U-Boat


Yet another guilty pleasure watch.. the U-Boat Thousands of Feet Chronograph LE. The flightdeck was big and obnoxious, but the Thousands of Feet is EVEN MORE so. Think of U-Boat meets Bell & Ross, and then juice it up with some steroids and you have it. Is it cool? Yes. Is it practical? No.

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The Thousands of Feet Chronograph is a limited edition, much more rare and limited in production than the regular Thousands of Feet which is a manual winding model. It features a gigantic 50mm case, and is quite thick, affording the wearer a lot of wrist presence. The watch also stands out and can sometimes skirt the line between Fashion Watch and Horological Timepiece… and that is often the predicament I find myself in when selecting the timepiece of the day. Sometimes I find certain watches just look too much like Fashion Watches and that’s just not the statement I want to make.

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From an overall design perspective, the watch is not loud, and it features a fairly balanced overall appearance. The black matte sandwich dial and PVD coated stainless steel case are all features that would generally minimize attention. However, put all that into a 50mm Square watch, and you have about as much elegance as a bull in a china shop.

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The crown is the pushdown type, but still allows the watch to achieve 100m water resistance. Pushers and crown are located on the left hand side of the watch, which is always a welcome change for me. While its harder to adjust, I just find it adds a subtle layer of interest to the watch. Also, it means sometimes you forget and start to put the watch on backwards, which keeps your mornings interesting.

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Here’s a shot of that side-mounted sapphire exhibition window that lets you observe the side of the movement, which also has the U-Boat logo and some horizontal lines printed on the inside of the glass. The serial numbering for the model is also etched in here next to the viewing glass.

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And there is the exhibition back, which is tinted, but still clear enough to see the ETA/Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement inside. The movement is with little decoration, and is mostly bone stock aside from the signed rotor. The back interesting, and though you barely see it in the pics, it has the Overall Diameter (50mm), Water Resistance (100m), Made in Italy, Steel Type (316L), and the movement (ETA 7750) inscribed on the back in case you forget. Handy!

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And finally the all important wrist shot as seen on my 6.75″ wrist. For a square 50mm watch, it wears pretty good. One of my problems with this watch is the strap to head size ratio. I find that the strap is too thin and weak for such a big and bold watch head. It cries for something stronger… perhaps digging into my Panerai strap drawer will yield some positive results. It has a lug width of 24mm, and I have a lot of 24mm straps! Perfect.

Specs:
Movement/Caliber: ETA 7750
Power Reserve: 44hr
Case Material: Stainless Steel PVD Coating
Case Diameter: 50mm
Waterproof: 100m

Is it wrong for me to secretly covet another U-Boat? I’ve always kind of liked the idea of a black watch, but PVD is a definate no-no for me, since it can come off easily and can’t be fixed. Ceramic, while its a harder to scratch material, could totaly shatter or fracture if knocked hard enough, like the IWC Ceramic Pilot article that many have read.

I’ve owned a U-Boat Flightdeck Chrono in the past, but this ceramic dial with the cut-out arabics and markers along with the Ceramic case is really calling to me… oversized 50mm case, with little attention to movement detail are big minuses against the watch, but I can’t deny that the combination is enticing.

That’s the one that I am coveting, but with recent purchases of watches, I can’t justify buying a U-boat of this price range.

At first I thought this was only a ceramic bezel watch, but further reading indicates that it is fully ceramic case, and the ceramic bezel models have glossy bezels. U-Boat’s site is sufficiently vague in information and more or less useless for this kind of information.

I’ve owned a U-Boat before, but to be quite honest, the ridiculous case size and somewhat un-matching straps were just not working for me in the end. The case quality in my opinion was decent, which many people in my forums did not agree with. They have improved their straps in the last year or so, as the ones I have seen are nicer now.

This new U-51 Rattrapante from U-Boat is quite interesting.. mixing in design cues from the Anonimo Professionale series of watches with the screwed-in bezel look. This bad boy is limited to 100 pieces and measures 51mm in diameter and a whopping 19mm thick. The movement is a base 7750 Valjoux modifed by Alfred Rochat. Decent enough, but has the typical lack of detail and finish ont he movement that cheapes U-Boat’s watches IMO.

As some of you might have already known, I had purchased a U-Boat Flightdeck CAS 50mm watch, which many on the forum kept saying was “Cheaply made” and they felt that the metal was cheap and that the crystal was cheap. I had a totally different experience and felt that the case machining was on par with anything in the price range, and that the only part that was neglected was the finish of the movement. I’ll elaborate a bit more here.

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There is a general shot of the U-Boat, atop the U-Boat box. As you can see, the lines on the bezel are crisp and sharp, an indication of high-end finishing techniques, usually executed partially by hand. The strap on the other hand, while made in Italy by hand, is ugly. The preforated inserts on the strap serve to cheapen the overall look of the watch, and I immediately put it on a StrapLuxe grey leather strap with white stitching which matches the watch perfect in my opinion.

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A close up of the dial, and you can see the crisp lines of the bezel in this photo as well. The dial lume is applied meticulously and precisely. While this watch is made in Italy, I have no doubt that the quality of the painting on the dial is up to the standards of similarly priced swiss watches. While the overall style of the watch probably does not ooze class, it is a well made watch in my opinion. The crystals are Sapphire, and the case steel is 316L, the same type as most high-quality Swiss watches.

It was told to me that the quality of this watch was no better than the Nixon watches out there. While I might agree with this statement if it were applied to Hamilton watches or Swiss Army Victorinox case finishing, I would not agree in repect to U-Boat. I would put U-Boat solidly along the lines of Tag Heuer’s Carrera line for quality of finish.

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The movement finish on the other hand is sorely lacking, and not up to the quality standards of even Tag Heuer. The U-Boat movements are definately in the same quality range as Hamilton. The extra canteen hardware is very well machined and made as well, given a quality feel when unscrewing and using the canteen cover.

The Plain Jane Valjoux/ETA 7750 is visible on the caseback as can be seen, and is mounted reversed for a left-crown configuration, an obvious necessity given the size of crown and 50mm case diameter. The watch is quite heavy and does not feel light for its size in my opinion.

Not seen in the photos is the U-BOAT deeply engraved on the side of the case, which is deeply sunken and bead basted in the deep parts, given the case an extra level of finish. I purchased this watch from a friend, after I had handled it and felt that the quality of the finish was at an acceptable level. I have since sold this watch, mostly because I found the 50mm size a bit inconvenient. It makes the watch somewhat impractical for daily wear, and sometimes the size makes it look a bit tacky IMO. This is the “mid-sized” U-boat, with a larger 55mm size and smaller 43mm version available.

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There’s the proverbial wrist shot, mounted on the stock strap and shown on my 6 3/4″ wrist. While it is large, and somewhat saucer-like in appearance, it is not entirely out of the question, and much more manageable than I would have thought 50mm would be. Now, the 55mm version would be totally out of the question for me, but I could see a guy with an 8″ wrist pull a 55mm U-Boat off no problem…

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