He may very well be the most famous seafarer of all time, but it’s been a little while since we heard Popeye the Sailorman utter the phrase “I y’am what I y’am”. Since 1929, the legendary silver and small screen character has remained an icon of rugged durability and individualism, something you can now replicate thanks to the team behind bespoke watchmaker UNDONE. The label has partnered with King Features to bring Popeye the Sailorman to life in the form of two, limited-edition timepieces, expertly made to symbolise the wisecracking character’s incredible voyage.
Limited to just 300 pieces each, the new UNDONE watches allow you to revel in the nostalgia of a long-lost friend, one that inspired generations to stand tall; spinach or no spinach. As a watchmaker that believes in individuality, the Popeye collaboration makes a lot of sense. Over the years, the character has evolved from a bit-part in cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar’s New York City comic strip to a symbol of perseverance and strength. As a watchmaker dedicated to traditional manufacture and rugged durability, UNDONE’s latest releases more than do the old-timer justice.
Putting The Sailorman front and centre, UNDONE’s new El Capitan timepiece is the ideal embodiment of the legendary character. Here he stands proudly in the middle of the dial, sporting a trademark pursed-lip, one-eye squinting, pipe-touted demeanour, with a scowl reminiscent of the comic strips of old. The character’s comically muscular arms serve as the functioning hours and minutes hands for this horological delight, which takes much of its inspiration from the vintage aesthetic of the ‘Marine Nationale’, an iconic design first commissioned by the French Navy. But this is no ordinary piece.
Aside from being a playful ode to Popeye, the El Capitan is a contemporary take on the classic dive watch. The heritage aspects are all there, from its blue colourway, unique block-shaped indices and beige diver function numerals, the timepiece captures the signature maritime style of the 1950s seafarer. To bolster the modern credentials, however, UNDONE has added its first-ever 316L flat three-link ‘Oyster’ style stainless steel bracelet strap, complete with the brand’s signature quick-release technology. The handy innovations all serve to exude a vintage nautical sensibility that perfectly embodies Popeye’s renowned identity as a sailor.
The El Capitan release from UNDONE comes in a 40mm stainless steel case, with a double-domed Lexan Polycarbonate crystal giving the watch a curvaceous side profile. Under the hood, the timepiece is powered by an NH35A Automatic Winding Mechanism, complete with a 42-hour power reserve. As all good dive watches should, the piece is water-resistant to 100m, ensured by the screwed-down red-tinted, glass caseback, designed for professional marine activity.
The second limited-edition release from UNDONE that echoes the history of the classic comic strip character is The Sailorman. Copping the distinctive parachute braided strap, The Sailorman is a colourful recreation of the vintage Marine Nationale strap that taps Popeye’s eye-catching red and black colour scheme for design inspiration.
Much like Popeye, the Marine Nationale strap rose to prominence in the mid 20th century and has remained a staple symbol of strength ever since. When the French Navy began supplying watch heads without straps, sailors were forced to make their own from elastic parachute brain and hardware. In The Sailorman, we see UNDONE replicate the process, through a comfy slip-on and rugged design generally reserved for history buffs and military fans. The Sailorman is also complemented by a modernised California dial layout, with a hollow half Arabic that is unlike the brand’s other Cali dials and a half-Roman numerical design.
Like the El Capitan, The Sailorman comes in a 316L stainless steel case, coated in a satin black PVD. It features the same NH35A Automatic Winding Mechanism, with 100m water-resistance and a bi-directional rotating bezel that utilises a K1 glass insert, a nod to the vintage divers of yesteryear.
UNDONE’s Ode to Popeye
Much like the great man himself, both the El Capitan and The Sailorman are intrinsically linked to spinach, despite how strange that might sound. To complete the Popeye aesthetic, UNDONE has created the novel Spinach tin-can style packaging for both limited-edition releases, providing that last dose of edible encouragement to take on the day.
It goes without saying, but the new limited-edition Popeye releases from UNDONE aren’t just a nostalgic take on a classic character, they are a contemporary reproduction of a bygone era. From vintage-inspired dive watch aesthetics, right down to the trademark Popeye tattoo engraved on the caseback, the El Capitan and The Sailorman are further proof that there’s never a wrong time to stand up and shout “That’s all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more!”.