U-Boat Watch Brand Review – Are They Good Quality Watches?

Italian watch brand U-Boat draws great inspiration from the city it is based in – Tuscany.

Perfectly combining Italian craftsmanship and styling with precise Swiss movements ensure U-Boat’s success. Amongst the most recognizable watch brands, U-Boat credits this character to its large crown design. In the twenty years of the brand’s existence, U-Boat has grown exponentially to an internationally sought after watch brand. To better understand’s the brand’s legacy and birth, we must start in the year 1942. The Italian Navy commissioned wristwatches for its pilots with precise technical specifications. A pilot’s watch is an important and integral instrument in the cockpit. As a result, the task itself was quite a challenge. More importantly, watchmaker Ilvo Fontana drew up designs that guaranteed optimum visibility and waterproofness. The unique design was unlike anything before. However, Ilvo’s designs never made it to production, and the designs remained shelved.
Meanwhile, decades passed and the new millennium arrived. In the year 2000, Ilvo’s grandson chanced upon the designs and blueprints of his grandfather. Subsequently, grandson Italo Fontana founded the U-Boat brand with his grandfather’s designs proving to be a great source of inspiration. Above all, Italo envisioned the brand with the motto – ‘A new dimension in time’. This marked the beginning of the brand as we know it today. Meanwhile, Italo Fontana elevated these designs with his own personal signature. His contemporary vision, design aesthetics, and personality combined with the vintage designs presented the brand with a distinct USP.
Italo Fontana’s creative drive and perseverance to innovate stand out through the brand’s timepieces and success story. “I’ve always been fascinated by design, I create in total freedom, I don’t follow any trend. I try to do what other brands don’t do. I don’t have an obligation to always create the same things.” His quote, even to date, stands as a testament to his creativity. Consequently, U-Boat in its twentieth year of existence continues to grow. Based out of Tuscany, the brand currently boasts of presence in sixty key markets.
Currently, the brand offers nine very distinct collections to choose from. In addition, the brand garners acclaim for the extensive configuration options available under each collection. Under Italo Fontana’s leadership, U-Boat embraces modern and unusual techniques. In a similar vein, the brand also explores a host of materials to manufacture its watches. Above all, U-Boat watches feature the crown at a unique 9 o’clock position. We will look at such examples as we detail the collections.
There aren’t many successful watch brands that design such inspired models. U-Boat has garnered global attention and followers due to its design and use of materials. Amongst them are leading celebrities from many cultures. Legendary actors Nicholas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger have worn U-Boat watches in their films. Furthermore, artists like Emin, Till Lindemann, Renato Zero, Cesare Cremonini, Claudio Baglioni swear by these watches. This validates the brand’s growing stature and Italo Fontana’s vision of memorable timepieces.
Much like any other watch brand, U-Boat attracts mixed reviews. While watch enthusiasts love the brand for its designing and looks, they also believe that the prices are way off for using basic quartz movement.

If you love chunky watches that are big on your wrists, then you may fall in love with U-Boat. However, this is a major disadvantage for smaller wrists as these watches may not fit properly. That said, watch lovers also point that these watches do not retain their value post-purchase. Unlike Rolex, U-Boat will be subjected to heavy depreciation just for the fact that their movement and face of the watch are plain and basic. Yet another word of caution from the watch aficionados, some U-Boat watches may come with a marking on the movement when you look closely at it. While the exact reason for such a marking is unknown, this internal scratch could potentially give rise to problems.

However, as we say across all our reviews, don’t let just the style or design of a brand be the deciding factor. Consider options like pricing, watchmaking history, usage, purpose, along with its competitors to make your final call.

BELL and ROSS BR 03 Diver

In 2017, Bell & Ross launched the BR03-92 Diver, bringing the “circle in a square” aesthetic to the underwater world. It was a proper dive watch with a rotating bezel and 300-metre depth rating, and it met the international standard ISO 6425 requirements. There are now five new models for 2024 that bring improvements such as upgraded mechanics, updated typography, enlarged indices, redesigned hands and adaptable straps. Both ceramic and steel cases are offered, although ceramic options like the BR 03-92 Diver Tara in Blue Ceramic have been available since 2019. Let’s take a closer look at the 2024 collection of the Bell & Ross BR 03 Diver.
The case dimensions remain as previous editions of the BR 03 Diver, at 42mm x 42mm with an approximate thickness of 12mm. This new collection comes in satin/polished stainless steel or black ceramic. The steel options feature three dial colours, black, blue and white, while the ceramic model has either a matte black or pale blue all Super-LumiNova dial. For the steel models, there’s a 60-minute unidirectional rotating bezel with colour-coordinated ceramic bezel inserts – black with the black and white dials, and blue with the blue dial. A detailed 15-minute scale is included for diving.
Larger applied indices and new arrow hour and minute hands have white Super-LumiNova inserts (pale green on the white dial) and a circular, dial-matching date window blends in well between 4 and 5 o’clock. The familiar arrangement of an exposed screw at each corner of the square case remains, while the screw-down crown is fully guarded and matches the bezel colour. Water resistance is again rated at 300 metres with ISO 6425 compliance.
The black ceramic models follow the same aesthetic as their steel counterparts, but with a stealthier vibe. The standout is the pale blue Super-LumiNova dial that glows in tandem with the indices and hands for maximum legibility in darkness. This was first seen in 2020 with full-lume ceramic BR 03 Diver models, although those were limited editions. All five models have AR sapphire crystals and solid casebacks secured via four screws. While the BR 03 Diver collection included bronze models as well in the past, like the BR 03-92 Diver Bronze introduced in 2018, this style hasn’t been renewed (yet). Straps are black textured rubber or black ultra-resistant synthetic canvas, with the blue steel model getting a matching blue strap.
Powering all of the new BR 03 Diver models is the Caliber BR-CAL.302-1 automatic, based on the Sellita SW300-1. It has 25 jewels, a beat rate of 28,800vph (4Hz) and an extended power reserve of 54 hours – an upgrade we’ve also seen on the classic BR 03 Collection update last year. Functions include central hours, minutes, hacking seconds and date. This is a proven workhorse and solid performer, and has been used with the entire BR 03 Diver collection.

Breitling Endurance Pro 44

One of the most successful Swiss watches of 2020, in my opinion, was the Breilting Endurance Pro. Offered in a selection of hip colors, this is an easy-to-appreciate entry-level Breitling sports watch that is perfectly suited to the times. The Breitling Endurance Pro 44 is also a collection that, for many people, can be easy to miss. Most watch collectors want mechanical versus quartz watches, and it would not be wrong to refer to the Endurance Pro as a fancy flavor of G-Shock. That isn’t what Breitling’s polished metal fanbase is into, per se. But Breitling has a response for all of that.

The “new” Breitling as under Mr. Kern’s tutelage is diversifying into more entry-level and youth-oriented access. The Endurance Pro is still a hefty chunk of change for $3,000, but it is also nearly three times cheaper than the brand’s also-new for 2020 Chronomat B01 42, which offers an entirely different but also excellent wearing experience. Breitling was always lucky to have its “Professional” line of watches in addition to its luxury base. This means that the Breitling Endurance Pro 44 could easily fit into the modern Breliting lineup at a lower price point because doing that was never uncommon for the brand. It also lets Breitling compete at an interesting price point when you can’t get a Rolex, Omega, IWC, etc., at this price point. This is TAG Heuer territory, but for a different type of client.
The Endurance Pro design formula is also dead simple. Breitling first decided to once again make use of its Breitlight material (carbon), and focus on a quartz movement. Note that while $3,000 is high for a normal Swiss Made quartz movement, the Endurance Pro does not contain a normal Swiss movement. Inside the watch is the Breitling caliber 82, which is a base ETA thermo-compensated quartz movement. This time, date, and complex chronograph movement has a quartz crystal regulation system with a sensor that measures temperatures. Changes in temperature negatively affect the ability of these already accurate movements to operate at peak levels. Able to compensate for changes in temperature normally experienced by watch movements worn on the wrist, the caliber 82 movement is accurate to around 10 seconds per year. That is compared to accuracy of about 10 seconds per month for standard quartz movements.

You’ll see the “Chronometer” label on the dial. This is also a true COSC Chronometer watch. Note that Swiss COSC has a different performance test for quartz versus mechanical watches. The test is predictable much more stringent for quartz mechanisms. Once you understand how the time and effort that went into this movement is akin to that of a traditional mechanical watch, you not only better understand the value proposition, but you also appreciate how this can truly be a professional’s watch.
The Breitling Endurance Pro 44 is the second generation of this product concept, which actually predated Mr. Kern’s management of the brand. In 2017, Breitling introduced the Colt Skyracer (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here), which offered a Breitlight case, three-hand SuperQuartz movement, and a $2,000 price point. With the 2020 Endurance Pro, Breitling keeps the core vibe of the entry-level sport watch theme but tries to pull the design language more into the current collection. The Colt Skyracer was a pilot-style watch inspired by the world of sport flying. The Endurance Pro looks more like a triathlete watch meant for a variety of purposes for people who regularly time intervals or events.
The Endurance Pro name is new but the dial and hands are basically from the current generation Aerospace Evo (which came out around 2013). Breitling actually fixed a problem with that design on the Endurance Pro, in that the hands were polished and should have been matte-finished. Otherwise the Endurance Pro, is an all-analog chronograph version of the Aerospace Evo, with a Breitlight carbon case. Note that the Breitling Emergency II watch is also part of this same design family.
Little design refinements on the Breitling Endurance Pro 44 help make it a distinct watch from its predecessors. For example, the flange ring has a pulsometer scale on it —removing the tendency for sport watch makers to tackily apply obsolescent tachymeter scales. A pulsometer allows you to measure your pulse while operating the chronograph and counting some heartbeats. Since plenty of Breitling Endurance Pro wears will use this as a sports watch, it is entirely conceivable that a pulsometer will be relevant once in a while, and helps make the text on the dial feel more practical and less arbitrary.

Under 65 grams on the wrist, the Endurance Pro is, indeed, a lightweight watch — and it isn’t that small, either. Wearing it is great since it is so light and comfortable. The case is about 44mm-wide and 14mm-thick with a 53mm lug-to-lug distance. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters, and over the dial is a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal. Around the bezel is a bi-directional rotating navigation bezel. These look cool, but I would have preferred a 60-minute scale on the smooth-to-the-touch rotating black carbon bezel.
This particular version of the Breitling Endurance Pro 44 is the white and black (Oreo cookie or Star Wars Storm Trooper, depending on your mood) reference X82310A71B1S1. While I have a feeling more colors will be coming soon, the launch assortment of Endurance Pro models includes black and yellow, dark blue, orange, red, and the pictured white model flavors of the watch. To add to the Star Warsy-ness of it, when the chronograph is operating, I imagine that the chronograph hands are dueling red lightsabers. Speaking of the dial, Breitling keeps even its entry-level watch looking sharp with attractively finished surfaces and applied elements like some of the hour markers. Some purists will probably not forgive Breitling for having the chronograph subdials cut off the hour markers so much.

The Breitling-branded rubber strap that comes with the Breitling Endurance Pro 44 is of typical high Breitling strap quality and is given a buckle with two holes for the strap excess, which makes it wear better on the wrist. The strap buckle is also made out of the same carbon Breitlight material as the case, which is a nice touch.

The Oris Divers Sixty-Five Date In ‘Waldenburg Valley’ Green

This was a big year for Oris’ Aquis line, which has been revamped while maintaining a solid modern dive watch in the brand’s collection. The Oris Divers Sixty-Five, the brand’s heritage model, continues to be a mainstay, however, and now a new green dial and bezel join the crew in the more affordable Oris Caliber 733 movement offering.
This new Oris Divers Sixty-Five Date is the 40mm version, measuring 12.8mm thick with a 48mm lug-to-lug, plus a screw-down crown and screw-down back on the stainless steel case, giving 100m of water resistance. There’s also that green unidirectional dive bezel, complementing the green hue of the dial inspired by the Waldenburg Valley forests surrounding Oris’ headquarters in Hölstein. This isn’t the first green dial in the Divers Sixty-Five lineup, but it’s a bit more vibrant than the Hodinkee Limited Edition. With the caliber 733 movement, it’s also slightly more affordable and has a date (something you either love or… well, don’t). The price is $2,700.
My quick take is that this is a nice-looking watch, and more options aren’t a bad thing. Oris has done a good job of giving both a slightly higher-end offering with their Caliber 400 line without abandoning more affordable watches with the same design language. Oris has always had an eye on the enthusiast community, both in terms of making watches people are asking for and can afford. Unsurprisingly, I still have a soft spot for the Hodinkee Limited Edition, but this brighter option is also a good one.
This release follows the well-received addition of a 38mm Oris Divers Sixty-Five with a Caliber 400 movement to the brand’s main lineup while also employing a different but still very successful application of a great shade of green.

AUDEMARS PIGUET Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding

Even though it would be impossible to hide all the buzz, the discussions and the emotions that surrounded the launch of this watch – certainly the most commented watch ever – it won’t be the topic today. We could argue with its detractors… We could, but we won’t. Today we are going to be fair, objective and realistic. Because today, over a year after its launch, now that the dust has settled, we’re going to take a second, in-depth look at the Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet – with the blue dial/white gold Selfwinding Chronograph model. Because, objectively, this watch has a lot to offer.
Thirteen new references, six news models, three brand new calibres, including the much-awaited in-house integrated chronograph… The launch of this brand new collection at the SIHH 2019 was a major step in the history of Audemars Piguet, a new beginning of sorts, a disruptive choice that had nothing to do with yet another octagonal watch inspired by or derived from the Royal Oak. The basic concept with Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet was to create a new pillar in the collection next to the Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore, Royal Oak Concept and Millenary. But one that no one really expected. In fact, we’d known for years that Audemars Piguet was preparing a new collection and that in itself generated a great deal of anticipation around this new product.
The brand was founded in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland. The following 100 years saw some of the most respectable and desirable Haute Horlogerie creations emerge from a manufacture capable of producing some of the most complex and distinguished watches. The liberation of mentalities that came with the late 1960s and early 1970s had an effect on the brand and in 1972, the Royal Oak was created: a watch that would change the face of this watchmaking company forever. While not an immediate success, this watch slowly became a hit, a cult object and the brand’s main strongpoint… and coincidentally its main weakness.
In the past decade, Audemars Piguet focused its production almost entirely on watches based on Genta’s octagonal design – whether RO, ROO or ROC watches – which represented the vast majority of the watches sold. The classic, round and elegant watch (Jules Audemars collection) had fallen out of favour and the same went for the small, elegant and rectangular Edouard Piguet line. The Millenary is now a watch mostly aimed at a feminine audience. The Royal Oak (and its multiple iterations) made the brand very successful in the past decades; however, this almost mono-product strategy was not devoid of risk. The brand knew it and reacted by introducing Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet – all of this is explained in the words of CEO François-Henry Bennahmias in our in-depth video, here. But trying to find your place next to a watch as strong and as iconic as the Royal Oak is no easy task.
Today, Audemars Piguet has a bold and modern approach to Haute Horlogerie and this shows in this Code 11:59. The basic concept was to bring back the classic round watch in AP’s collection, yet to have a contemporary, younger approach for a less traditional clientele. The small, conservative dress watch doesn’t really work for the brand, and Code 11.59 represents a new vision of a modern classic. However, there’s more to this watch than just a round case… And we’re going to take a closer look in this review.
Audemars Piguet is a brand with a strong (to say the least) identity, forged largely on the shape of a particular case. However, reducing the brand to just that would be an insult to the exceptionally desirable watches that brand has created, including many grande complications, perpetual calendars, chronographs – some of which were revived in the newly introduced [Re]master collection.
The brand’s newest collection couldn’t just be a shape. It had to be a sum of details, savoir-faire and a demonstration of what AP can do in terms of dial making, watch design and, of course, movement making. Once you handle an example of Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet you understand that it has to be explored, deciphered, observed. This watch is round… but not only. This watch is classic… only from a far distance. This watch is a chronograph… yes, but its movement is state-of-the-art. This watch is less of a statement piece… that is for sure.
A watch is first and foremost a three-dimensional object made to be worn, not an object to appear in a magazine or on a billboard. It is a lively object, with proportions, angles, curves, reflections, which change depending on the light conditions, which need to be seen in action. And this is where Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet becomes something unique. Forget about the early images and hands-on; this watch, its case, its crystal and its shape is impressively detailed and deserves to be touched and tested.
Code 11.59 is a bit like (a handsome) Harvey Two-Face. Depending on the angle, the watch reveals two different personalities. From the top, the case is round, with a wide dial opening and almost no bezel. Its lugs also appear pretty simple. Stopping the examination of this case here would be (extremely) reductive. This watch needs to be seen from an angle – which is actually the natural view you’ll have of this watch when worn on the wrist. And then, you’ll discover sides that are highly detailed, complex and even intriguing.

To make a connection with the Royal Oak, the central container of Code 11.59, the part that sits in between the bezel and the caseback, which holds the movement, is octagonally shaped – a discreet reference to what has made the brand so iconic in the past 48 years. This central container is finely brushed and polished, with sharp facets and neat separations between the different finishes. Something that gives this watch its DNA, its identity, but in a discreet, elegant manner.
The same dual nature can be applied to the lugs. From the top, they appear simple. However, these lugs, an integral part of an element that also incorporates the bezel, are hollowed, finished with a brushed surface and complex polished bevels. Funny detail is that the screw heads are hexagonal, simply for visual pleasure, which is again another nod to the hexagonal screws on the Royal Oak. Looking at these details offers a truly different perception of the case.
Regarding specifications, the watch is contemporary sized, with a 41mm diameter and a relatively restrained height (at least for an automatic chronograph) of 12.6mm. The case sits well on the wrist, with some presence but also great comfort due to the positioning of the strap, allowing the whole watch to ‘hug’ the wrist. It is available exclusively in 18k gold – white or pink. Some variations, in two-tone or other materials, will certainly be introduced later. Overall, the execution of the case is impressive, detailed and on par with what you’d expect from Audemars Piguet. The decoration of the surfaces is extremely precise and neat, contributing to the overall luxurious (but not ostentatious) feeling.

Richard Mille RM 65-01

As an early Christmas present to us, Richard Mille is showing its new RM 65-01, dubbed the most complicated automatic watch ever to leave its workshop. You wouldn’t immediately think that, would you? Even though the dial is the usual jumble of textures and colours that we’ve come to expect from this brand, you can make out the chronograph subdials of the watch easily. But, oh boy, is there a lot going on in there, let’s take a closer look.
The case of the watch is made in the usual Richard Mille RM 65-01 tonneau shape and measures in at 44.50mm x 49.94mm x 16.10mm. Thanks to its Carbon TPT case, where the case middle, bezel and back are made from carbon fibre, the watch will still be light on the wrist despite the bulk. A rubber strap with racing vents inspired by the world of motorsports keeps this watch snug on the wrist.
The dial of the watch us a cacophony of information which Richard Mille RM 65-01 has supplemented with colours to make a somewhat legible design. At 11 o’clock is a date window which has been arranged vertically and the numbers for which can be seen underneath the dial. This is outlined in yellow, along with the hour markers, the time hands and the subdial at 6 O’clock, these represent your everyday features. Chronograph functions are indicated through the colour orange, with the seconds hand, minute subdial and hour subdial having this colour. The split-seconds function utilises the colour blue, of course, you won’t see the split-seconds function until you activate it via the pusher at 10 O’clock.
Then there are the winding functions which are coloured red. These consist of a hand near 4 o’clock which shows you whether the crown is set for winding (W), hour adjustment (H) or date adjustment (D) and a red pusher at 8 o’clock. This pusher, when pressed, winds the movement, it only takes eight presses to wind the movement to its full 6-ish hours of power reserve from stopped (power reserve is determined by how much the chronograph is used).
The calibre RMAC4 (developed with Manufacture Vaucher, based in Fleurier) features a baseplate and bridges made of grade 5 titanium for durability and resistance to corrosion., it’s also extremely light. The watch also has the signature variable geometry rotor, which allows the staff at Richard Mille to adjust the amount of Richard Mille RM 65-01 movement the rotor does. This means that if you intend to use the watch as a part of your active lifestyle, such as playing Tennis, you can tell them to set it up that way and it’ll prevent damage to the winding components. As of yet, you can’t adjust this feature yourself. The movement also offers a 5Hz beat rate for accurate timing, but who cares really, it’s just crazy to look at.

Oris Divers Sixty-Five 38 Calibre 400

The Oris Divers Sixty-Five resurfaced in 2015, fifty years after its inaugural splash. Leaning on the design cues of its ancestor, the revisited Divers Sixty-Five oozed vintage pedigree. Although the looks of the first models were faithful to their ancestor, the watch was built with contemporary materials and powered by an outsourced movement (Sellita). The Divers Sixty-Five collection soared in popularity and appeared with different case sizes and materials and a more contemporary face. However, the breakthrough came in 2022 when Oris fitted the Divers Sixty-Five with its in-house calibre 400. Oris has been listening closely to its customers, and its latest move is bound to please fans with its 38mm case, its calibre 400 movement and – wait for it – the elimination of the date window.
The first model in the Oris Divers Sixty-Five family to benefit from the brand’s calibre 400 was a 40mm model with a date window at 6 o’clock and a 12-hour scale on the bezel. A few weeks ago, we covered another 40mm Divers Sixty-Five Hölstein Edition, also powered by the calibre 400 with a regular 60-minute bezel and date.
The latest model is the first Oris Divers Sixty-Five 38mm to receive the brand’s calibre 400. With its steel case and matching steel bezel, the watch has an attractive monochromatic look. The 60-minute scale on the sandblasted matte bezel is in relief, with polished numerals and markers, and the inverted triangle at noon has a luminous pip. The case is finished with brushed surfaces and polished bevels extending to the 3-link steel bracelet and its folding clasp with push buttons.
Although there have been some objections regarding this diver’s relatively modest 100m water-resistance (like the original), Oris has plenty of other more contemporary dive watches, like the Aquis Date with its 300m water-resistance rating or the Aquis Pro with its impressive 4,000-metre rating. Despite its name, the Divers Sixty-Five is not positioned as a professional dive watch, and its water-resistance rating is more than enough for a robust sports watch that can be used for snorkelling.
Oris has chosen an attractive shade of green for the gradient dial, offsetting the applied circular and rectangular indices treated with Super-LumiNova. The three central hands are also luminescent, ensuring visibility in low-light conditions. And what is undoubtedly the best news of all is the absence of a date window.
The dial is protected by a double-domed Oris Divers Sixty-Five 38 Calibre 400 sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, and a sapphire exhibition caseback displays the brand’s manufacture calibre 400. Launched in 2020, calibre 400 is a high-performance automatic movement with twin barrels for a five-day power reserve and an anti-magnetic silicon escapement with a 10-year warranty.

Breitling Acquires Historic Brand Universal Genève

Despite being barely existent anymore or now a memory from the past, some brands continue to live within the collecting community, benefitting from a certain aura. One of these brands is Universal Genève, a once-prominent manufacturer known for its innovative designs (the Polerouter or the Tri-Compax, to name a few) and technically advanced movements (the famed micro-rotor). With the quartz crisis, Universal Genève became the shadow of itself, still producing watches as the subsidiary of a Hong Kong-based investment firm. These days are over, as UG comes back into Swiss hands after Breitling watch and its main shareholder Partners Group have announced its acquisition of Universal Genève, a move that “promises to restore the prestige of a hallowed name in the world of luxury timepieces,” according to the brand.

Founded in 1894, Universal Genève grew to become one of the top Swiss watchmakers, providing Breitling watch enthusiasts with models such as the Tri-Compax, the Aero-Compax, dozens of versions of the Polerouter (as explained in this book), racing chronographs such as the “Nina Rindt” Compax or the original Space Compax. However, like so many other brands, the advent of the quartz technology and the crisis that would follow significantly challenged the company. No dead, but certainly not as active as it used to be.
Despite this shift in its trajectory, Universal Genève or UG kept having a strong image within the collecting community, some of its models being high on the list of collectables. Since 1989, the brand has been owned by the Hong Kong-based Stelux Group – also the owner of Cyma (another Swiss watchmaker) and a prominent distributor of Seiko and Grand Seiko in Asia – which kept the name and legacy alive. Nevertheless, the destiny of the brand drastically changed, not being the same for the last 30 years.
Today, Breitling watch via its CEO Georges Kern and Partners Group (the main shareholder of Breitling), has announced the acquisition of Universal Genève from Stelux, for an undisclosed amount (rumours talk about $70 million), probably seeing huge potential in the name and highly possible synergies between brands sharing an important past presence in the field of chronograph watches – UG could be relatively easily re-started by using base movements from Breitling, such as the B01. “Rebuilding a brand with such a rich narrative is not a quick endeavour (…) It is a meticulous labour of love that we anticipate will unfold over the coming years. A dedicated team will be brought on board to allow Breitling and Universal Genève to operate as separate maisons,” explains Kern. What will be the future of Universal Genève…? Time will tell, as for now no words have been given on Breilting’s and Kern’s plans. There’s certainly massive room for improvement in the revamp of the collection, and dozens of historical models and names that are worthy of being revived. And while the grounds for success are there and the brand still benefits from a highly positive imago, we’ll have to wait a couple of years or more to see what will be the new face of UG.

The Race-Ready 2024 Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph and GTS Chrono

The legendary Italian Mille Miglia vintage car race, from Brescia to Rome and back, is just around the corner, drawing crowds of car lovers and drivers from around the world. As the sponsor and official timekeeper of this race since 1988, Chopard enjoys one of the longest-standing alliances in classic motorsports. The brand’s co-president, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, has participated in every Mille Miglia edition since 1989. Perpetuating the brand’s tradition of Chopard Mille Miglia watches, and just four days ahead of the race, Chopard releases two Mille Miglia-themed watches, a retro-inspired Classic Chronograph with a panda dial and a limited edition GTS Chrono.
Nicknamed ‘La Gara’ (Italian for race or competition), the panda dial of the Classic Chronograph is replete with cues from the racing world. The black-and-white dial evokes the chequered flag saluting the first car crossing the finish line, and the three black counters, the shape of the hands and Arabic numerals nod to vintage car dashboards.
As a race-inspired chronograph, it has a black tachymeter scale to measure the average speed of a vehicle over a known distance. The silvery central area of the dial has a circular brushed finish, and the contrasting black sub-dials (running seconds at 3, 12-hour totaliser at 6 and 30-min counter at 9 o’clock) have snailed interiors and white tracks. The large vintage-style Arabic numerals and the baton hour and minute hands are treated with Super-LumiNova, and there is a date window angled in at 4:30. Red accents are used to highlight the 1000 Miglia arrow on the dial and the tip of the central chronograph seconds hand.
Last year, Chopard introduced a more compact version of its Classic Chronograph made from the brand’s super-hard and luminous alloy, Lucent Steel. Measuring 40.5mm across and 12.8 mm thick, the case features polished and satin-brushed finishes. The pushers, designed to look like engine pistons, are knurled like the texture of a brake pedal. The notched crown resembles a petrol tank cap and is topped with a steering wheel motif. Highlighting its retro spirit, a glass-box sapphire crystal over the dial lets more light enter the case and increases the depth of the dial opening.
Powered by a COSC-certified ETA A32.211, an upgraded modular version of the ETA 2894-2, the power reserve has increased from 42 to 54 hours, and the activation of the chronograph is smoother. The Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph is paired with a perforated rally-style black calfskin strap and a Lucent Steel pin buckle.
Chopard will gift each car crew participating in the 2024 Chopard Mille Miglia a GTS Chrono in powerful black and grey livery with red accents. It is also releasing a 100-piece limited edition, available exclusively in Italy.
The bead-blasted titanium case gives the watch an edgy, contemporary look. The dark grey titanium visually attenuates the dimensions of the large 44mm wide and 14.6mm thick case, increases its resistance to shocks and corrosion and radically reduces its weight. Highlighting its racing credentials, the tachymeter scale is featured externally on the black aluminium insert in the bezel. The black DLC crown is topped with a steering wheel, and the pushers have brake pedal motifs.
The galvanically treated frosted grey dial features black snailed sub-dials at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock and highlights the chronograph displays with red hands, matching the 1000 Miglia arrow pointing to the date window. Unlike previous editions of the Chopard GTS Chrono, the date window is now separated from the 1000 Miglia logo and enhanced with a built-in magnifier. The charcoal hour makers and baton hour and minute hands have black Super-LumiNova inserts.
Hidden under the solid caseback, decorated with the 1000 Miglia arrow logo, is an automatic chronograph movement based on the Valjoux 7750 calibre. Beating at 28,800vph, it delivers a 48-hour power reserve and is COSC-chronometer certified. The contemporary black strap is made from upcycled plastic recovered from the Mediterranean.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Mini Quartz Frosted

Today, Audemars Piguet launches the new 23mm “Mini Oak” collection. Self-referential in its re-interpretation of the 20mm Mini Royal Oak from 1997, but brand new in its 2024 packaging. It comes in three iterations: yellow, pink, and white, all with the Frosted Gold finish. Inspired by an ancient Florentine jewelry technique, the frosted gold finish was previously implemented by jewelry designer Carolina Bucci and adapted by Audemars Piguet in 2016 to adorn her collaboration with Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Mini Quartz Frosted.
The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Mini Quartz Frosted models pack a lot of design into the small 23mm sizing. The diamond-dust effect of the frosted gold contrasts with the polished bevels that outline the octagonal bezel and the individual links of the tapering bracelet. There is a satin finish on the case and bracelet flanks, adding even more texture to this tiny piece. The solid caseback combines sandblasting, satin brushing, and polishing to echo the case design. The watches feature a tone-on-tone Petite Tapisserie dial with lume-coated gold hour markers that match the color of the case. The hands are also slightly thicker, reminiscent of AP’s Offshore diver watches, presumably for legibility and balance. The Audemars Piguet signature at 12 o’clock is printed in black on a cartouche, while the date indication and seconds function have been omitted, again likely to enhance both legibility and to keep the tiny dial as clean as possible.
The trio of Royal Oak Mini watches are powered by Calibre 2730, a quartz movement with a battery life of over seven years. In addition, the Calibre 2730 is equipped with a “switch”: by simply pulling on the crown, the wearer can temporarily deactivate the battery. The Mini is water resistant up to 50 meters.

In theory, “shrinking” down a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Mini Quartz Frosted might not seem so revelatory, but the Mini is not shrunken down Jumbo, nor is it a rehashing of its 20-29mm 20th-century predecessors. The smaller specs are a direct response to current consumer demand, and the design has been updated to work in a modern context. AP has taken elements of one their most successful modern “women’s” releases (Carolina Bucci’s 37mm Royal Oak Frosted Gold Selfwinding LE) and implemented the same frosted gold finishing, which is achieved through tiny indentations made on the gold surface using a diamond-tipped tool, creating a sparkly effect similar to that of precious stones. Furthermore, there is nary a gemstone in sight. These are thoroughly modern in their execution.
Small watches are trending. This statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody in the watch enthusiast space. And, evidently, the brands are listening to what the consumers are asking for. Brynn Wallner, founder of Dimepiece, a platform dedicated to all things women and watches, contributed significantly to the small watch revolution. Wallner should be credited for making giant strides in the teeny tiny watch revival. Her approach was playful, and her TTRO (Teeny Tiny Royal Oak) acronym has stuck, but she was also extremely astute in realizing that there was a gap in the watch market for a size that younger, more fashion-forward types were eager to wear.

If we ask the question: who is this watch for? It becomes a pointless push and pull between an extremely antiquated gender binary mindset and today’s fluid fashion vernacular. Frankly, anybody should wear what they damn well please, and one certainly shouldn’t be chastised for promoting such a sentiment. Despite the comments section fatigue surrounding the “all watches should be unisex argument,” jewelry and adornment are deeply reflective of wider cultural mores. It is the 2024 reality, and the question of size and fluidity exists on a much larger scale in the fashion industry; we are simply seeing a trickle-down effect. And to be blunt, this is exactly what we asked for. And so, the conversation remains relevant.
Perhaps if you peel away the layer of gender, the real issue is the homogeneity in watch design. Too many brands look the same. Are we then surprised that pop stars and actors turn to smaller “ladies'” design-driven watches to stand out? And there’s an ease to throwing on a small watch. Spiritually, it’s much closer to jewelry. The point isn’t to focus on the inside of the case here but to embrace a more frivolous and decorative side to watch-wearing. Ultimately, this watch (and any watch, for that matter) is an accessory. Which is perfectly ok to admit. You can love and respect heritage and technical intricacies, and you can also appreciate small quartz-powered design watches. We aren’t picking sides.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Mini Quartz Frosted acolytes will no doubt embrace the introduction of a mini size. The Royal Oak is an enduring symbol of Genta design, but beyond that, it’s a widely recognized design among those who are completely outside of the watch enthusiast community. I have friends who are far removed from the watch space and send me pictures of potential purchases they are considering. I would say about 75% of those pictures include a small-sized vintage Royal Oak. The mini is not just a fun release, it’s also a smart business decision. I say keep the small watch fire burning.