Introducing the UNIMATIC x Massena LAB U1-MLBBy Suan Futt Yeo
In its third collaboration with Italian watch manufacturer UNIMATIC, Massena LAB presents the U1-MLB, inspired by the dive watches issued to the commando frogmen of the West German Navy in the 1970s. In particular, it references the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bundeswehr Kampfschwimmer – ‘Bund’ for short – a special version of the Fifty Fathoms which Blancpain produced on commission from the West German Navy to equip its elite combat divers.
As such, several design features of the U1-MLB take their cue from the Fifty Fathoms ‘Bund’. These include the neon orange minute hand, and the so-called ‘sterile’ bezel which is devoid of markings except for a luminous pip. Combat divers equipped with closed circuit rebreathers can stay underwater for hours, and thus have no need for conventional timing bezels that mark time in minutes.
The U1-MLB is not impractically large, with a diameter of 41.5mm and case height at a manageable 13.6mm. The sold caseback is tastefully engraved with sonar waves, and the watch is water resistant to 300 meters. The watch is delivered in an attractive tough case, and Massena LAB supplies an extra black rubber strap to complement the fitted burnt orange TPU strap. Available exclusively at www.massenalab.com, in a limited edition of 200 pieces.
The history of watchmaking is so rich and diverse that Massena LAB’s declared intention of “using elements of style from the past to enhance the future of watchmaking” is not likely to ever hit bare bottom in inspiration it can draw from. Just from vintage combat dive watches alone, it has managed to produce a third model in collaboration with UNIMATIC. Their first collaboration was the U1-ML6 that drew inspiration from dive watches of the 1950s, sporting a tropical dial and bezel pip in red. This was followed by the U1-MLM which was inspired by dive watches issued by the French Navy in the 1960s. each watch was unique, with dials being weathered to varying shades of the blue-green, just like the sea.
The U1-MLB follows this attractive line. And a good thing for it, since vintage divers in good condition, beautiful and storied as they are, cost about as much as a trip to the past. A kidney, or two. In the U1-MLB and its stablemates, the watch/history enthusiast gets the design elements that underpin the cult status of these timepieces, in contemporary watches that are technically much evolved and refined. And it doesn’t cost an arm either, even though the U1-MLB is a 30 percent premium on a regular UNIMATIC U1 Classic. Is that the price for 200-piece exclusivity?
It won’t be an issue to most, but the U1-MLB nevertheless stays true to history at the expense of a conventional timing bezel. We aren’t all on rebreathers, and daily life on dry land can benefit from a rotating bezel marked in minutes; even better if bi-directional. Yet, the lack of a date already saves much trouble so we shan’t be greedy; and we do like the fine ridging of the bezel and generously sized crown. Real men chomp burgers, sliders are for… oh well.
Movement: Self-winding Seiko NH35A, 21’600 bph, hacking seconds, 41 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Case: 41.5mm stainless steel case, 13.6mm height, domed sapphire crystal, solid caseback, water resistant to 300 meters
Strap: Burnt orange and black TPU strap
Price: USD 895 (in a limited edition of 200 pieces)