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Hands on review of the Ultramarine Morse UTC

foversta
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If you remember well, I published a few months ago a wristshot of the Ultramarine Morse UTC which was the materialization of the project led by French entrepreneur Lionel Bruneau. The project guideline was to offer a 100% Swiss Made watch, that is to say without any concession at the fairest possible price.

During the presentation of the prototype I saw last year, I had no doubt that Lionel Bruneau had won a big part of his challenge. But a prototype remains a prototype and I wanted to view again a year later the same piece but in the context of the production watch ... and this task was quite easy since I became the proud owner of one of the available Morse. The opportunity was given to me with the delivery of the watch and I can only confirm my first feeling: the Morse UTC is a very nice watch that offers a lot for a reasonable price (1,750 euros without taxes).

The project by Lionel Bruneau is based on two common pillars: transparency and rigor.

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Transparency manifests itself on two levels: transparency on production costs and transparency on the origine of the constituent parts of the watch. The ambition and the purpose of the project are to create watches  which are 100% Swiss Made while keeping production costs under control in order to make the selling prices as affordable as possible. Lionel Bruneau has thus constantly informed the people who followed his adventure on the French forum Forumamontres on his approach part by part (dial, hands, case, movement etc ...) in order to make perceptible the incompressible level of global production costs if we want to design and produce a 100% Swiss Made watch with the quality which is required.

This is the opposite of industry practice. Overall, sales prices are defined by market positioning and then margins are derived from the production prices that brands tryto minimize in the context of a definition of Swiss Made that allows a few degrees of "geographical" freedom.

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This concern for transparency from Lionel Bruneau is respectable. But it also has some risks. By revealing too much, the project loses a part of its magic, its mystery and this pillar of transparency may hide the other pillar, which is, for me, the most relevant: the rigor one.

Rigor is expressed on two levels: first in the choice of subcontractors, then in the aesthetic approach. The Ultramarine Morse UTC is the logical result of this dimension.

I was seduced by the Morse UTC on pictures, I was also seduced by handling the prototype. The piece transpired quality of incontestable way with two main assets: the dial and case finishes, excellent in this segment of price.

The dial of the Morse UTC is a real success. The sunrays finish, the precision with which the logo (yet complicated to execute) is drawn, the precise shape of the numerals, all these elements contribute to the very favorable feeling. It is the same with the case.

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Rigor is felt in the execution but also from the aesthetic point of view. There is something Germanic in the design of the Morse UTC dial. The watch goes to the basics, eliminates the superfluous and could almost fall into excessive austerity if several details did not help to boost the whole. First, the bluish shades of the dial are beautiful. Then, the lay-out of the dial, is rather original with the second hand at 9 o'clock and the sub-dial which displays the 24 timezones at 6 o'clock. I like this asymmetrical side that breaks the strict side. I like the font because I find it contemporary and timeless. Finally, the main hands are distinguished by their shape, appearing as a modern and luminescent evolution of the Alpha hands.

The production watch is in line with the prototype and even improves certain points. The finish of the dial (the great strength of the watch) is impeccable and bluish reflections are a real treat for the eyes. I still appreciate both the shape of the hands and the font of the numerals and letters. The color of the date disk is now in perfect harmony with the background of the dial. And then one of the reproaches that I had expressed with the prototype is now corrected: the sub-dial dedicated to the second zone display now features intermediate graduations which greatly improves the readability.

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The case with a diameter of 40mm is not the most differentiating element but it is made with care. In my opinion, the polished and brushed finishes suit it best. The alternation of finishes gives it subtlety and breaks the uniformity of the case (the case height is 12mm). It is very comfortable to wear thanks to the shape of the lugs and the effectiveness of the strap (whose color has been chosen judiciously) that positions the watch firmly on the wrist. The quality of the inscriptions around the transparent caseback testifies that the execution of the case is at the same level than with the other elements.

The watch is powered by the caliber Eterna 3914A offering a significant performance with a  65 hour power reserve for a 4hz frequency. There is a difference compared to the prototype. The shape of the winding mass has been revised to improve the winding efficiency. From the functional point of view, the mission is accomplished because indeed this winding efficiency clearly meets my expectation. From an aesthetic point of view, the winding mass is now less delicate and refined than the prototype one but it is a detail that is hardly annoying... and well, you don't even notice it if you don't know the prototype!

The overall outcome is excellent and a year later, the Morse UTC has retained its power of attraction. I finally have found very little to criticize. Its perceived quality, the pleasure to wear, its rigorous aesthetics and its attractive price make it very appealing to the eyes of the fans who favor the watchmaking content compared to other considerations. The points that seem perfectible to me are the dimensions of the strap (20x20) which significantly restrict the alternative offer (a 20x18 strap would have been a better option imho) and the fact that the winding mass lacks contrast with the movement. It is a matter of taste but personally I like that the winding mass is visually detached. The rendering however remains very acceptable with a sober and clean style ... well in the spirit of the watch.

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I strongly recommend this watch in this price segment: it gives the impression of justifying each euro that makes up its price.

Note that since last year a black version of the Morse UTC is also available. I have never seen it in real life but by observing the pictures, the blue version retains my preference simply because the reflections of the dial seem to stand out better.

Thanks to Lionel Bruneau for the delivery of the watch ... and for the efficient conduct of the project that allowed him to achieve his objectives.

 
Pros:
+ the impressive perceived quality for the price
+ the rigorous aesthetic approach
+ the performance of the caliber Eterna 39
+ the legibility of the main two hands

Cons:
+ I would have liked to see a higher contrast between the movement and the winding mass

Fr.Xavier

Comments:
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MichaelC September 29th, 2019-13:47
Thanks for your post and review here, Fx. The price sure does seem very fair. But even if not knowing it, this is an attractive timepiece. I suspect it will sell.
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foversta September 29th, 2019-15:06
Thanks Michael! Let’s hope for Lionel who did a great job with it  
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aperna September 29th, 2019-16:34
I find it quite handsome and appealing.  
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foversta September 30th, 2019-13:23
Thanks for your comment!  
hmd4m September 30th, 2019-17:21
Thank you for a wonderful post Here is mine! Number 66. The watch is as you described and Lionel is a gentleman. ... 
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foversta October 1st, 2019-13:26
Congrats for your lovely Morse!  
hmd4m October 1st, 2019-18:56
Thank you! I look forward to your review of the Albatross!
hmd4m October 1st, 2019-19:00
Ultramarine Morse at sunset🙂  ... 
hmd4m October 1st, 2019-19:05
With correct date!  ... 
0-10-9

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Hands on review of the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache in steel

foversta
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I prefer to go straight to the point. There is one detail that I don't like with this new release from Vacheron Constantin, it is the strategy of the brand which surrounds it. In fact, I find it hard to understand why Vacheron Constantin has partnered with Hodinkee in 2017 to release a limited edition of the chronograph Historiques Cornes de Vache, explaining its exceptional character because of its steel case ... And two years later, here is the come-back of the very same case in another context.


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