Geek Review: UNDONE Ronin Watch

UNDONE is back once again with its latest samurai-styled timepiece, the UNDONE Ronin. With games like Ghost of Tsushima released to rave reviews, interest in the Japanese samurai has surged and this timepiece takes it even further, with a design that invokes flavours of samurai culture for the modern-day youth.

Dubbed “Ronin”, the timepiece is inspired by the Japanese ancient legend “Revenge of the 47 Rōnin” that honours the bushido code and samurai moral values, as well as the Bōsōzoku biker culture, a Japanese youth subculture associated with customised motorcycles made popular in the 1980s and 1990s. The result is a symbolic blend of both the vintage style aesthetic with modern components. 

Out of the many watches the company has released thus far, the US$380 Ronin is possibly one of the most unique timepieces done by the guys at UNDONE. At first glance, the watch is well-designed, looking much like the company’s Basecamp series. 

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Measuring 40mm in diameter and 48mm lug-to-lug, it is of a decent size, but some may find the watch face a little too small on bigger wrists. Along with it comes a double-domed scratch-resistant LEXAN Polycarbonate lens, which gives a nice ocular raised bump that achieves a more vintage look. Although the domed lens and coating gives the glass a highly-reflective surface, it’s worth pointing out that the legibility of the dial is not reduced, as the reflection picks up more on camera than in real life. 

On top of that, the watch has a water resistance of up to 100m, which is just fine for any casual usage (not that you’d actually want to go diving with this) and you will not need to worry about your watch whenever you wash your hands or the dishes. 

On the side we have an octagonal screw down crown that can be easily manipulated, allowing you to adjust and set the time.

The dial is perhaps what makes the UNDONE Ronin one of the most unique watches we’ve had so far, apart from our favourite UNDONE x Batman 80th Anniversary Collection. We have an oriental reinterpretation of the Classic California Dial where the iconic top-half Roman Numeral layout is replaced with four delicate grains of Japanese hiragana, ろ (ro), う (u), に (ni), and ん (n).  When these four characters are read together, you get the word ‘Rounin’, a title given to a samurai without a lord or master to serve.

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Striking across the face of the watch is a streak of “blood”, symbolising the act of seppuku, a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. It was a code of honour originally reserved for samurai to restore honour for themselves or for their families. 

On the back of the watch lies a Daruma doll donned in Samurai armour – a traditional Japanese symbol of perseverance regarded as a talisman of good luck for achieving one’s goals. The two eyes of the Daruma are left intentionally blank for the goal-setter to fill in the first eye once they have decided on a goal; then the second one once they have achieved that goal. Behind the Daruma you can glimpse the movement and balance wheel ticking away.

The UNDONE Ronin by Seiko V(SII) Caliber NH35A movement is essentially an automatic watch that self-winds as long as you wear it (due to the natural motions of walking), but you can also hand-wind it yourself after 55 manual turns of the crown. The NH35A also allows for a smooth sweeping second hand, while retaining very high accuracy and reliability. These movements are quiet and keep fantastic time, with the watch being a good, slim fit on the wrist. 

The padded kusazuri straps are inspired by ancient samurai armor and biker leather, with a nice plush premium feel from the Italian leather material. The stitching is well done, with the straps allowing for better grip on the wrist without having to reposition the watch. It also provides a good bit of comfort and after wearing it for a week, we found that it doesn’t absorb sweat easily, even at high humidity levels here in Singapore. It also comes with quick-release pins for easy interchangeability and added convenience.

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The Ronin sports a glow-in-the-dark feature known as ‘lume’ as well. It’s not quite on par with the premium expensive watches and their super bright and long-lasting Swiss Superluminova lume, but it does provide adequate legibility in the dark. It also doesn’t last very long and fades rather quickly. Even so, the lume helps to accentuate the greens on the dial and bezel, and gives the red Seppuku streak glows a nice burning red. If you ever stumble upon a club with UV lights, you might be the talk of the town! (COVID-19 restrictions apply.)

Just like the UNDONE x Batman 80th Anniversary Collection, the UNDONE Ronin is all about functional aesthetics, with its one-of-a-kind design and top-tier components. A longer-lasting, brighter lume and a sapphire glass deck would make the timepiece almost perfect, but anyone looking for a samurai-themed watch need look no further than this masterpiece.  
If you’re looking to be the master of the UNDONE Ronin or would like to create your own customised UNDONE watch, the official website gives you a chance to do so!

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

UNDONE has shown what it’s got with this symbolic timepiece. It’s a wonderful modern take on samurai culture where art and timekeeping meet, making the UNDONE Ronin a fine balance of form and function.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10
  • Aesthetics - 8/10
    8/10
  • Build Quality - 9/10
    9/10
  • Value - 7/10
    7/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 10/10
    10/10
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