UNDONE Basecamp Watch Review: An Homage to the Classics
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. We received courtesy product from UNDONE in exchange for our honest review only. All opinions expressed here are our own.
While the Basecamp’s domed crystal may need some TLC over time, UNDONE’s detailed customizer allows you to build a great looking modern classic timepiece from the ground up.
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I’m lucky. I have a few friends that love watches as much as I do.
That means we geek out over unique movements, cool bezels, and unconventional crystals.
Fun times, right?
But I’ve noticed that all my watch-buddies keep coming to me with bigger and bigger watches. The last one practically came with a pull-out sofa and a mixology station built-in.
Instead of jumping into the oversized-watch arms race, I decided to look into modern watches with a more classic design.
Enter the UNDONE Basecamp. An homage to the classics. A modern take on decades past.
Can vintage-inspired design convince my horologically-minded friends that bigger isn’t always better?
Keep reading for my detailed breakdown and review of the UNDONE Basecamp.
What is UNDONE?
It seems you can customize every last detail on your watch: the case, dial, bezel, strap, caseback—even the date disc.
If you choose to fully customize, you’re practically guaranteed a unique watch unlike any other in the world.
What happens if you see the same custom watch? Well, you may have met your evil twin. Eye them with suspicion. On second thought, you may just want to compliment them on their style.
Michael Young, the founder of UNDONE, first became fascinated with the mechanical aspect of watches when he was 12.
His father saw his obsession with watches and gifted Michael his first Rolex when he was 15. After years of climbing the corporate ladder as an engineer, he found himself looking at watches more than actually working.
Michael left the corporate world and started his own watch-repair company, focusing on high-end brands. Only a few years in, he became known as the “Bracelet Magician”—enthusiasts and collectors the world-over saw him as the go-to Rolex repair guy.
Frustrated that even the most expensive watches wouldn’t let you choose your own band, Michael knew it was time to branch out and bring his versions of the classics to the world.
Drawing inspiration from automakers, UNDONE’s goal is to make each watch fully customizable. And why not?
Sure, it may take a little more time, care, and testing on the watchmaker’s end, but the result is truly unique.
And with his skills and background, Michael Young is one of the few who can actually pull it off.
Basecamp Unboxing & Review
The stickered front gives you all the critical details, including the movement, water resistance, case size, and crystal type.
A leather strap with a brass button keeps the box closed. Inside, there’s an added cutaway for an extra strap, though I didn’t pick one up this go-around.
I’m a fan of the low profile rectangular box. Unlike some other watches that arrive packed into a massive leather cube, UNDONE keeps it simple. The fabric covering fits the vibe of the watch, too.
Clean, simple, casual, but certainly not careless.
As with all UNDONE watches, each case is fully customizable.
My options were black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Digging the retro-modern mashup, I decided to keep it simple and go with a silver case.
At 40mm, the Basecamp is compact without appearing small. It seems to me that men’s watches seem to get larger every year. It was nice to unbox this tidy tool-watch and get something into rotation that isn’t a total wrist-hog.
The case is made with low-carbon 316L surgical grade stainless steel, so it’ll have no problem standing up to the elements.
Including the crystal, the Basecamp is 15mm thick, which seems large if you’re only going by the numbers. The domed plexi crystal adds 3mm of thickness, so the watch wears more like it’s 12 or 13mm thick.
The case thickness is just on the edge of being too large to fit under a dress-shirt sleeve. But I had no problem with it fitting under a blazer sleeve.
Measuring 48mm lug-to-lug with a lug width of 20mm, this watch is proportioned well. As a cool bonus, the straps fit the same lug width as UNDONE’s Urban line.
UNDONE claims to have spent two years developing the domed Lexan crystal for the Basecamp. It certainly stands out in my collection.
Most new watches I see are made with flat or slightly rounded crystals. The 3mm dome crystal really sells the retro-vibe. I like the interesting distortion caused by the dome, and I love that it’s virtually shatter-proof.
Lexan, the material used to make the crystal, is also used in car headlights and motorcycle helmets. There’s no practical way to shatter it. (Even smashing a sheet of Lexan with a twelve-pound sledgehammer doesn’t break it.)
Despite this, my one concern with this watch is with the crystal. I’m not worried about it shattering, but I do worry about its scratch-resistance. Polycarbonates are prone to scratches in a way that mineral glass and sapphire aren’t.
US pilots in WWII wore watches made with unbreakable acrylic crystals. It’s cool to see a company show respect for the history of their craft. Sapphire would’ve been more scratch-resistant, but from the enthusiast’s perspective, I see why they chose Lexan.
I’ll just have to limit my arm-flailing while wearing this watch and keep the scratches to a minimum.
When customizing your watch, there are two options: closed caseback, or plain glass. You can also add a photo or monogram for an extra charge.
I chose the plain glass caseback. I’m fascinated by the movements in watches, and it’s especially fun to see the automatic Seiko movement swivel around when it’s not on my wrist.
Even with the glass caseback, the Basecamp has a 100m pressure rating.
The crown is a screwdown, meaning you have to loosen it before pulling the pin out to change the time and date. It’s an extra measure of stability and another small detail that reminds you that the designers have been living and breathing watches for a long, long time.
With the founder, Michael Young’s experience repairing classic, high-end watches, I got a feeling he’d want to throw in a design nod to one of the great watch companies.
The dial on the Basecamp is an homage to the Rolex Explorer. UNDONE doesn’t hide that fact—they’re proud of it.
A large orange hour-hand is the most obvious link between the two, but the whole dial recalls several Explorer elements.
I chose a navy face and bezel because I loved how it played with the brass-yellow numerals and orange hour hand.
Arabic numerals mark every three hours with indices covering every five minutes. Japanese lume pigment covers all the major markings, including the hour, minute, and even the lollipop second hand.
I opted for a white date disc, but black is also available. I was surprised I was given a choice with the date disc, but it goes to show that UNDONE is taking their commitment to customization seriously.
The standard Basecamp comes with a bi-directional sterile bezel, meaning it’s marked only with a single tan triangle.
Though, of course, the bezel is customizable, too. For me, the simpler the better, but after going back and forth playing with different options, I landed on the diver’s bezel. Tan indices mark every five minutes alongside the tan triangle.
Adjusting the bezel reveals another nod to the classics. It’s uncommon to see a watch with a silent and smooth bidirectional bezel movement like the one found here. It was difficult to rotate at first, but after giving the bezel several turns in either direction, I can now easily adjust it.
This watch is equipped with a Seiko NH35A automatic movement. While not necessarily mind-blowing, the NH35A is affordable, reliable, and performs well.
As with all watches featuring automatic movements, if you don’t wear it, it doesn’t wind. The 24 jewel Seiko NH35A has a 40-hour power reserve, though I left mine for at least 48 hours and found it hadn’t given up the ghost yet. Luckily, this watch looks great on my wrist so I shouldn’t run into any trouble keeping it moving.
Strap and Wearability
UNDONE offers a huge selection of bands, and all are interchangeable with the Urban collection.
While the Basecamp comes standard with the new Nato band, I felt it made the watch look too casual. Luckily, I had eight different band materials to choose from. I kept it classic with leather but still had six choices there, too.
I was drawn to the Vintage Sand color, so I went with my gut feeling. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend plenty of time in the customizer bouncing between different options.
The band is comfortable and fits well. I have an average-sized wrist, and I’m able to buckle in the strap at the third eye-hole. The remaining strap-tail isn’t too long or too short.
UNDONE Basecamp Cali
In October 2019, UNDONE released their Basecamp Cali. The case and movement are the same as the Basecamp, but the dial is totally different.
I loved the funky look of the Basecamp Cali, so I jumped at the chance to pick one up.
The Basecamp Cali has the same automatic movement, same throwback crystal, and same case as the regular Basecamp.
But take a look at the dial.
Horology lovers will recognize this unique style.
It’s called a California Dial.
California dials have been around since the 30’s.
The design was first patented by Rolex in collaboration with the diving equipment manufacturer, Panerai.
The patent only states that the numerals were larger just so they could apply more lume pigment. It doesn’t say a word about why the top numeral are Roman and the bottom are Arabic.
So a funky dial designed for the Italian navy ended up being known as the California dial. How did that happen?
No one really knows that story, either.
The best guess among people in the know is that a watch-repairman, Kirk Rich, specialized in repairing these dials through the 80’s. He was based in So-Cal, and so the style became known as the California style.
While the story sounds dubious, there’s one thing I can’t deny.
The dial on the Undone Basecamp Cali looks awesome.
I was impressed already with Undone’s homage to vintage Rolex designs, and the Basecamp Cali just takes that same concept to the next level.
My Overall Thoughts on the UNDONE Basecamp
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