Several months ago, I introduced you to Nick Warner, a South African transplanted to New Zealand who was hard at work on a bold dual-crown watch, the Uhuru Impi Automatic. That watch is now shipping to early backers all over the world and The Time Bum has one in his greedy paws, ready for review.
The Uhuru Impi was inspired by traditional South African culture and design, and Nick approached the task with a light touch. The oblong case, lance hands, and embossed pattern on the strap convey the idea of a Zulu warrior's weapons, but the elements are subtle, suggesting the idea of a spear and shield without resorting to caricature. Indeed, the most obviously South African element (at least to my American eyes) is the upraised fist logo, but even that is cleverly stylized, and I've got to say, super cool. Logos are not easy. Review any selection of micro brands and you will notice far more misses than hits in this department. The Uhuru fist just rocks it, and it's a good thing too because it appears on both crowns as well as the face.
The Impi's matte stainless steel case is barrel shaped 44mm wide across the bezel, but 51mm including the large crowns and crown guards on either side. Broad as it may be, it's size is checked by short, integrated lugs and a curved profile. It is 52mm lug-to-lug and 15mm thick. This is not a small watch by any means, but the overall proportions are far more wearable than its big-eared appearance might suggest. It has a double domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, screw down crown, and 200m water resistance.
The matte surface collects fingerprints easily, which is bedeviling in a photo shoot, but a non-issue in the real world. I was more concerned with the presence of vertical lines around the crown guards that break the otherwise smooth curve along the case sides. Around back, a display window showcases the Miyota 8215 inside. This is Miyota's 21 jewel workhorse automatic, beating at 21.6k bph. It hand winds but does not hack.
Two dial colors are offered: black and ivory. The review sample is ivory with chartreuse markers and green-white lume on the hands. It looks great, but I wouldn't call it ivory. I think of that color as a warm yellowish white. I'm not sure if it is the base color itself if the accent colors affect the way it is perceived, but the Impi's dial appears to be more of a yellow green. It is a nice color, and far more distinctive than the creamy color I expected.
In contrast to the burly case, all the elements on the dial are finely rendered, almost delicate. The polished, beveled hands are long and thin, accompanied by a needle-like second hand with a lumed circle at its midpoint. The small, polished rectangular frames of the markers cling to the outer edge of the dial. A black-on-white date wheel sits at 4:30. With the exception of the logo, dial decoration is lightweight and restrained. This openness works well, allowing the dial to breathe. My greatest criticism of the dial is the quality of the illumination. The markers can manage only a brief, faint glow. The SuperLuminova hands fare better, but not by much.
A black internal bezel frames the dial. It is controlled by the left crown, rotating smoothly in both directions without binding or resistance. I love the look of an internal bezel, but I find it hard to trust them because the crown is generally exposed and thus susceptible to the odd inadvertent bump. On the Impi, the crown is on the protected side of the watch has the further security of crown guards. You would need to work hard to move it without intent.
The strap is 24mm wide, made of nubuck leather and embossed with six rectangles that echo traditional Zulu patterns. I like the fact that the strap is so much a part of the overall watch design. I normally expect dive watches to ship with a water-friendly strap, but given its small makers and timid lume, it is fair to say that the Impi will not be a first choice for deep sea adventures.
The Impi is an appealing if somewhat contradictory watch. It has a tool watch case, but the dial and strap are more form than function. In the end, it is a fun, casual piece unlike anything else in your collection. The last Ivory Impi's from the initial production run are still available for $349 at Uhuruwatches.com.
Pro: Unique look, great color.
Con: Weak lume, case sides could be cleaner.
Sum: It's Zulu time! The Time Bum approves.