Founded in 1986, Botta designs and assembles its Bauhaus inspired watches in Germany and uses only Swiss movements. Led by chief designer Klaus Botta, the German brand has an impressive list of accolades under its belt, awarded mainly for the strength of their designs (think Red Dot Design Award and the like). They claim to have invented the first one handed watch, so it’s fitting that we’re reviewing the Uno 24 Quartz here, a range that epitomises what the brand stands for and takes the one-hand watch concept to the extreme.
The Botta Uno 24 Concept
If you’re not familiar with single-handed watches, the Uno 24 Quartz could have you baffled at first. So, before we delve deeper into the overall design and the specs, let’s get the time-telling concepts out of the way so you can make sense of the images. You’re probably asking, ‘Why do the numbers on the dial go up to 24’, and ‘why is there only one hand?’. Well, there are two concepts at play here – both aimed at encouraging you to think about time in a different way.
Firstly, there are 24 hours in a day and the sun rises/earth rotates on its axis once every 24 hours, so it makes perfect sense that the hour hand (or in this case hour and minute) rotates once around the watch dial to mimic this. And I won’t even get started on circadian rhythms!
Secondly, the single hand, which indicates both the hour and the minutes, is designed to slow the perception of time down for the wearer. This concept is at its most extreme on Botta watches with 24-hour dials. The hand moves incredibly slowly – so slow, that I had to check if it was actually working! Life somehow genuinely does feel less hurried. It’s the perfect antidote to today’s ‘everything now’ world. The Uno 24 is to watches what vinyl is to music.
A Unique Take On Dial Design
Our review watch is listed on Botta’s website as the black/yellow colourway, but to my eyes it looks closer to orange. With very little bezel to speak of, the dial takes up a lot of real estate and is split horizontally by colour, black for the lower half of the dial and grey for the upper. This is a further reference to the 24-hour concept, with the top half representing daylight (06:00-18:00), and the lower half representing night-time (18:00-06:00).
Starting from the outside of the dial and moving inwards – simple stick indices are printed in white onto the sloping black chapter ring, which sits on its own level, closest to the sapphire crystal. The large hashes indicate the hours, the medium the half hours, and the smallest 10-minutes increments of time. A yellow accent ring, which can only be seen at certain angles, sits between the chapter ring and main dial on its own layer. On the main dial, inwards of the chapter ring, white Arabic numerals show the time in 24-hour format, with each quarter of the day being given prominence by slightly larger Arabic numerals in yellow.
Yellow batons applied to the cardinal points indicate the passing of every six-hours, with the midday marker thankfully being at the traditional 12 o’clock position. These sit proud of the chapter ring and cut through the upper two layers of the dial via a gap in the chapter ring. They also protrude inwards of the chapter ring towards the centre of the dial, with the inner edge cut at an angle. These details really help to add necessary depth to an otherwise plain dial.
Befitting of a watch of industrial design, dial text is kept to an absolute minimum, with just the brand logo picked out in white at 12 o’clock. A crosshair draws your eye from the centre of the matt dial to the white-on-black date window at the six o’clock.
Finally, the uniquely designed single hand is long and elegant. It thins from the pinion to the farthest point and a pinion cover with black and yellow accents keeps things looking slick! (Why aren’t all watches designed with a pinion cover?!). I also really like the shape of the bulbous counterweight.
Case, Bracelet and Comfort
The Uno 24’s 40mm case diameter is a great choice and I’d imagine in 2023 it will prove to be more popular than the original 45mm version of the same watch, which incidentally is still available. Overall thickness is a svelte 9.8mm including the sapphire, and the lug-to-lug is the same as the diameter.
The architectural, ergonomic and multi-faceted undercut case design is where the Uno really begins to shine. The geometry of the case is best appreciated when viewed in profile or from underneath. Whilst I wouldn’t call it a ‘lug-less’ design as such, it certainly wears like it is, as the lugs do not extend beyond the case itself. Visually, I’d say the watch looks true to size, but physically it wears much smaller and people with smaller wrists who still like a big dial will absolutely love this watch!
The case is crafted from what Botta call ‘Tri-Titanium’. Three different compounds of aluminium are used, with each alloy specifically chosen for its unique qualities best suited to the section of the case it’s used for – the bezel, the mid-case and the case back. This makes the watch extremely light, strong, resistant to corrosion, anti-magnetic and anti-allergic. The brushed and sand-blasted finishes seem entirely appropriate for the industrial, Bauhaus-inspired design.
A signed crown sits at three o’clock and hardly protrudes from the case at all. Whilst it does look insubstantial and isn’t the easiest to grab hold of, does it really matter? After all, on this quartz version, the likelihood is that you’re only going to be adjusting the date or time once a month. Plus, the trade-off is added comfort!
The sapphire crystal is slightly domed and has a healthy coating of anti-reflective coating on both sides, a good move with a watch such as this. Water resistance is just 50m, but this is fine as it’s not really the sort of watch you’re likely to take into the water anyway.
The single link, non-tapering stainless steel bracelet is a perfect match for the Uno 24, and continues the minimalist, ‘nothing unnecessary’, design language. The straight end links are recessed into the case and partially covered by the bezel, giving the appearance that the bracelet continues ‘through’ the watch in one continuous loop around the wrist. This simple but elegant solution allows the whole design to look unified and is a lovely touch. The butterfly-style clasp ensures this seamless look continues throughout the entire length of the bracelet. The downside, as with most butterfly clasps, is that there is no micro-adjustment. If this bothers you, or the bracelet isn’t your style, Botta offer five additional straps options at the checkout. Plus, with a 20mm lug width, you could always choose an aftermarket strap if you prefer.
A simple, but robust and accurate Swiss quartz movement from Ronda powers the watch, and as you’d expect, there is no display case back here. Change the battery every few years and you’re good to go. One thing I would point out though is that it’s very weird to hear the watch ticking at one second intervals, but to see the hand progress so slowly around the 24-hour dial.
Although the dial is uncluttered, legibility could be improved further without impacting too much on the design. For instance, increasing the size of the cardinal Arabic numerals (12, 18, 0 and 6) would make it easier to orientate yourself with the unconventional 24-hour dial layout at a glance. I’d also be tempted to lose the date window to accommodate this, as it’s too small for my liking and feels kind of at odds with the whole ‘slow it down’ minimalist ethos.
Similarly, particularly in low light, it can be difficult to see the grey hand against the grey dial. Simply making the hand yellow to match the other colour accents would solve this. Of course, if you have 20/20 vision (I don’t) these would be much less of an issue. The lack of any lume might put some buyers off too.
Minimalist Approach Leaves Nowhere To Hide!
With such a modern, sterile watch, quality control needs to be stringent and engineering tolerances tight, as there is nowhere to hide. Areas of concern on my loan watch included microscopic paint splatter around the 17:00 and 18:00 hour numerals, a white mark around 06:00 o’clock and a hair at the 05:00 numeral. However, I do acknowledge that these imperfections are not visible to the naked eye.
The quality of the clasp could also be improved on the bracelet, as a very firm hand was needed to lock each side into place. Better still, would be for Botta to craft the bracelet out of titanium to match the watch, although of course this would add to the manufacturing cost.
Of course, there’s every chance I’ve just been unlucky and my review watch is not necessarily a reflection of the brands total output, but as an impartial reviewer, I feel like I must point these out.
Final thoughts…and the quartz crisis of conscience!
I’ve enjoyed my week on the wrist with the Botta Uno 24. It’s a strikingly modern watch and the design is unique, as is the way that you tell the time. There’s something quite romantic and poetic about slowing time down and not being obsessed with the minutes that pass.
The Uno’s 24-hour display takes ‘reinventing the concept of time’ to its extreme. It really does massively slow down your perception of time and it’s an odd feeling to look down at the dial after a couple of hours, to see that the hand has hardly moved! For sure, it takes some time to adapt, but I think that’s a good thing as it keeps your interest.
My favourite thing about the watch is the case design. The geometry is great and the way the watch hugs your wrist is an absolute joy. Thinness, titanium construction and a short lug to lug measurement result in what is probably the most comfortable watch I’ve ever worn. In many ways the quartz movement makes sense for this 24-hour watch too, even for a self-confessed quartz-phobic like me! Why? Part of the joy of mechanical watches for me is seeing the seconds hand glide effortlessly around the dial, something that you rarely get with a quartz. However, with such a sedentary dial it’s irrelevant here – there is no second hand – and the only hand there is moves around so slowly that you won’t even see it move!
Priced at 628 Euros, the Uno 24 Quartz is sure to win over some watch enthusiasts as a great ‘wild card’ option that won’t break the bank, or a weekend grab-and-go watch for when precise time is less important. However, it may be a bit niche to appeal to wide cross-section of collectors. I see the main audience for this design-led watch being style-conscious lovers of modernism, Bauhaus, architecture, or industrial design who want a unique conversation piece that makes an instant visual impact. Overall, it’s certainly an intriguing watch with a unique place in the market, with few direct competitors. If Botta could just tighten up the engineering tolerances, it could be a compelling option.