U-Boat Titanium Flightdeck ¶
We here at Matt Baily’s have had a strong relationship with U-Boat Watches since the early days of the company. We’ve witnessed them transform from a fashion brand into a high-end watch company, and seen an explosion in their popularity among watch lovers, fashionistas, celebrities, and anyone who loves big bold watch design.
The U-Boat range is divided into three main models – Classico, Flightdeck and Thousands of Feet. One of the most popular models is the Flightdeck Chronograph which has become one of U-Boat’s signature designs, featuring an automatic Valjoux chronograph in a sporty case with very legible dials. Traditionally the Flightdeck features a stainless steel case, but a few lesser known variations exist – the ceramic and titanium models. What we have here is one of my favourite U-Boats and the latest addition to the Flightdeck line – reference 1881 in titanium.
U-Boat doesn’t simply substitute titanium for steel and call it a day. These models feature unique details and proportions that are exclusive to the Ti models. In the case of the 1881 the bezel is wider and shallower than normal, the crystal is tinted a smoke grey, and the dial is unique to the model. It comes on a rubberized alligator strap lined with calfskin to distinguish it from other models. The case is slightly different as well, but retains the Flightdeck’s 50mm size. In addition it features a Valgranges Top Soigne grade chronograph movement rather than the usual Valjoux 7750 – the main difference between the two is the size, the Valgranges is much larger and has a bigger rotor which is perfectly suited to a big watch like the Flightdeck.
The Flightdeck Titanium is a very different beast when compared to the steel models. The most striking feature is the colour and texture of the titanium case; it is a bead-blasted finish instead of the usual brushed and polished look. Bead-blasted means that the surface is matte and non-reflective, achieved by sand-blasting the case parts. It gives the watch a rugged industrial look that is more understated than a brushed finish, and the warm colour of the raw grade-2 titanium distinguishes it even more. The titanium parts makes this watch a real lightweight despite its imposing size.
The dial (or rather, the dial and crystal) is a cool addition. U-Boat has a habit of making tinted crystals on a few models (notably the Thousands of Feet which is available with red, yellow, orange and blackened crystals) to transform the look of the watch. Underneath the smoked crystal is a stencil-effect black and white luminescent dial with broad hands; normally this would be a high-visibility dial, but it is subdued a great deal by the dark tint of the crystal. The look is totally unique and can’t be achieved by any other means – printing the dial in grey tones would look odd and not nearly as unified. It’s one of my favourite elements of the 1881. The only problem is that nightime visibility is compromised, but it’s a small price to pay when the watch looks this cool. On the plus side the luminescence is quite good despite the tinted crystal, which gives the watch an eerie appearance in the dark when the lume is charged up.
The design overall is very clearly a Flightdeck, but with a few subtle differences the look is completely transformed. One of U-Boat’s strength’s is the ability to modify the core design without rehashing the same styles over and over again. The basic form is maintained so it is clearly a U-Boat, but each variation is different enough to keep the style fresh. The Flightdeck Titanium 1881 is my personal favourite from the current U-Boat line up; it’s a seriously cool design and very exclusive. We only receive a few Titanium models per year, so for something distinct and rare the Flightdeck Titanium is a great choice.