This Is the New Watch for the Design Set

Unimatic teamed up with Massensa Lab on a 36mm field watch based on classic, midcentury design codes

January 4, 2024 8:25 am
UNIMATIC U5S-ML
UNIMATIC U5S-ML
Unimatic/Massensa Lab

For the past 30 years, design fiends in search of an everyday, one-and-done wristwatch turned to one model in particular: the Braun AW10. Designed by Dietrich Lubs and Dieter Rams in 1989, its Bauhaus-inspired attributes — clean lines, functional remit, simple aesthetics, etc — quickly made it a go-to timepiece for those obsessed with functionalism. Devoid of extraneous bells and whistles, it came in black, on a black rubber strap, and that was it. It synched with any outfit — particularly the all-black ensembles of creative directors everywhere — and automatically looked good. It still does.

Though, to be fair, its paltry 30m of water resistance and ultra-thin profile didn’t don’t particularly commend it for anything more dangerous than drafting with a #2 pencil. Thankfully, there’s a new horological kid in town that promises to ready this problem via a simple tweak to one of its existing watches: Meet the new U5S-ML, the latest entry from Italian microbrand Unimatic and the mind of noted watch collector and entrepreneur William Massena of Massena LAB. A scaled-down, 36mm version of Unimatic’s fixed-bezel UC2 field watch, it’s the perfect, robust alternative to Braun’s beloved classic.

Housed in a stainless steel case, the Modello Cinque — with its curved lugs, oversized, screw-down crown, and angles rehaut — is the brand’s first foray into 36mm watches. With its double-domed sapphire crystal and 300m of water resistance, it’s a highly capable tool watch for both men and women, but its dial, though brightly Super-LumiNova-lumed, will appeal to Dieter Rams design nerds as well: Executed in matte black, it features a glossy white minute track, bifurcated sword hands, a yellow-tipped seconds hand, and a subtle date window above 6 o’clock. It’s just referential (and reverential) enough to be clever without veering into homage territory — and it looks excellent.

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Powered by a workhorse, Swiss automatic SW200-1 movement from Sellita, the U5S-ML comes paired to a black, two-piece, tapered rubber TPU strap — a must for any “design-set” timepiece — as well as an additional yellow TPU strap. Limited to 300 pieces, it features an individually numbered and engraved caseback and ships in Unimatic’s hardy “tough case” with a two-year warranty.

Part of the appeal of the AW10, of course, is that it can more or less constantly be had for under $200 on Amazon. But one gets what one pays for, and the U5S-ML is an entirely different animal. At 11.05mm thick, it might not slip under a cuff as easily as Braun’s classic, but to be fair, we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples, here — indeed, you can truly beat the piss out of a Unimatic watch. Massena and Unimatic were clearly inspired by Dieter Rams and by Braun — they say so themselves on Massena LAB’s product page — but the Unimatic remit has always been about utility mixed with affordability. At $995, you’re getting a “forever” watch in the U5S-ML — one that can be serviced throughout its lifetime to keep it in tip-top shape, and that can one day be passed down. 

The only shame is that it’s a limited edition; it’s so handsome and practical, it would’ve been a delightful addition to Unimatic’s permanent collection. But Massena LABS collaborations are limited by design. So if you’re the type of person whose apartment is furnished in Braun, Vitsoe, and Herman Miller, we’d recommend acting fast. 

UNIMATIC U5S-ML
UNIMATIC U5S-ML
Unimatic/Massensa Lab
  • Diameter: 36mm
  • Movement: Sellita SW200-1 automatic
  • Water Resistance: 300m
  • Price: $995

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