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Hands-On: UNDONE Arabian Nights Watch

The UNDONE Arabian Nights is one of the latest limited-edition watches from Hong Kong-based UNDONE. It is very lovely and quite affordable, given the level of distinctiveness. The watch features a 40mm-wide bronze metal case, along with a dial crafted from a unique piece of Lapis Lazuli natural stone. On top of the face is a novel hour-indicator dial design that is an interpretation of the classic “California Dial.” These feature a dial that is split between Roman numeral hour markers on the top, and “Arabic” numeral hour markers on the bottom. UNDONE has created a “double-Arabic” dial for the Arabian Nights watch.
That is sort of amusing and the kind of slightly nerdy humor I’ve come to appreciate from UNDONE. I actually think it is quite creative to include both letter- and number-style Arabic numerals on the same dial. In Arabic (as in some other languages), numbers can be represented as certain letters of the alphabet, or as the more universal number system, we are more accustomed..

The UNDONE Arabian Nights is one of the latest limited-edition watches from Hong Kong-based UNDONE. It is very lovely and quite affordable, given the level of distinctiveness. The watch features a 40mm-wide bronze metal case, along with a dial crafted from a unique piece of Lapis Lazuli natural stone. On top of the face is a novel hour-indicator dial design that is an interpretation of the classic “California Dial.” These feature a dial that is split between Roman numeral hour markers on the top, and “Arabic” numeral hour markers on the bottom. UNDONE has created a “double-Arabic” dial for the Arabian Nights watch.

That is sort of amusing and the kind of slightly nerdy humor I’ve come to appreciate from UNDONE. I actually think it is quite creative to include both letter- and number-style Arabic numerals on the same dial. In Arabic (as in some other languages), numbers can be represented as certain letters of the alphabet, or as the more universal number system, we are more accustomed to.

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Lapis lazuli is a blue stone that is often mottled with other minerals in a way that often allows a slide of the rock to look like the night sky. A similar effect can be found in aventurine — another beautiful stone that is often used in luxury watchmaking. It is rare to find lapis lazuli dials on such relatively affordable watches, as it would normally be found on higher-end pieces of jewelry or high-luxury watches. UNDONE uses large sheets of lapis lazuli, which is cut to create round dials. The dials are later mounted to a metal backing, then printed with the hour markers.

The resulting lapis lazuli “celestial sky” dial mixed with the “Arabic/Arabic” (or “Dubai Dial” as I’ve come to call it) easily explains the watch’s “Arabian Nights” name. That said, in at least a few ways, this watch is more directly an homage to Persian history. Today, Farsi (the language of Iran) and Arabic use the same alphabet symbols, but the two languages are distinct and come from different linguistic roots.

The series of stories known as “1001 Arabian Nights” is largely comprised of tales from ancient Persia, but it is actually a collection of stories from Arabia. On the back of the watch (not this piece, unfortunately, as it is a pre-production model), is a translucent blue caseback with a view of the movement and a very fitting phrase for today’s world: “This too shall pass,” printed in Arabic. The phrase is well-known globally but actually has Persian origins. To put this statement on a watch during the course of a global pandemic is a friendly signal of solidarity in the pursuit of survival and coping for the entire human species. In many ways, the statement “this too shall pass” is tantamount to the oft-repeated sentiment, “We are all in this together.” That we are, indeed.

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The bronze material used for the Arabian Nights case is meant to discolor and oxidize in (hopefully) a stylish manner. The caseback is in steel because, otherwise, it could possibly discolor your skin a bit. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters and is the same style of case as the UNDONE Basecamp. Around the dial is a free-moving rotating bezel. It stays in place nicely enough, but at this price, I would have liked a ratcheting-style rotating bezel a bit more. Over the dial is a Lexan crystal, which is an interesting middle ground between vintage acrylic crystals and today’s common sapphire crystals. Lexan is quite strong (I doubt it would ever shatter) and has that slightly magnified look of acrylic that many collectors enjoy.

Inside the Arabian Nights is an automatic mechanical Seiko Instruments caliber NH35A movement. The movement operates at 3Hz with about two days of power reserve. The watch dial features just the time — with no date — offering an elegantly symmetrical dial. Attached to the case is a dark blue leather strap with an alligator-style print. Also supplied with the Arabian Nights watch is a lighter brown-colored leather strap. Changing straps is easy given that UNDONE uses quick-release spring bars for most of its watches.

The Arabian Nights is one of the most beautiful watches in an already really good-looking timepiece collection by UNDONE. The absolutely stunning level of variety UNDONE has been able to incorporate into just a few case options is really magnificent. The Arabian Nights is both creative and attractive while using materials and styles that timepiece aficionados crave. The UNDONE Arabian Nights collection is part of a limited edition of 300 pieces, with a price of $480 USD each. Learn more at the UNDONE website here.

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