New U-Boat U-51 46mm Limited Edition ¶
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In the realm of big watches, U-Boat is king. Starting around 10 years ago, U-Boat was the first company to produce huge watches in 50mm plus diameters. At the time big watches were just beginning to come into vogue, since then big watches have become the norm and U-Boat has flourished. However, there are some folks (myself included) who just don’t have the wrist size to pull off a massive watch. Up until now there have been the 45mm Classico and Flightdeck models for people who want a big watch without going into the 50mms, but the limited edition pieces were always in the bigger size range. This year U-Boat has addressed this by introducing several new series of 46-47mm limited editions, including the U-1001, U-42, and the subject of today’s blog, the U-51.
The U-51 series began as a very limited 99 piece edition featuring a top-tier rattrapante chronograph movement. Featuring a 51mm stainless steel case with hidden strap lugs, the U-51 had a completely unique design that retained the signature U-Boat size and crown cap, but was otherwise distinct from the rest of the range. Last year the line was expanded with a second edition of 99 examples with a standard chronograph movement (without the complicated rattrapante mechanism), still featuring the 51mm case. This year the U-51 gets downscaled to 46mm, in an edition of 300 pieces.
Like the previous models, the U-51 46mm retains the distinctive case design with features three pieces (bezel, body and caseback) held together with screwed pins running around the perimeter of the case. It creates a great industrial look that really stands apart, and offers lots of visual detail by alternating between high polish, brushed, and matte finished steel. The 46mm adds a set of traditional strap lugs to keep it from looking too small on the wrist. Additionally the sapphire crystal is domed to distinguish the 46 from its bigger brothers. The U-51 has always had an interesting look on the wrist – it is extremely thick, giving it a hockey-puck-on-a-strap look. The addition of regular lugs instead of hidden items lessens the effect slightly, but this is still a hefty timepiece that is sure to draw attention. You won’t forget you are wearing this watch, it is still a heavy piece despite the smaller size.
A highly decorated automatic movement is visible through the exhibition caseback. The movement is a top-grade Valjoux automatic calibre, a signature of U-Boat’s limited editions that distinguishes them from the standard models. You can expect reliable and accurate performance from the tried-n-true calibre. As per U-Boat tradition the crown and pushers are on the left side to provide more comfort (many assume it is a left-handed watch, but in fact the reversed controls are to prevent the large hardware from digging into the back of your hand). The U-51 has large, easy to manipulate pushers that follow the usual reversed layout – the bottom pusher starts and stops while the top resets.
The dial is a highlight of the design and is subtly different from the previous models. The numerals are stencil-style Arabic in white luminescent paint, with broad luminescent baton hands to match. Legibility is good, and the asymmetrical sizing of the chronograph subdials lends some interest to the dial. The seconds subdial is huge, which makes reading the running seconds easy. The central (chronograph sweep) seconds hand is coloured a dark hunter green that matches some green details on the rest of the dial. A close inspection will reveal that the dial is a three-dimensional item, with sandwich cutaways around the subdials. U-Boat has always had distinctive dials and this watch is no exception.
The U-51 46 comes on a beautiful rallye-style alligator strap in a black satin finish. Like all U-Boat straps it is hand-crafted in Italy and superbly finished with thick grain leather and matching stitching. The texture is beautiful, with a pronounced alligator grain and a semi-gloss jet black finish. Oftentimes a good watch can be let down by a poor quality band, but U-Boat always pairs their timepieces with beautiful straps. Leave it to the Italians to give their watches a nice classy pair of shoes.
The U-51 46mm is an eye catching and completely unique piece from U-Boat that continues the tradition of bold limited editions – in a more modest size. It may be a few mms smaller than the “original” U-51, but the 46 still packs a lot of visual punch and is a standout watch that will not go unnoticed. Wallflowers need not apply, this a serious watch that you wear if you want to get noticed; beneath that bold styling you will find some fine detailing and finishing, so this an imposing watch that has both dominating presence and quality. All in a smaller, easier to wear package. For information on U-Boats or any other watches we carry here at Matt Baily’s, give me a call at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.