Unimatic and Massena LAB have revealed the final chapter in their collaborative journey with the U1-MLB. With inspiration that started in the ‘50s, continued to the ‘60s and the French Navy, now ends in the ‘70s with the West German Navy, and the Blancpain “Bund” with which they were equipped. That means a sterile black bezel, and bright orange minute hand feature heavily here, just like the Blancpain. It’s no surprise that this scheme feels right at home on the Unimatic U1 frame.
The original Blancpain “Bund” was a part of the Fifty Fathoms family, and issued to the West German military or Budeswehr, featuring the circled ‘3H’ in red signifying the use of tritium on the dial. It was a time and date watch within a somewhat blocky case that set the crown at 4 o’clock. The watch received a wide, fully blacked out bezel save for a lumed triangle at its top. A civilian model was also made that received an indexed bezel and non-fixed spring bars. Interestingly, these watches used “Rayville” signed ETA 2873 movements. Both are rather a rare sight these days, as you might imagine, and aren’t exactly cheap.
The Blancpain is a rather interesting military issued diver that often gets overshadowed by earlier references, but there’s an interesting story that we’ll come back to.
The Unimatic x Massena LAB U1-MLB captures much of the spirit of the Blancpain, highlighting the most recognizable features and pushing everything else to the background. The sterile black bezel matches up about perfectly with the Blancpain, and the large burnt orange minute hand tracks against a fully black dial that gets the ‘ghosted’ signage treatment to keep the focal point on the hands. There is no date here and the hour markers are typical Unimatic in design, with horizontal bars at the cardinal positions and oversized circles in between. As a result, it’s as legible as you’d expect and perfectly honors the Blancpain without compromising the Unimatic charm.
The case remains the same as the prior U1 models, measuring 41.5mm in diameter and 13.6mm in thickness, offering 300m of water resistance. Likewise, inside you’ll still find the Seiko NH35 movement beating away with 41 hours of reserve on tap. Black and orange TPU straps will ship with the watch, fitted between a 22mm lug span. The U1-MLB is limited to 200 examples and will be available exclusively through Massena LAB. The price is set at $895 and these watches are available to order now. Massena LAB.