Military-style watches suit my style. I find their purpose-built, understated aesthetic deeply appealing. In fact, if a watch doesn’t look better on a NATO strap, you won’t find it on my wrist. By the same token, I’ve never been a fan of salespeople. So the aviation-inspired Urban TYPE XX Chronograph Special Edition from direct-to-consumer watchmaker UNDONE ticks all the boxes. Right?
Type XX is the next Vin Diesel movie. It’s also the official designation for French government-issued military watches from the ’50s to ’80s. The basic spec: 38mm wide, 14mm thick, black dial, luminescent Arabic numerals, a rotating bezel with a fluted edge, (for timing various flight legs), 35-hour power reserve and eight seconds per day accuracy.
It’s been done, and now it’s being UNDONE. Primarily known for their line of highly customizable watches, the Urban Type XX Chronograph Special Edition is one of the Hong Kong horologist’s stock offerings for less creative people. (Vilified here by RF.)
Even so, it’s available in three dial iterations: all-black, black with white sub-dials, and white with black sub-dials.
For an extra $35 over its siblings, the Urban TYPE XX Chronograph Special Edition provides an extra NATO strap (your choice of black or black), and a satin-finished PVD case.
Responding to the modern market, the Urban Type XX Special Edition’s 316L stainless steel case sees the French 38mm spec and raises it 3.5mm (41.5mm in diameter). UNDONE giveth, UNDONE taketh away. The Type XX’s case is 1.5mm thinner than the official government models (12.5mm).
The Type XX’s historically faithful coin-edge bidirectional bezel is reassuringly smooth, never deviating from the amount of force required to rotate it. After setting, the bezel stays securely in place. That’s impressive build quality for the price point.
UNDONE’s done fit the Type XX Special Edition’s black dial with “seafoam arabic numerials.” Nice numbers, shame about the legibility. It’s difficult to read the white hour and minute hands when they’re sitting over the minute or 24 hour sub-dials.
A Seiko mecho-quartz VK64 movement motivates the Type XX’s hands. As you can see, the Seiko VK64 movement has a date function. The Type XX does not. There’s a ghost in the machine; when you pull out the Type XX’s onion-style glove-friendly crown, you can still feel the quick set of the date.
The Japanese caliber powers a 24 hour sub-dial and a 60-minute chronometer sub-dial. UNDONE proudly calls the chronometer a flyback. Nope. Unlike a true flyback, the Type XX’s chronograph does not restart upon zeroing. The quartz hybrid movement returns to zero very quickly, though.
For obvious reasons, a military watch, a pilot’s watch, must be highly luminescent. UNDONE thinks they nailed it: “Dim the lights and prepare for takeoff. The centre console houses two large, white sub-dials surrounded by blue numerals; they glow sky blue under low-light conditions.”
And then don’t. Even when bombarded with light for an extended period, the Type XX’s luminous dials glowed for a minute or two, then faded dramatically. As the photo above illustrates, after 10 minutes they were dim. After twenty minutes it was lights out.
I wanted to like the UNDONE Type XX. The build quality is impressive for the money, but I can’t get past the low light performance. UNDONE’s Base Camp watch claims to have luminous dials that last “until dawn.” If so, they should have blessed the Type XX with the same coating. Anything less breaks the bond with the watches that inspired it, and consumers expecting a reasonably accurate historical homage.
Model: UNDONE Urban Type XX Chronograph Special Edition
Price as tested: $350
Features: Chronograph with 1/5 second intervals
Movement: Seiko VK64 Mechanical Quartz Hybrid
Crystal: Hardened K1
Case: 316L Stainless Steel
Case Diameter: 41.5mm
Distance between lugs: 20mm
Weight: 52 grams (1.83 ounces)
Dial Color: Black
Water resistance: 3 bar (30 meters / 110 feet)
RATINGS (out of five stars)
Design * * * *
Aesthetics are clean and simple, true to type.
Legibility * *
After more than 20 minutes in a dark space, zero stars. Non-dark space, three.
Tactility * * * *
The pusher feel solid, although there was slight play during chronograph reset. The bezel requires a fair amount of pressure to rotate, but it does so smoothly.
Clasp/Strap * * * * *
I wore the included NATO strap. It worked.
Overall * * *
If you’re a night owl or an OCD history buff, this is not the watch you’re looking for. If you want a clean, well-made modern interpretation of a classic military design and can’t afford a $9500 Breguet Type 20, it’s an UNDONE deal.