Vintage watches are great. I have a soft spot for vintage watches. Despite this, they’re not the sort of thing you’d wear on a hike, or in a drizzle.
That’s where vintage-style reissues and reinterpretations step in.
This is a review of the Undone Aero Scientific – a vintage-inspired aviator watch with a sector dial and a rotating bezel with a screw-locking system.
Undone is a Hong Kong-based brand, known for its customizable vintage-style watches. Most of them appear to be „mechaquartz” chronographs with Seiko movements, like the Urban Killy. There’s more to it, however.
The brand also offers a selection of time-only watches like the Terra field watch and the Basecamp sports watch. There are also some more modern designs.
I think that’s a great selection, and so far, I’ve heard nothing but good about them.
I was immediately drawn to the Aero when I first saw it. Essentially, it’s a pilot-style piece, much like the Longines Weems. The Undone site refers to Capt. Phillip Van Horn Weems in reference to the screwed-down rotating bezel.
However, the case of this watch looks eerily Rolex-like, and the bezel design and bezel-dial ratio are reminiscent of a different watch entirely – the very uncommon Rolex Zerographe simple chronograph.
There are two versions of the watch – the Scientific and the Commando.
The Scientific, like the one reviewed here, has a dial modeled after the lumed sector dial style that was popular back in the day – Rolex, Longines, Movado, Omega, and many, many more.
In contrast, the Commando features a classic “flieger” dial, inspired in part by British and German military timepieces, and in part by the usual suspect, the B-Uhr.
The Aero Scientific combines some of the most distinguished tool watches from the thirties and forties. This is one of the most intriguing fusions of watches I’ve ever seen.
Longines Weems, “scientific” sector dial, and Zerographe all in one? I’m in!
- Diameter – 40mm
- Thickness – 15mm
- Lug to lug – 48mm
- Lug width – 20mm
- Water resistance – 100m
- Crown – Screw-down
- Crystal – Lexan (plexi/hesalite)
- Movement – Seiko/TMI NH35A – 24 jewels, 21600 A/h, 41h power reserve, bidirectional rotor winding, hack feature
- Price – €373 on the Undone website
The dial, hands and lume
I was positively surprised when I opened the box. To the point where I said, “Wow, that dial looks great!”.”
With a beige two-tone dial and silvered ring for the minute/seconds track, it looks like it belongs in the 1940s. A silver ring for the third minute track, in fact. This watch has a total of four minute/second tracks. There’s one that touches the hour hand, one that lines up with the minute hand, one that can be read with both the minute and seconds hands, and then there’s one on the fully indexed bezel.
Similar to the Sea-Gull 1963, the hands are painted, not heat-blued. Nevertheless, the effect is very pleasant.
The lume is one of the watch’s weak points. Sure, it’s not Dan Henry 1970 kind of weak, but I’ve learned to have low expectations of lume tinted to resemble aged radium.
It’s also impressive how sterile the dial is. The modern Undone logo is somewhat hidden on the silver-tone minute track at 6 o’clock, while the only inscriptions that stand out immediately are „Self-Winding” and the jewel count of 24. Nothing here is cluttered.
Am I impressed with the dial? Definitely!
This piece is powered by a Seiko NH35A movement. It’s perhaps the most common workhorse at this point or at least one of the most common. Still, it’s a very reliable one, with a relatively quiet bidirectional rotor, a decent power reserve of over 41h, and a frequency of 21600 A/h.
When it comes to vintage-style watches, that frequency is most welcome. A movement with a frequency of, say, 28800 A/h would have the smooth motion of the seconds hand conflict with the whole vintage look.
Now, because this is the NH35A, this watch has a „ghost date position.” This means that there’s a date-setting position of the crown, you can feel the quickset working, but the watch doesn’t have a date window. The no-date variant would be the NH38A.
It doesn’t bother me much.
The Aero has a display back, so you get to see the NH35A in action. There’s no decoration on the movement, so I have mixed feelings about it. Although the NH35A isn’t spectacular or anything, it also doesn’t look bad.
Aero’s case is both its strength and weakness at the same time. I love the design – somewhat Rolex-ish, with a Taubert-style case back. While I would prefer a closed back in this watch, I really don’t mind it at all.
It features 100m water resistance, which means you can easily wear it on a holiday, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
A screw-down crown is one of the features the specs don’t mention. I really appreciate that added safety.
The octagonal crown blends nicely with the case back design, but it’s not the most comfortable crown to use. This isn’t a bad thing, it just makes screwing it down a bit more difficult than I’d like. However, I like the way it looks.
The screw-locked Weems-style bezel is the star of the show. I love the way the insert is finished, with its very legible minute/seconds track, the red 60-minute/second marker, and the circular brushed finish. The screw-locking system works great. Well done, Undone!
The rest of the case isn’t finished very well. The chamfers on the lugs are fine. I wouldn’t say it’s stellar, but it’s adequate.
The only genuinely negative thing I can say about this watch is how it’s finished between the lugs. There are some odd textures there. As if the surface hasn’t been ground properly. This shouldn’t have passed quality control. My specimen has it on both sides, at 12 and at 6. That needs to be looked into and improved.
In my opinion, nothing else would do justice to the vintage charm of the Aero like Undone’s use of a high-dome plexi crystal. With the domed crystal, the watch measures more than 15mm tall but, when worn, you don’t notice that height at all. The weight is just right and the balance is superb.
The watch comes on a brown two-stitch strap with a quick-release spring bar system. The strap is thick but very supple. It takes very little time to adapt to the wrist.
Additionally, it has a single, wide loop. Finally! Someone recognized that one narrow fixed loop and one narrow loop flying around isn’t the way to go. I like this strap a lot!
This watch has a lug width of 20mm, so you’ll never be short of strap options if you don’t like the stock strap. However, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t like the strap the watch comes with.
All in all…
The Undone Aero is a very attractive piece. On a regular day or a vacation filled with adventure, it’ll work fine. It can be worn with any outfit.
This is one of those pieces that allow you to daydream about flying for relatively little. It’s a tribute to a style and purpose rather than to a specific watch. The Longines Weems element is predominant, but the Zerographe in the mix and some other accents give it a unique edge.
I wish more attention had been paid to the finishing of the case between the lugs. In spite of this, the watch’s design and specs are very impressive. It’s the kind of thing I’d take on an active vacation, whether it be sailing or hiking. In fact, I may just do that.
What do you think of the Undone Aero Scientific? Let me know in the comments below