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Review: U-BOAT 1938 Doppiotempo

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U-BOAT is Italian watch manufacturer with a rather interesting background.

Originally founded in 1942 as Officine Fontana, the brand was created with an intention to supply watches for the Italian Navy. The watches were well-engineered, with advanced designs to meet the Navy’s technical specifications. The project was forgotten subsequently, as the military contract was not realised. It was only in 2000 where the blueprints were discovered, which subsequently led to the rebirth of the brand.

U-BOAT 1938 Doppiotempo

The 1938 Doppiotempo is a new model that was first released in 2019. Similar to the other watches from the brand, this timepiece is based off the blueprints that were discovered by the descendants. The only difference is that this was inspired by a watch that was designed specifically for Col Moschin – the Italian Army’s parachute-assault regime. This is unlike the Navy-inspired diver’s watches that the brand is typically known for.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The most conspicuous aspect that points the 43mm watch to its heritage roots is the large ultra-domed sapphire crystal – a signature of watches from the yesteryear. It is rather typical of watch manufacturers to incorporate the curved sapphire crystal into their watches, but we have to admit that U-BOAT’s iteration for the 1938 Doppiotempo works rather well with the thin bezel and the “recessed-like” dial (aided by the chapter bidirectional internal bezel that forms a concave shape with the dial).

The dial of the Doppiotempo is also quite intriguing. The watch features two superimposed dial – one main dial for the usual timekeeping, and a smaller sub-dial for the 24-hour indicator. For the main dial, the watch features the brand’s signature “4, 8, and 12” Arabic numeral indices. There is also an additional inner bidirectional bezel, where it synchronises with the additional red hand to tell the time on a separate time zone.

One of the recurring themes of the watch is its vintage roots, and this is heavily emphasised by the use of beige on the indices, numerals, and hands of the watch. The beige lends the watch a rustic charm, but it is also a reminiscence of the aged materials that are present on the dial.

Notably, the watch is seemed to be produced for the left-handed. The date aperture, for instance, is located at the 9 o’clock position. The same goes for the twin crown, in which one is used for time-adjustments and the other is for rotating the inner bidirectional bezel.

Overall, in terms of the design, we think that the U-BOAT 1938 Doppiotempo is a nice watch. It is not a timepiece for everyone, as some might find it to be a little too messy or cluttered. However, we do think that it is not too much of a problem for us, and that the different functions are rather useful and intuitive as well – especially for the author as his day job requires him to keep track of another time zone as well.

The Movement

Powering the U-BOAT is an unidentified Swiss movement. For some of the other U-BOAT watches, we have noted that they were fitted with the ETA 2824-2 movement. However, as the specifications were a little different, we do not wish to spend too much time dwelling and speculating on this matter.

The self-winding movement beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour, and it boasts a power reserve of 44 hours. As mentioned above, the watch features a date indicator and a dual time zone display. According to the press release, the movement is also personalised to U-BOAT’s specifications – which explains the U-BOAT winding rotor that can been seen via the transparent case-back.

Finishing-wise, the movement is nothing too spectacular. But it is important to note that this is modestly priced watch, and it is more important to focus on its robustness as compared to its decoration techniques. Frankly, it has served us well without a hitch, and we are definitely more than satisfied with its performance during the time when we had the timepiece.

Competitive Landscape

The U-BOAT 1938 Doppiotempo is priced at €1,938 (approximately S$3,078). At this price point, the 1938 Doppiotempo offers tremendous value – considering its complication and its build quality. It was quite a joy to wear this timepiece, and its versatile nature makes it rather compelling as well.

There are certainly some competitors in the field to consider as well. We predominantly narrow it down to vintage-inspired timepieces with a second time zone indicator.

YEMA Superman GMT Bronze Blue

The YEMA Superman GMT Bronze Blue – available in both 39 and 41mm variants – is a strong contender, with a highly competitive price point at around US$1,783 (approximately S$2,407). What is also highly attractive is its in-house movement, which was designed, developed, and assembled at the brand’s workshop. In addition, the watch is cased in bronze as well. The only drawback is that the brand is relatively unknown currently, but we doubt that it will remain status quo for long.

The Tudor Black Bay GMT is worth a consideration too, if you are able to stretch your budget a little longer. The 41mm Black Bay GMT is undoubtedly a handsome timepiece, and the blue and red “Pepsi” bezel is pretty iconic as well. It is also fitted with an in-house COSC-certified movement, which boasts a power reserve of around 70 hours. This timepiece retails at S$5,544.

Lastly, we have the Bell & Ross BR V2-93 GMT. This one looks a little more modern as compared to the rest of the watches on the list, but we reckon that it is an interesting alternative for someone who is looking for a timepiece that is a little different from the usual suspects. The 41mm watch is priced at S$5,100, and we reckon it might be a hit for someone who likes a simple and highly functional timepiece.

Concluding Thoughts

The U-BOAT 1938 Doppiotempo is a nice watch with an interesting provenance to boot. We like the heritage behind it, as well as the functionality of the watch. It is also very well-priced too, which makes it a highly exciting prospect.

Truth to be told, the older U-BOAT watches are not entirely our cup of tea. It is a little too brash and loud, although there are definitely collectors who have a thing for such timepieces. But the 1938 Doppiotempo had changed our mind entirely. This is actually well-made and highly versatile watch. The leather strap is also worth a mention, and we especially like how U-BOAT had additionally included the “Doppiotempo” engraving on it.

The 1938 Doppiotempo is a hidden gem. We highly recommend collectors to take a look at this watch, especially if one is looking for something that is different from the crowd. It is seriously underrated, and frankly, the brand has got strong potential to do well if it continues to produce such wonderful timepieces.

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