Review: The Colorful Studio Underd0g Chronographs

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If I told you that you’d be reading a review about a mechanical hand wound chronograph from Kickstarter that looks like a watermelon, would you believe me? Well, believe it because here we are. Studio Underd0g is a new brand from the UK who recently crushed their latest Kickstarter project to bring three fun bicompax chronographs into fruition (yes, watermelon pun). While the bright pink and neon green “Watermel0n” model is the standout, their other two offerings show much more restraint.

The trio of watches includes the “Desert Sky” — with a light blue and tan color way, the “Go0fy Panda” — a black and off-white model with bamboo green accents, and the “Watermel0n” — it looks like a watermelon with seed-shaped indices and all. While there’s some playfulness to the branding design, the watches pack a lot of small details and tasteful design cues into the dial and case. Let’s take a closer look at Studio Underd0g’s freshman offerings. First up, some specs.

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$450

Review: The Colorful Studio Underd0g Chronographs

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
ST-1901
Dial
White, tan, or pink
Lume
Super-LumiNova C3
Lens
Double-domed sapphire
Strap
Italian Saffiano Leather
Water Resistance
5 ATM
Dimensions
38.5×44.5mm
Thickness
13.6mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Push/Pull
Warranty
Price
$450

Case

A tastefully sized 38.5mm case makes up the base of the watch. I say this a lot, but anything over 36mm and under 40mm is pretty darn near perfect for any wrist, mine included. I appreciate the 38.5mm size because it really is just right — enough presence on the wrist without feeling wimpy, but not so large as to seem like a callback to the mid-2000’s large watch crisis. At 13.6mm thick, the watch isn’t the slimmest of the bunch, but a good ~2mm of that height is made up by the high double domed sapphire crystal. The crystal transitions into the rest of the case by way of an angled smooth bezel that does a great job of keeping the profile view streamlined. A narrow mid case is plain on one side, and features the pushers and crown on the other. Another few millimeters are eaten up by the case back, which hangs under the watch, nestling into your wrist. If you’re scared off by the 13.6mm overall height, don’t go running away just because of this number. The watch wears slimmer than the measurements imply. 

The case itself is simple in both design and finishing, but it’s done well. There’s a mix of brushed and polished surfaces across the case. The sides and top of the lugs are brushed with a very light hand, giving off only a minimal appearance of brushing. Along the transition between top and side, you’ll notice a highly polished chamfer. In between the lugs and on the slim bezel, it’s all polishing. The mix is nice and gives the watch an elevated, but still pretty casual look.

For the lugs, Studio Underd0g went with a slim and short aesthetic. The watch measures in at 44.5mm lug-to-lug, with the lugs themselves sloping down just a tiny bit. This keeps the watch easy to wear. Even though the case is 38.5mm, some brands don’t constrain the important lug-to-lug measurement which can easily throw off the whole wearing experience of a watch. I’m happy to report that that’s not the case here. Since this is a hand wound chronograph, we need some way of putting those mechanics to work. On the right side of the case, you’ll find a textured signed crown, flanked on either side by a set of rectangular pushers.

I appreciate their choice in using rectangular pushers here, it gives the entire watch a more streamlined and modern look. Activating the pushers themselves is a bit mushy. You don’t get that satisfying “snick” that you’d experience with a higher end mechanical chronograph. The reset button is also pretty mushy, but for a watch that comes in at $450, there’s really not much to complain about. 

Flip the watch over, and you’re treated to a view of the Seagull ST-1901 mechanical movement inside. There’s a large sapphire window that shows off the mechanical workings inside the watch. Bridges, gold gears, and blued screws are seen throughout the movement. While you’re not getting any top-notch finishing on the Seagull movement, it’s still fascinating to see the movement at work. Surrounding the display window, a set of specs is engraved in between the indentations for opening up the case back.

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Dial & Hands

Here’s the fun part. The three watches all feature the same dial design, but with their own unique color. All three share quite a bit in common. The outside of the dial features a smooth tachymeter scale. Moving in, you’ll find a textured center dial with that darkens towards the edges. At 3, a large minute counter goes up to 30. It’s separated into three tonal blocks, going from the lightest at 0-10, darkening at 10-20, and getting the darkest at 20-30 minutes.

A small railroad style chapter ring runs around the outside of the register, while a small stick hand with a color accented tip points to the minutes elapsed. Moving around the dial to 9, you’ll find a smaller register with a concentric circular pattern inside. This is the running seconds indicator for the watch. The base color matches the rest of the dial, and it has an even finer chapter ring around the border. 

Text is applied in a very modern, and “designy” way. The brand’s name rests in the upper portion of the dial, slightly offset to the right. Lower down and to the left, is the text “Bicompax and ST-1901”. It’s interesting to see the text split on either side of the chrono seconds hand, which keeps the text visible when the seconds hand is at rest. All three models also share the same set of hands — a pair of thin pencil hands with a proportionally thick outline. Inside, you’ll find a hit of lume. The chrono seconds hand is very thin with a white accent at the tip. What the watches don’t share is their individual themes. Here’s a  breakdown of each watch’s unique design elements:

“Desert Sky” – A mix of light blue and tan, blended in a tasteful way. The base dial is a light blue that fades to a slightly darker tone at the edges. Darkening shades of tan make up the three segments of the larger minute counting register. Around the outside of the dial, the tachymeter scale is printed in black on a tan ring. For just a hint of color, the seconds hand and small minutes counter hand are highlighted with an orange tip. 

“Go0fy Panda” – Again, I wouldn’t really call this watch goofy. It’s an off-white base dial that turns slightly cream-colored and fades a bit darker at the edges. Black and gray accent colors are seen throughout. I particularly enjoy the small green tip on the chronograph seconds and minutes counters. They’re a bright shade of spring green that mimics the color of bamboo — a panda’s favorite meal. 

“Watermel0n” – Without a doubt, this is one of the most playful watches out there. Bright pink and neon green make up the bulk of the dial. Again, the center of the dial fades to a slightly darker tone at the edges. The best part about the Watermel0n is the unique seed-shaped indices.

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Movement

With a spin of the crown, the Seagull ST-1901 mechanical chronograph movement comes to life. The movement is adorned with 21 jewels and beats at 21,600 bph. When fully wound, it will stay running for 45 hours. The movement features a column wheel within its construction, which requires tight tolerances to work well. As far as mechanical chronograph movements go, the Seagull ST1901 is one of the few affordable options. Starting its life with the Venus watch company in Switzerland in the 1960s, the movement plans and tooling were sold to the Chinese Airforce so they could produce the watches for their use.

While some bash and write off a Chinese movement, the Seagull ST1901 has proven heritage and design. In a sub-$500 chronograph, the movement makes sense. Studio. Underd0g could have went with a mechaquartz option, but their commitment to making a mechanical watch won out.

Strap & Wearability

Securing the watch to your wrist is an Italian Saffiano leather strap. It starts at 20mm at the lugs, and tapers to a much narrower 16mm at the clasp. While it started off stiff, the strap will break in nicely with wear. Removing the strap is a breeze, thanks to the quick release spring bars built right into the strap. On top of the black surface, the strap has a crosshatched pattern that adds a little bit of texture. As far as versatility goes, these watches are best (in my opinion) on a leather strap. I would love the Desert Sky on a nice nappy suede, while Go0fy Panda would look awesome on anything. The Watermel0n is a bit of a wild card, but maybe even on something summery like a white leather strap would look nice. 

Thanks to the 38.5mm case and 44.5mm lug-to-lug length, the watch wears quite well on my 6.75” wrist. It’s by no means a thin watch, but the way that the case is broken up helps keeps the crystal, mid case, and case back in balance. The thinner mid case with under-hanging case back makes the watch wear a bit thinner too. Nearly anyone will find these watches a good fit, which definitely adds to their appeal.

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Conclusions

By saying “Hey, that was a great first try!”, there’s usually a built in level of extra slack cut we give to a first try. The first time a kid tries to walk and falls flat on their behind, any supportive parent would still hit them with the same “Hey, that was a great first try!”. We don’t have to add that level of condescension while talking about these first releases from Studio Underd0g, because they really are that good.

For the $450 asking price, you get an excellent affordable mechanical chronograph with some design elements that’ll add a bit more fun to your collection. If you’ve been looking for that killer “summer watch”, perhaps the Watermel0n will grab your attention. The more subdued Desert Sky and Go0fy Panda are both handsome options as well. I’m always a fan of brands who work in the sub-$1000 price range, and it’s even better when they come in at half of that. I feel like I end a lot of my reviews with “I can’t wait to see what they have planned next”, but there’s no way around it here. With such a unique and fun first release, I’m excited to see where Studio Underd0g takes it next.

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.
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