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U-Boat Limited Edition 53mm U-42 Unveiled at Baselworld

by Marco 24 March, 2010 View Comments

My recent blog entry about the U-Boat U-42 left much to be desired. The brand's publicists released a pre-Basel sneak peak of the back of the watch, giving me very little to report on. Finally, I was introduced to the whole U-42 at the impressive U-Boat booth in the prestigious Hall 1 of the Baselworld Fair.

The design for Italo Fontana's U-42 is based on the 65mm behemoth, the U-1942. Like its bigger brother, the U-42 is a limited edition. 999 examples of each variation - so far two variations have been announced - will be produced. The case is also very similar as the U-1942. It is made of grade 5 titanium and incorporates all the major features of its predecessor, such as the lever-locking rotating bezel and the specialized crown system. The major difference occurs in the size of the U-42, which measures at a comparatively modest 53mm.

The case of the U-42, while smaller then the U-1942, still packs most of the same exclusive features. The most notable is its peculiar crown system. When open, the crown protrudes a good distance outwards. This titanium instrument is considered a diving watch thanks to its water resistance rating of 300 meters. The large crown is therefore adapted for use with the entire gamut of neoprene gloves. The crown also adds to the complexity and therefore conversation value of the case, which is definitely the main attraction.

Opposite the elaborate crown, there is an inconspicuous lever that serves another important function for divers. This lever unlocks the rotating bezel and then fixes it to the position set by the wearer, effectively marking the time left before the oxygen tanks are empty. These specialized diving features are obsolete today, thanks to diving computers and other high-tech solutions, but the vintage style and functions are important to making the U-42 what it is. Italo Fontana pointed this out during a talk I had with him. This also explains the use of matte-finished titanium, beige coloured numerals and hands (like discoloured white paint), and a rugged strap that all capture a specific time-worn effect. The fact that the overall look of the U-42 is based on a design conceived by Italo's grandfather in 1942 also has much to do with this vintage feel.

The dial and the strap are consistent with the distinctive design of U-Boat watches and add much to the vintage style of the U-42. As with many of Italo Fontana's designs, the hours are marked by simple and bold indexes and numeral markers at Twelve, Four, and Eight. The time is indicated by straight, wide baton hands that are treated with a luminescent coating. The brown strap conjures professional military watches of the past with its thickness and rugged, strong thread used to stitch the leather by hand. The titanium tang buckle is wide, as would be expected to fit on this strap, and is adorned with a U-shaped tongue representing the company.

The automatic Swiss movement is an important element in the watch. A reliable, high-quality calibre was integrated within the titanium case of the U-42. Beating steadily, the self-winding mechanism is overshadowed by the size, style, and peculiarity of the rest of the watch, but is acknowledged nonetheless with an inscription on the dial - "Meccanica Svizzera."

The U-42 incorporates many popular U-Boat watch features, such as a 53mm case, left-side crown assembly, and a style definitely influenced by vintage timepieces and professional instruments. It balances all these nuances into a new package that is decisively Italo Fontana. It is not surprising that it was received with so much excitement by retailers as well as watch enthusiasts at Baselworld this year.

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The case for the U-Boat U-42

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