001 and Thousands-Of-Feet diver’s watches. All of these collections are available with stainless steel and PVD finishes. Some are available in ceramic and the only example of black titanium cases ever. Examples of each are highlighted below:

Flightdeck example:


Limited edition U1001



Classico Examples:

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U51 Example:

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Thousands Of Feet example:

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All UBoat watches are handcrafted in Italy by master craftsmen to the highest levels of precision and detail.

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All the movements are Swiss made and are generally from ETA. U-Boat recognises that ETA movements are superb, tried and tested, reliable high volume mechanical marvels and regularly announce the movement type on the caseback.


The U42, highlighted above, is my favourite of the current collection due to it’s unique nature and heritage. Sadly, I have been unable to get my hands on one of these rarities as yet. However, my second favourite U-Boat is the Classico in solid sterling silver. Yes, that’s right: solid sterling silver. This watch has a unique aesthetic of its own from the beginning. However, what I truly love about this model is the fact that it will quickly patina and become unique as a reflection of the wearers lifestyle.

You would be forgiven for thinking this example of the 45mm Classico range was the usual stainless steel upon first seeing it. However, it soon becomes evident that the soft tones are different to the normal harsher reflections and refractions given by stainless steel. It may seem a whimsical folly by the designers to have a sterling silver version of one of their oversized men’s watches but this wonderful precious material was commonly used many decades ago for wrist watches and was the most common material used for pocket watches.

The main disadvantage of sterling silver is that it is fairly soft when compared to stainless steel and, even, gold. This would not put me off owning one of these because I think there is a certain unique character and charm to a watch that identifies it and almost gives it right of ownership to the wearer when it has succumb to a few surface blemishes, nicks, swirlies and scratches. Here’s a quick analogy for you: Tattoos. A person is given a perfect skin and yet they choose to permanently personalise it. This is painful to achieve and, pretty much, non-reversible and yet so popular. It’s all about making something personal and, therefore, unique.









I am truly tempted to get one of these sterling silver Classico 45s if I cannot locate a 47mm U42. If this happens I shall update this write up with further images once it has that great well-worn and patina’d look to it.

The sterling silver Classico 45 comes from a considerable collection of same-titled watches that are linked by their dial design.

The Sterling Silver Classico is slightly unique in this context in that it has brushed, applied numerals and brushed hands. These add a sense of class to this watch which reflects the precious metal of the case perfectly.




These details complement the stunning sterling silver case. This really has to be seen in the flesh to fully appreciate. It is very similar to comparing the harsh glare associated sapphire glass compared to soft reflective warmth of plexiglass and hesalite, etc. The weight for this oversized case design is substantial but not overbearing. It is not dissimilar to stainless steel in this regard. The detailing throughout is meticulous and the finishing of high quality.




Other luxury touches include the calf leather strap with the alligator interior, the “Handmade for: ” engraving on the back which can receive a complementary engraving with the owner’s name and sapphire glass exhibition caseback with military styled protection. The strap is also complemented by a sterling silver plaque with various details adhorned. This is a unique design feature that I really like.






The clasp is a nicely designed and engraved double deployment affair that is also manufactured in sterling silver.


For a large 45mm watch on my smaller than average 6.5” wrists I found the Classico Sterling Silver very comfortable to wear. I think a lot of this was due to the huge crown protector being placed on the left of the case. This crown protector allows easy access to the winding crown but I did find this smaller than usual crown a little fiddly to operate due in part also to it being placed on the left.






The dial is highly legible, as per U-Boat’s aspirations, during normal illumination. However, due to the applied brushed numbers and hands there is no lume material applied. This is a little disappointing for a tool watch. Especially, as the lume is strong on the other U-Boat models that utilise it. A date window is a discrete addition to the dial. This adds practicality without affecting the balance of the dial.



Conclusion: I must confess to being underwhelmed, if not slightly apoplectic, when I first heard about these Italian designed oversized generic movement watches from U-Boat. The prices seemed reasonable but I couldn’t understand what they had to offer the market. In all honesty they did seem to be the result of a personal and capricious crusade. However, I am delighted to now realise that I was totally naive and slightly embarrassed that I didn’t originally give them the merit and attention that they deserved.

Any collection of watches that aims for the current larger than large trend within the horological world needs to have unique details to lift itself above this overpopulated crowd. Despite being oversized utilitarian tool watches U-Boats offer incredible attention to detail that is a reflection of a group of artisans that have a clear passion for what they are creating. The materials are often unique and employ defining design touches and details. The unique crown assembly is never going to be elegant but is studiously detailed and fit for purpose.

Despite the narrow furrow that U-Boat have planted themselves in within the watch world I do believe that their collection of contemporary watches is fairly eclectic and offers the real potential of owners striving towards a collection.

If you want bold individualism with solid build quality and a myriad of well thought out design details from a hand crafted mechanical timepiece at prices that range from just £1300 up to about £3500 then this collection from U-Boat is hard to beat.


All words and pictures by Richard Atkins unless otherwise stated. This article may not may not be reproduced in part or in whole without permission from the author.


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