U-1001 – A Review
Any watch brand that is aiming for a male demographic and is worth its horological salt has a diver’s watch in its portfolio. This is despite the fact there are very few of us that are either social or commercial divers. It’s an even stranger state of affairs when you consider that the modern dive watch is practically redundant to a true diver since the advent of the wrist computer that can safely work out dive times and, more importantly, ascent and decent rates.
So, why are we so fascinated with diver’s watches? In my opinion it’s about the real world practicality and the aesthetics. For the former we are still presented with a useful legibility both during day and night. Plus high (low?) depth rated diver’s watch cases are robust and hermetically sealed by design. The latter is always subjective but some of the most enduring classics in watch making history have been diver’s watches.
U-Boat are no exception in this generalisation. However, to stand out from this over-populated segment of the market they knew they had to produce something different and yet create a design that incorporated their very own unique aesthetic. Unarguably, they were successful in this upon releasing the U-1001. So called because it is water resistant to 1001 feet and is a Limited Edition of only 1001 in each of the five options. Those five options include two stainless steel models, with orange (highlighted in this review) and blue accents, and three titanium models with yellow, blue or orange detailing.
Orange Stainless Steel
Blue Stainless Steel
One omission which is supposedly de-rigueur for a diver’s watch is a rotating bezel. However, as mentioned above, do we really buy these watches to go diving with? Of more use is the day-to-day security of the strong and hermetically sealed case and the day-to-night legibility. The U-Boat U1001 has both of these in profusion.
One defining feature that sets U-Boat apart from the crowd, apart from their fondness of large cases, is the incredible level of detail for the price. Allow me to showcase some of the wonderful details of this 47mm U-1001.
The dial is the first element that draws admiring glances. The raised U-1001 logo and recessed numbers produce a clever 3d effect. The U-1001 logo is satin finished which adds a much needed classical ingredient.
The two other defining aspects of the dial presentation are the hands and date aperture. The hands are in-keeping with the rest of the design. The black armature descends into the black dial leaving the illusion of the floating orange or blue superluminova material. The date window is generic but what can you do with a date window? Better to have it simple and easy to read.
The second element is the signature feature of each of the U-Boat timepieces: The distinctive left sided crown protector. The crown protector itself is easy to use but the lack of size of the actual crown means that it is difficult to grip and utilise.
Neighbouring the crown is the cool, but ultimately superfluous, helium escape valve.
The Limited Edition status of each watch is recognised by the engraving along the periphery of the satin finished bezel.
A plaque is also attached to the side of the case highlighting the individual number of the watch within the run of each example. A very nice touch.
For its oversize the U-1001 is not overbearing. In fact, due in part to the flexible rubber strap, this large watch is remarkably comfortable. The U-1001 is predominantly a utilitarian tool watch and, as such, looks so much better combined with casual attire. Even still, the simple layout of the dial and engine turned bezel means that this watch does not look ridiculous at the end of a dress shirt, as can often be the case.
The double deployant clasp is nicely finished with a satin grain effect and an engraving of the U-Boat logo. A unique design feature of U-Boats is the plate applied to the strap in the case material.
I wasn’t sure about this particular feature to start off with but it grew on me. It looks especially nice in the sterling silver models.
The case is as solid looking as they come. The slab sides would be fairly lacklustre if it wasn’t for yet more intricate detailing.
The caseback is also intricately laser etched with details aplenty and a picture of a big fish with pointy teeth. I’ve no idea what species this is because I’m a watch nerd not an enthusiast of all things piscine.
The high nature of this timepiece is transposed to the packaging which is superb.
Conclusion: I took an instant liking to the U-1001 when I first saw it. I think it was a combination of the bold design elements, the simple yet large case and exquisite detailing. It comes as no surprise when you find out that this watch has an Italian heritage. The 3D dial, with its raised U-1001 logo and recessed numbers topography is a delight to behold. Every element has had considerable design and detailing invested in it.
The diver’s watch market is a tough one to enter and be successful in. It is so congested with generic designs that have not changed much since the early 1950s. The U-1001 could never have been conceived and produced in the 1950s. It is so contemporary and yet, with its relatively simple facade could become a classic. This unique timepiece is instantly recognisable. In this way it will always have its evangelists and its detractors. I certainly fit in with the former.
The U-1001 feels just right on the wrist as well. It has that rare combination of feeling substantial and robust and yet comfortable at the same time.
I initially thought that the lack of rotating diver’s bezel was a bit remiss but now I like the clean look of the bezel, probably due to the detailed areas of the rest of the watch. The U-1001 really has turned diver’s watch design on its head whilst keeping the fundamental attributes that allow entry into this genre.
If you want a diver’s watch, which reflects the aspirations of most male horological collectors, then the U-1001 offers something truly unique in an over-bloated market. The fact that only 1001 of each example will ever be made makes them even more covetable.
All words and pictures by Richard Atkins, unless otherwise stated. Please do not reproduce this article in part or in whole without the permission of the author.