To paraphrase American poet Walt Whitman, Unimatic’s watches are “large, they contain multitudes.” Which is to say their timepieces, from the Modello Uno dive watch to the Modello Tre chronograph, are so powerfully essential that they can be expressed through a multiplicity of collaborations, with each successive project injecting new energy into the brand while reinforcing the timelessness of these designs.
“One of the things that fascinated Simone Nunziato and me from the very beginning was this idea of design that is purposeful in an essential way,” says Giovanni Moro, who co-founded Unimatic in 2015 with Nunziato. “Because when you create something that has this sense of necessity, almost as if it had to exist, it tends to endure. It then also lends itself well to a process that we call ‘hybridization,’ which means collaborations with select others from another universe who are able to impart their own sense of identity to our watches, while expanding the universe we have created.”
Nunziato elaborates, “A great example of this hybridization are our collaborations with the Japanese designer Mihara Yasuhiro. In our all-white watch, we started with the iconography of the U1 diving watch, then subjected it to an all-white treatment to an extreme [degree] similar to the painting White on White by Kazimir Malevich. Indeed, the functionality of this timepiece as a watch is only retained by the barely visible hands and indexes which, because of the liberal use of Luminova, are still legible.”
It is this dynamic tension between the visible and the invisible aspects of the all-white Yasuhiro edition that makes it exciting, and, according to Moro, it was what the designer wanted. Unimatic also designed a white Cerakote U1 watch in collaboration with the U.S. space agency NASA. Says Moro, “We wanted an all-white watch to evoke the color of the space suits, but now contrasted with a highly patinated Luminova to reference the 1960s, the glorious era of the Mercury and Apollo astronauts that eventually resulted in the Moon landing in 1969. Look at this in comparison to the watches we’ve made with Eric Peng Cheng, the CEO of Undefeated — the Modello Uno with camo strap and five strikes logo, or his BAIT Modello Quattro with Lemon Yellow dial — and there is a completely different expression of identity which comes from the colors and symbols of urban streetwear.”
Says Nunziato, “When we evaluate any partnership, whether it is with Eric Peng Cheng or Mihara Yasuhiro or even Revolution, we always ask, ‘What is the story and does this bring a new sensibility or narrative which can enhance the durability and multiplicity of our designs?’”
With this, we segue perfectly into the announcement that Revolution & The Rake and Unimatic have teamed up on a trilogy of collaborative limited editions, with the first of these — the Modello Uno GMT “Arctic Fox” — dropping on 28 December 2022, 10pm SGT / 3pm CET / 9am EST.
White — The Ideal Color for Stealth
What was the inspiration for this all-white themed U1 GMT “Arctic Fox”? It was equally motivated by Darwin’s observations of nature, the austerity of military uniforms and the idea of men’s fashion as an expression of positivity. How so? Because snow camouflage is a survival strategy innate to animals like the Arctic owl and polar bear, whose plumage or coats are white all year round to enable them to blend better with the snowy landscapes of their extreme climate habitats. Their coloring enhances their ability as predators and offers a higher level of protection from other animals that might hunt them. Darwin first mentioned snow camouflage in his Origin of Species where he states: “When we see… the alpine ptarmigan white in winter, the red grouse the color of heather, and the black grouse that of peaty earth, we must believe that these tints are of service to these birds… in preserving them from danger.”
But there is an even higher form of adaptability noted by naturalists called convergent evolution. An example of this is the Arctic fox, which is normally a ruddy brown in summer, but in winter its coat turns a startling pure white. This allows the fox to become a remarkably adaptable hunter in all seasons.
The idea of snow camouflage was adopted by militaries around 1917. For example, Austro-Hungarian troops would don snow camo smocks and skis to fight during the winter months. By World War II, snow camouflage would be commonplace, in particular for elite units fighting in extreme winter conditions. It was perhaps best put to use by a five foot three inches tall Finnish soldier named Simo Häyhä, who is to this day still the most successful sniper in military history.
Häyhä was raised on a farm and already excelled in shooting competitions as a boy. On November 30, 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II and after Finland had signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany, Russia invaded Finland. The Russians’ expectation was for an easy victory. However, they were instead met with the extreme resistance and tactical resilience of the Finnish people. Particularly terrifying to them were the “winter snipers” that, unlike the poorly trained Russian conscripts, seemed entirely at one with their stark cold surroundings and utterly invisible, thanks to their snow camouflage parkas. Chief amongst these was the man that they would come to call “The White Death.” Using just iron sights on his rifle — as he felt the reflection from scopes too easily gave away a sniper’s position — Simo Häyhä would kill a total of over 500 enemy Russian soldiers in a mere 100 days. His productivity was aided by the fact that the Russian troops initially fought wearing green army fatigues that stood out in bold contrast on the snowy front. Ironically, Stalin’s Great Purge in the 1930s had eliminated most of Russia’s military experts.
White has also been employed with a deft hand in cinema, with director George Lucas using it instead of the more expected black as the signature hue for his sinister stormtroopers in the Star Wars franchise. But, in 2021, the color white also became a rallying cry for positivity in the fashion industry, with Brunello Cucinelli using a palette of whites and creams to “replace fear with hope,” in the post- COVID environment. Says Cucinelli, whose business is a model of ethical capitalism intent on positively impacting his workers and the environment around him, “While it is normally associated with summer, I love the idea of using white as a color for autumn and winter. There is a refinement and elegance to it, especially when modulated with a soft tonal palette that I find very charming.”
Like Cucinelli, I have also been a proponent of wearing white throughout the winter and, in particular, have a penchant of pairing heavy winter boots with white denim and knitwear and a pure white heavyweight flannel double breasted blazer. So when it came time to discuss the concept for our watch collection with Moro and Nunziato, the idea of an all-white snow camouflage Arctic fox-like watch was prevalent in my mind. I loved the stark purity of Yasuhiro’s U1 and the bold iconography of the NASA U1, both of which used a white case coating, and this became the start point for our collaboration.
Unimatic × Revolution & The Rake U1 GMT “Arctic Fox”
I imagined a pure white watch but one that, by applying a subtle modulation in tones and contrast, would also offer fantastic legibility. Says Moro, “When you started describing what you saw as a series of stormtrooper or Arctic fox-like watches, we were intrigued. Especially when you said that you wanted to make an almost totally pure white watch that, at the same time, was totally functional and legible. This idea of a super strong aesthetic stance coupled with a need to express a pragmatic set of values is at the very core of Unimatic’s philosophy.”
Nunziato concurs, “This is really what our watches are about. Take the U1, for example. It is meant to express a dive watch but with the maximum functional purity.
From the screw-down crown to the crown guards, to the drilled lugs, to the easy to grip and turn bezel, everything is optimized to express this functionality. But this purposefulness also created a design that I think we can say, after 10 years, is extremely recognizable and unique.”
Says Moro, “So we decided, OK, if we are going to play with the idea of ultimate legibility that at a distance becomes invisible because of its snow camouflage properties, let’s make the first watch on one of our more complicated models — our U1 GMT.”
This time around, the U1 GMT receives a considerable, and not uncostly, makeover starting with a white surface treatment. Cerakote is a ceramic-based finish that is applied to objects such as high-end firearms to considerably enhance their wear and corrosion resistance, and surface hardness. It is also used on high performance car and motorcycle parts including exhausts and turbochargers because of its extreme high temperature resistance. On our watch, the U1’s unidirectional bezel receives a coat of white Cerakote and a 24-hour bezel insert. After several experiments, we decided to use a matte raw aluminum bezel insert, which would offer the best legibility and perfect subtle contrast to the matte white Cerakote of the case. The dial is similarly pure white but features the liberal use of Super-LumiNova with thin black surrounds for the hour plots for easy reading. Similarly, the GMT hand features a black border to make it easy to distinguish at a glance. In combination with the highly legible raw aluminum bezel insert, it is a breeze to identify time in the second zone.
One thing that I consistently hear from anyone that picks up a Unimatic watch for the first time is how unexpectedly solid the case feels. As you explore, the watch quality resonates throughout. The bezel offers just the perfect amount of resistance to pressure and the bezel clicks create the perfect pleasing sound. The crown of the watch is screw-down and assures that the U1 is water resistant to 300 meters. Simply speaking, the build quality on the Unimatic watches is phenomenal considering how well priced they are.
Inside the watch, we feature the self-winding ETA caliber 2893-2 with 42-hour power reserve. The watch measures 41.5mm in diameter and 11.6 mm in thickness and comes with a total of three straps: a white snow camouflage NATO strap with steel keepers, a white rubber strap, and a gray pixilated camouflage strap. The latter two straps are each secured with a Cerakote white stonewashed pin buckle.
The Unimatic × Revolution & The Rake U1 GMT “Arctic Fox” is made in 150 examples with a retail price of EUR 1,500. It is available for sale on RevolutionWatch.com on 28 December 2022, 10pm SGT / 3pm CET / 9am EST.
Unimatic × Revolution & The Rake U1 GMT “Arctic Fox”
Movement: Self-winding caliber ETA 2893-2; 42-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, GMT and date
Case: 41.5mm; stainless steel with white Cerakote; water resistant to 300m
Dial: Matte white; Super-LumiNova filled hour markers with black outline
Strap: White snow camo NATO-style fabric; additional white rubber and gray pixilated camo fabric with Cerakote white stonewashed pin buckles
Price: EUR 1,500
Availability: Numbered and limited edition of 150 pieces
Unimatic × Revolution & The Rake U1 GMT “Arctic Fox” is available for sale now.