Over the last several years, Uniform Wares has made waves, becoming a trendsetter in the industry. Since their first series came out, countless brands have come on the scene trying to copy their aesthetic. Lugless cases, sterile dials and generally clean and minimal designs all around, are hallmarks of the British brand. And as they’ve continued to grown and refine their style, they have also have refined their manufacturing, now entirely done in Switzerland.
I had the chance of meeting with them a few months ago to see their new watches, and the build quality was immediately apparent in everything. Remarkably sharp edges, tight tolerances and clean finishing all around. But one model stood out the most, the M40 Brushed Steel. Part of their modern case line (hence “M”), this watch struck me with its all metal dial. Using laser cutting and precise finishing, it’s striking and beautiful. The M40 features a Swiss-made ETA F05.111 movement and comes in at $610 with either Italian calf or rubber, or $660 with a shell cordovan strap.
Uniform Wares M40 Brushed Review
Movement: ETA F05.111
Strap: Shell Cordovan
Water Res.: 5atm
Dimensions: 40 x 40 mm
Thickness: 10.2 mm
Lug Width: 18mm
Crown: 4 x 1 mm
Warranty: 2 years
Price: $610 – $660
Uniform Ware’s M-line all feature their signature lugless design, now Swiss-made and featuring a sapphire crystal. It’s a simple case at a glance that is brought to life by finishing and execution. It measures 40mm x 10.23mm making it comfortably mid-sized, but with some mass to it. In fact, it’s deceptively heavy, (not diver heavy, but more than expected) giving it a nice solid feel. The new Swiss execution does lead to overall sharper lines and edges, for better finishing quality.
And it’s the finishing that really stands out on this case and watch. The bezel, which you can practically cut your finger on the edge of (in a good way) has coarse vertical brushing on the top surface and horizontal brushing on its side. The mid-case is matte blasted, but lightly so. As such, it has a slightly satin sheen. What’s most interesting is that the brushed surfaces appears darker than the matte, so you have a contrast that adds some character, and brings the sides to life.
Off of 3 is a very small and unadorned crown. It measures 4 x 1mm, but to make it easier to pull out they added a cutout underneath it that works well. Flipping the watch over, you have a solid steel screw down case back that also acts as a shroud for the lugs, so the straps are slightly underneath it.
The various M-line watches all have the same dial concept (adding a chrono on the 42 models), but the brushed steel version seen here pushes it into new territory. One that speaks to UWs modern aesthetic as well as to manufacturing and process, giving it a stylish and industrial feel. What’s so amazing, and down right sexy about this dial, is that it uses nothing but steel in various finishes and textures. So, the whole dial is metallic, but a clever use of contrast makes it legible.
The main surface is split into two areas, an inner surface and an outer ring. The outer ring is where most of the action happens. It’s lightly radially brushed, giving it a soft sheen. Laser cut through this is the primary index, which consists of large rectangles that are slightly longer at 12, 3, 6 and 9. On other M-line watches, this index is applied, but the cut-through/sandwich effect is, in my opinion, far more interesting. The surface below is then full-mirror polished, appearing much darker than the outer ring (though in reality it’s just reflecting everything back at you).
On the periphery of the outer ring is a seconds/minutes index that is etched in, appearing almost white, while clearly also having some depth. It’s a non-numerical index with lines per second/minute getting longer at intervals of 5. Oddly, there are 1/4 seconds as well, which are moot given the quartz movement, making me wish all the more there was a mechanical inside. This index adds a third tone to the outer ring, the lightest, giving a good range of values.
The inner area has a fine circular graining that gives is yet another reflective property. It’s almost sunburst, but different, shooting off reflections with sharper edges. This area is pretty much decorative, but does a great job at activating otherwise empty space. There is a date window cut through at 3, showing a black on white date wheel. It’s not offensive, but I feel like this dial would have been more striking without it as it breaks the symmetry.
The hour and minute hands have the same type of coarse brushing as the top surface of the bezel. They have simple designs, sticking with the theme, the hour being a blunt ended rectangle, stopping at the edge of the inner area/hour markers, and the minute being a straight sword ending at the minute index on the periphery. The brushing makes them darker than the surfaces below, so they stand out well. The seconds hand is a thin, polished stick.
The overall effect of this dial is gorgeous and shouldn’t be understated. It’s the best treatment of an all metal dial I’ve seen, really tuning into how each finish effects the tone of the steel, and how to use each best. It still keeps Uniform Wares’ minimal aesthetic, but adds a level of luxurious materiality that sets it apart from their other watches. Especially when considering these are pricy for quartz watches, the look and feel here speaks to a higher end piece, something more on par with the price tag.
Straps and Wearability
Uniform Wares is pushing their strap development as of late, teaming up with some very high end manufacturers to create straight up luxury straps (a $650 stingray strap, for example). As such, the M line now has more options. For $610 it can be had with either a brown Italian calf leather or a medium grey Italian rubber, and for $660, it can be had on a German-made black cordovan strap. Luckily, I got the chance to try all three.
All are 18mm, a few millimeters thick, straight cut and feature nicely machined thumbnail buckles. The brown-calf is a soft leather with no stitching and matching edge paint. It’s a very middle of the road brown with some creaminess to it. Against the all steel watch, it looks very soft, almost pale. I would have preferred a more saturated, tan leather, to be honest, making this my least favorite of the options.
The grey Italian rubber also feels pale, but since it’s in the same family of tones as the metal, works with the watch. It’s a nice feeling strap too. It’s soft and supple, with a sweet smell. The rubber is the most modern option, increasing the industrial feel of the watch with it’s synthetic texture. This is definitely a nice option if you are looking for something very clean and almost austere.
But for me, the real winner is the Cordovan option. First off, they sell this strap separately for $165, so it’s unlikely I would pick it up after the fact, making the additional $50 seem tolerable. Secondly, it’s just the right mix of things for the watch. The shell provides the perfect mix of luxuriousness and cleanliness to emphasize the sumptuous materiality of the watch. Naturally, it’s also a soft and well constructed strap. It’s not Cordovan all the way through, rather it has a thick top layer of black shell with stitching around its edge and a leather backing, so I’m not sure if it would age as well as straight cordovan.
On the wrist, the 40mm lugless case wears very comfortably. It sits well on top of the wrist with no concern for over hang, so it would easily fit smaller wrists too. That said, it doesn’t look small by any means and has a ton of presence. It’s a striking watch, every surface having it’s own luster and texture. It glints and glimmers in the light in beautifuly ways. While there is nothing loud about it, it does stand out, having a very unique and modern look.
While I wouldn’t call it a dress watch, I think for the right person it could be worn formally. The look is reserved and sophisticated in the way a dress watch should be. That said, the lugless design and size make it more modern and casual. On the cordovan, I think you could wear this with just about everything. And since it’s void of color, you’ll have no issue with matching it to a variety of colors.
The Uniform Wares M40 Brushed Steel is a real achievement for the brand. Though it might be tucked away as just a color variation, I think it shows what they can do, beyond simply attractive design. All of their watches are good looking and stylized, but this one speaks more to modern design aesthetics in my eyes. The focus on the material, using process and finish to create the various surfaces and indexes, takes this one away from being just an accessory, making more of an object. As a watch person, the materiality really speaks to me. It has that clean “design watch” look, but the feel of a more substantial watch.
Regarding the price, I know $660 is going to irk a lot of people since this is a quartz watch. The new all Swiss manufacturing is certainly adding to their cost, but there are other factors as well. First, they are a retail brand, which always adds margin. Second is the fact that Uniform Wares has positioned themselves as a “luxury” quartz brand. Their customers are more likely to find their watches at Barney’s than on a watch forum. As such, they are priced for that audience.
And there is always the mechanical argument. If this watch were a mechanical, if the all-metal concept wasn’t just a skin, but extended to the movement itself, if that second hand did sweep across those 1/4 markers… well, then this would easily be one of my favorite contemporary watches. But, Uniform Wares has expressed that they have no intention of going mechanical in order to continue to pursue their current concept. While I think that’s going to keep them from ever really being loved by watch enthusiasts, I assume they have the sales to prove their model.