“Ahoy” – For the eccentric, fun-loving sailor man in you, the new UNDONE x Popeye watches are now ashore
Editor’s note: This is a Mind, Body & Soul review review of the new UNDONE x Popeye watches. In addition to our standard long form reviews, we sometimes preview watches in the form of short descriptions, technical specifications and a creative infographic. These short form reviews, or Mind (stats), Body (design features) & Soul (what’s special) reviews as we like to call them, are meant for those who are in a rush and wish to get their watch fix fast. For our standard reviews, please head to our review section here.
Why: Inspired by the famous wisecracking sailor, it has been specially adapted in partnership with King Features
When released: September 8 onwards
Where: Online for now, available via UNDONE website
Who is it for: For the sailor in you or for the child in you
How does it do: Whimsical and quirky, the rotating bulging bicep arms in lieu of standard watch hands steal the show. It’s a fun watch, and for fans of Popeye (including myself), it’s a wonderful opportunity to own something that features the cartoon character on the dial and an automatic movement inside the case. It’s miles apart from the cheap plastic watches that can be easily found online.
Missing: Personally I would have preferred if both the versions had a different Popeye sketch; I realise they have changed the dial layout and background colour across the two options, but given Popeye is the real star here, it would have been nice to have the option of choosing between two different poses. Also, collectors might like to have both as they would have different personalities. If I am nitpicking, a Swiss movement would have been ideal and instead of the double-domed Lexan Polycarbonate crystal, a soapier crystal would have been preferable. But for the prices of $479 USD (“El Capitan”) or $399 USD (“The Sailorman”), I can’t really argue.
For these prices we get a limited-edition, official collaborative watch that beats with the carefree spirit of the hero it salutes.
The new UNDONE x Popeye watches feature the Seiko automatic winding calibre NH35A movement with a 42-hour power reserve. The 27.4mm diameter and 5.32mm thick movement comprises of 24 jewels, beats at the frequency of 3Hz (21,600 Vph), tested to +/-15 secs p/day accuracy, and offers the functions of hours, minutes and central seconds. Usually there is also a date calendar option with these movements, but Undone has opted for a cleaner, no date option for their collaboration.
The movement is encased inside a 40mm diameter and 15mm thick 316L stainless steel case — with “The Sailorman” version coated in satin black PVD — and features a decent water-resistance of 100m (10 ATM). The case also features a bi-directional rotating bezel that employs a K1 glass insert as a nod to the vintage divers of yesteryears. The case features a somewhat unique screw-down red-tinted, glass case-back with Popeye and his iconic anchor tattoo adding a sense of fun.
Even though both the versions have the same specs and dimensions, in aesthetics they differ quite a bit.
The watch face of the “El Capitan” shows the time telling functions on a beautiful grained navy-blue dial that so beautifully frames the faux aged-lumed block-shaped hour markers. The simple white peripheral track maintains the cleanliness of the dial, while the red seconds hand complements the red ‘Popeye’ logo at 3’ clock.
In the midst of all this is Popeye, replete with his one-eye squinting, corn-cob pipe tooting demeanour, with his comically muscular arms serving as the functioning hours and minutes hands.
Inspired by the overall vintage aesthetic of the “Marine Nationale”, an iconic design commissioned by the French Navy, the El Capitan is a playful, contemporary take on the original classic dive watch whose bezel is very reminiscent of Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms.
Completing the diver look is a very Rolex looking 316L flat 3-link “Oyster” style stainless steel bracelet strap, complete with their signature quick-release technology.
Out of the Undone versions, the “El Capitan” is my favourite. I like the use of blue and the plain dial more than the California dial of the other option, partly because one of the Undone watches I am reviewing has a California dial and the unique block indices of the “El Capitan” would add something new to my collection should I choose to buy it.
“The Sailorman” on the other hand is more subtle and sombre, with Popeye set against a dark, black background. Differing from the aesthetics of the “El Capitan” version, the dial features a modernised California dial layout, with a hollow half Arabic that is unlike our other Cali dials and a half-Roman numerical design.
This version comes on a different strap as well, the distinctive red and black colour schemed parachute braided strap.
Look mate, if you haven’t heard of Popeye, the sailorman, the hero, then you simply have been living under a rock. The mere fact that a mechanical timepiece is being presented that features the legendary tough guy and his bulging forearms (as hour and minute hands) for under $500 USD is pretty impressive.
Undone’s offerings sit pretty comfortable in a market that currently doesn’t have much for seekers of mechanical watches with classic cartoon characters. The last offering I know is the 50 numbered pieces limited edition Popeye x Bamford London GMT from 2019, that was released to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the cartoon (again in partnership with King Features). These watches did feature the Swiss made Sellita 300-1 movement and an added complication of second time zone, but also retailed for three times the price of the Undone offerings. The excellent low pricing of the UNDONE x Popeye watches is one of the key crowning features of this release.
Like the Bamford version, the Undone watch has been created in partnership with King Features, which is owned by media group Hearst who also happen to owns the rights to the iconic comic strip and license the Popeye brand. So rest assured, it is not a cheap, plastic, eBay/Amazon/Etsy only watch offering. It is officially authorised and is painted cheerful in Undone’s unique aesthetics.
Other than these, cheaper options can be found on eBay and Amazon such as the Popeye the Sailor Man 75th Anniversary Wrist Watch with Black Leather Band from 2005. But these aren’t exactly what you would call mechanical watches with either trustworthy Swiss or Japanese movements.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
Having owned an Undone piece (detailed review dropping soon), and currently in the midst of reviewing another customisable option, I have come to equate Undone as the Uniqlo of the watch industry: they are reliable, trustworthy, do cool collaborations, and do not hurt the pocket. The horology world needs more watch brands like Undone.
I also appreciate that the brand has gone a different route for the packing of these watches, discarding the traditional approach for a novel Spinach tin-can style packaging for both “El Capitan” and “The Sailorman”.
“I yam what I yam an’ tha’s all I yam” says Popeye. Well, the UNDONE x Popeye watches are what they are, that’s all what they are – unique, fun, distinctive, mechanical watches that any sailing enthusiast would appreciate. But more importantly, the new UNDONE x Popeye in partnership with King Features is also for the child in you.
To find out more about the new UNDONE x Popeye and other Undone watches, please head to their website here. To purchase this watch, please head here. We may earn a commission from any links on this page at no extra cost to you, and we do not let this influence our editorial opinion. All images unless otherwise stated are courtesy UNDONE ©2020.