Hands-On UNIMATIC x HODINKEE Modello Uno U1-HGMT – Progenitor of the Thinner UNIMATIC “Swiss Case”

The Skinny

  • 41.4mm x 11.6mm
  • Sellita SW330-2 GMT Movement
  • Limited to 500 pieces, sold out.
  • Originally $1395, trading for ~$2250 (March 2022)

The UNIMATIC Swiss Case

Why on this green Earth would I write a hands-on review of a limited edition that sold out in record time over a year ago? Because the Unimatic x Hodinkee U1-HGMT is so damn good that pre-owned examples now trade at silly prices, and – more importantly – because this collaboration initiated UNIMATIC’s thinner “Swiss Case.”

UNIMATIC’s “Swiss Case,” as dubbed by the author.

I made up the term Swiss Case based on UNIMATIC’s current limited edition “Swiss Series” watches, which also use the thinner Swiss Case and will, I’m sure, also trade at silly prices on the secondary market before long. The best thing to come from the Hodinkee collaboration is UNIMATIC’s Swiss Case, which hadn’t existed priorly.

By using Swiss Sellita movements, UNIMATIC was able to lop off a full 2mm in height. That’s 15% thinner. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but for me it’s the difference between wearing a 41.5mm watch and not wearing a 41.5mm watch. Those 2mm have entirely transformed how the U1 wears, but also how it seems: the sleeker Swiss Case lends the formerly brutalist and utilitarian U1 newfound elegance and sophistication. That elevated vibe is very well suited to a GMT globetrotter, and the understated colorway pulls it all together.

Hodinkee Does a Good Job on Collabs

I do write freelance for Hodinkee, so, alas, some cynical readers may conclude that I’m blowing smoke when I say the following: Hodinkee is generally quite good at collaboration watches. I say it sincerely.

More often than not, Hodinkee reverts to understated gray colorways that draw on the publication’s monochromatic visual branding. Most publications go all Easter Sunday with their collabs, and, for me, that tendency has gotten old. For example, I found Hodinkee’s understated Blancpain diver and their Montblanc Monopusher chronograph just lovely understated editions of great watches.

Understatement has been Hodinkee’s tendency with collaboration watches.

But Hodinkee often goes beyond relatively easy color swaps to alter the case, movement and/or other features, as they did with the recent 38mm Oris Divers 65 with a countdown bezel, or with the U1-HGMT. Hodinkee’s physical modifications aren’t always warmly welcomed, however. After a year, a good friend sold his grayed-out Hodinkee x Oris Divers 65, which was made thinner by employing a hand-wound movement, because he grew tired of unthreading the crown for winding. But from a wearability and elegance perspective, that Oris Divers 65 was exceptional in the same way that the U1-HGMT is.

With the UNIMATIC x Hodinkee collaboration watches, however, automatic winding was left in place while still thinning out the case. So, not only was there a considerable quality upgrade to the movement, there was also no sacrifice to functionality. With the GMT model, Hodinkee managed to also add functionality.

GMT Functionality & The Sellita SW330-2 GMT

The Sellita SW330-2 movement is about as good as an off-the-shelf GMT gets. It utilizes an a-magnetic Nivaflex hairspring, and in 2019 Sellita offered upgrades that provide a longer power reserve and more precise adjustment of the GMT hand and date wheel. Having owned a number of these Swiss movements, including the counterpart from ETA, the improvement to the date/GMT setting mechanism is long overdue and very welcomed.

David Flett has explained to me that the previous iterations of the 300-series movements used a rather antiquated and poorly executed mechanism to adjust the date with the crown. Six individual components in the setting mechanism have to be replaced to achieve the 2019 upgrade.

To make the upgrade to the setting function of the SW330-2, six individual parts must be replaced in the SW330.

Previously, I’d fuss to find the date/GMT-setting position on the crown, and once I did manage to find it, it felt pretty sloppy, uninspiring, and nothing like what the phrase “Swiss precision” implies. That’s a big deal when you’re changing the GMT hand regularly, as I do while chasing my friends and colleagues around the globe.

My one complaint about the UNIMATIC x Hodinkee U1-HGMT is that the rotating 24-hour bezel really should, in my opinion, be bidirectional. It’s a relatively easy modification I’ve seen a watchmaker do in under 30 seconds, and I wish Hodinkee or UNIMATIC had thought to do it. The advantages are two-fold: 1) if you overshoot your mark you just click back a little rather than go all the way around again; and 2) the watch would even more so imitate the Rolex GMT Master. I may have someone pop the bezel off and hack the brake lever.

Not Small, But Sleek

I’ve repeatedly contended that diameter isn’t nearly as important to fit as taking in the whole shape of a watch and your wrist. With that said, I have to say that the UNIMATIC x Hodinkee U1-HGMT is perhaps the most forgiving large watch head I’ve ever experienced. I adore 33mm watches and balk at 40mm watches half the time, so for me to feel comfortable in a 41.5mm watch means it’s a real wrist hugger. The U1-HGMT wears well on lots of wrists, which I’ve confirmed by making different people try it on.

Yeah, It Looks Great

This watch looks the same in photos as it does in person, so I can spare you some verbiage.

I do want to echo what I said previously about Hodinkee’s leaning toward monochromatic colorways, however, because it adds up to three big positives: 1) the aforementioned elegance; 2) understatement in a sea of overstated collab watches; and 3) limitless strap pairing. A strapmonster as the kids say, presumably meaning it’ll gobble up any strap you throw at it.

Get Thee a UNIMATIC with a Swiss Case

I don’t want to suggest that the thicker Unimatics aren’t worth owning. I own the 40mm original U4 with the sterile bezel, which is the thickest watch I own, and it’s fantastically brutal looking, a beast of extreme minimalism that I adore wearing with black tee shirts and black jeans; my thick-ass U4 makes me want to smoke cigarettes and flip the bird at fascists from the back of a Vespa driven by the Nepalese anarchist chick of my dreams. So, yeah, there’s a place for the thick UNIMATICS. You can now get these thicker ones as part of UNIMATIC’s unlimited “Classic” lineup. Pretty dope.

But these thinner Swiss Case UNIMATICS inspired by the Hodinkee collaboration are really where it’s at. And the good news is that UNIMATIC seems to be releasing more of them all the time, though only as limited editions. And there are now, and I presume will be, more Swiss Case UNIMATICS to come. And the new “Swiss Series” watches are, as of this writing, still available.

If you’re even a little curious, I really think you should get at UNIMATIC with a Swiss Case.