It’s not often that I pay any particular attention to Microbrands. My exceptions are brands that have some form of entertaining factor that remotely separates them from the rest of their counterparts (in which there are a LOT). An example would be Code41 – who I gave a little bit of my time to, so I could discuss the idea of using transparency as a business and marketing model. Here is another instance of an amusing brand to come my way: Undone watches.
As a point of disclosure, I’m not in affiliation with any brands. I suspect that any representatives from any labels mentioned in this article have no idea who I am. I believe in integrity of business practice, and that’s the main driving force for writing this article.
I first came across this brand this very morning, where I woke up to find it on my Whatsapp feed. The first thing I thought was “Wait. Since when did Moser make dodgy looking chronographs?” it was when I decided to rub my eyes did I realise that I was looking at a completely different brand.
I’m just going to cut straight to the chase: the ‘Mystique’ collection by Undone watches looks an awful lot like Moser’s signature fumé dials featured on their Endeavour, Pioneer and heck, pretty much all their other lines – and I’m confident in saying that a vast majority of watch enthusiasts giving the piece a first glance will think the very same thing. I’m going to try and give a quick summary on the matter (mostly for my own entertainment, seeing as I happen to have a lot of free time as a gap year student and that it’s about time I put the namesake of this blog to use…)
Let’s take a quick look at the brand. From what I gather, they’re a Hong Kong based label that was founded after a successful Kickstarter campaign offering quality watches at a ‘reasonable’ price. Right then. That’s pretty standard and I can’t say it really stands out as such, seeing as that’s pretty much what all other Kickstarter microbrands claim to offer. What next?
Ah. So it appears the brand offers a customising service of base model watches that add a personal touch to the pieces. I was actually quite impressed by the design choices on offer. The ‘Killy’ timepiece in particular pays a thoughtful homage to vintage pieces of the past. The brand appears to be managed by people who care about watches and seem quite considerate with the products they have to offer. They have a nice little package with their business model – though the name is a bit baffling. The word ‘undone’ tends to stir up images of being incomplete and something unravelling apart. Though I won’t talk too much about naming choices seeing as I’m writing off a blog called the Watchrant – I don’t exactly have a leg to stand on!
With such a great platform at hand, and a team that seems to care about the watches that they’re selling; I struggle to empathise with them in terms of their new line of watches: Mystique.
Now I won’t in any terms say that fumé is solely attributed to Moser, or that they have some sort of universal claim on fumé dial production. They can however, be credited with the contemporary revival of the dial making technique. If you were to google search the term ‘fumé dial’ you’ll almost certainly see examples of Moser pieces turn up before anything else. That being said, I’m not advocating sole rights or a market monopoly on fumé dials. I think that if another brand were able to pull off such a technique in their own dial making production – in a unique manner – then hats off to them! Zenith and Enicar have their own lesser known examples of fumé dials that look nothing like Moser’s pieces. It’s this resemblance factor that makes the case for Undone somewhat dubious: they’re trying to sell a chronograph with a fumé dial.
Unlike their Zilly timepiece, which offers a combination of form and function, the Mystique line of watches doesn’t really bode well in the function department: a dress watch chronograph which is barely legible. For a brand which appeared to be thoughtful in their design and product offering, the attention-to-detail is lacking. Though other watches from mainstream labels have arguably fallen into this category at times – Omega for example – with their ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ timepiece. In the case of Undone, I can’t help but feel that they were trying to tap into the Moser fanbase by providing a budget offering and slapping on a chronograph. The chronograph movement will also most likely be due the fact that the brand only has two distinct model lines : Urban and Aqua. It serves as a nifty cost saving measure to rebadge what you already have and call it something new. Moser has a painstaking 200 step dial manufacture process, whilst Undone uses a CNC equipped with a spray nozzle – more on the cost cutting.
What also appears unimpressive is the supposed focus on production outsourcing by Swiss brands. It just happens to be that I wrote a whole article about that from Moser’s perspective a year ago. I can’t really see any hints that this is a long term belief that Undone watches has had. I will acknowledge however, that the outsourcing play has been used by virtually every new Kickstarter microbrand to come out this year. It’s become a sort of cattle prod to use against larger brands when launching a new microlabel. The gesture seems inorganic and forced, and for me at least, doesn’t give me the confidence to be behind their statement. It also doesn’t help that critical comments on their social media have mysteriously vanished within a few hours…
Overall I’m not really sure what to say. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I feel that may be too generous. I’m going to say on one hand that this was a business move with poor attention-to-detail and that it’s a lazy attempt to commercialise on an existing platform. I’m also inclined to say that this is just a small brand appealing to a niche market audience by providing budget offerings. I would’ve even thrown in the word ‘homage’ to their aid, but they have no mention of it. Will they sell their watches? Yes. I can see people in support of the idea of attaining an affordable fumé dial timepiece. The price range puts it at generic ‘fashion watch’ level meaning that it was never meant to appeal to any hardcore horologists, but rather people with smaller budgets who want (what they believe to be) nice looking watches on their wrist.