The Unimatic UC2 is the kind of watch we wish cars could be | Top Gear
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Tuesday 26th September

The Unimatic UC2 is the kind of watch we wish cars could be

Er, what? Yeah, we’ll explain

Published: 08 May 2023

In perhaps the least surprising statement of the year, watches can be pretty expensive. Then again, in 2023, you could pick just about any noun (and a depressing number of verbs, come to think of it, like ‘existing’, for instance) and it’d also qualify as pretty expensive.

At Top Gear, we spend longer than is even remotely healthy searching for the last vestiges of desirability and affordability in a car market that seems intent on keeping them apart. Add reliability into the mix and you’ve basically created the gearhead version of the ‘Fast, good, cheap – pick two’ triangle.

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So we’re forced to get creative – ‘Hey, I could probably fit a Lexus 4.0-litre V8 in a Maserati BiTurbo... but would it still be garbage?’, or ‘I wonder if a K20A would work in that ancient Lancia Beta Montecarlo?' In essence, we often find ourselves lusting after Italian design, but wishing there was a bit of Japanese reliability – and less ruinous running costs – underpinning it. The opposite of an Alfa Arna, basically.

And it’s exactly this kind of thinking that draws us to Unimatic.

In essence, buying a Unimatic is buying the horological version of the car we want to own ourselves: a standard, simple and reliable powertrain (Japanese, then), encased in the kind of design that seems to be the exclusive preserve of the Italians.

Case in point: the UC2, an almost architectural wedge of brushed stainless steel, containing a minimalistic masterpiece of a dial, satisfyingly function-over-form hands and a cheap yet unerringly reliable Seiko movement keeping time. Is it as romantic as a handmade, hand-finished, hand-regulated movement made in-house by a fourth-generation Huguenot? Of course not. Does it keep time? Yeah. Eerily well, actually, for a watch that’s only rated to -20 to +40 seconds a day.

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Shipped out from Italy, where it’s assembled, the UC2 is waterproof to a Rolex Submariner rivalling 300 metres, has SuperLuminova coating on the indices and hands bright enough to double as an emergency lantern and includes the all-important ‘hacking’ function so you can stop and start the watch completely to set the time exactly to a reference. Or, in a much more likely circumstance, say, ‘Gentlemen, synchronise’ and feel like an utter badass. Or at least an utter ass.

And it costs €400, shipped in one of those Pelican-style hard cases, to wherever in the world you might be. That doesn’t include whichever taxes and duties your government feels like levying, but buying in Australia meant we didn’t have to spend a single dollarydoo more than the $650 or so we laid out on the watch itself. And yes, in what might actually be the most surprising statement of the year around here, a Top Gear writer has actually put their money where their mouth is.

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