Italian Time Pieces Lead the Way
Italy is iconic for some of the world’s favorite past times: pizzas, spaghetti, Nutella, opera, design, film and so much more. It is also where famous luxury brands started; Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, Fiat, Gucci, Prada, Armani, Versace, among others. A fashion capital in the world and leader in watchmaking.
When it comes to production, Italy also has deep-rooted traditions. Several rich and high-quality watch brands have originated in Italy. Some of which have gained a high global reputation that attracted investors from large Swiss watch companies. Reports have indicated that the first mechanical watch originated from the Mediterranean country.
It was in the late 19th century, when watch production was ramping up around the globe Sotirio Voulgari and Senatore Borletti blitzed into the retail of timekeepers in Rome (1884) and Milan (1896) which was the beginning of the countries venture into the business.
Voulgari, who “Italianized” his last name to Bvlgari, would follow the philosophy of exclusivity his watches were to be made in a “bottega”, an artistic workshop, and remain limited in production. In the 1950s / 1960s, dubbed Italy’s “La Dolce Vita” era after Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece film, Bvlgari’s popularity skyrocketed.
The “La Dolce Vita” goddess herself, Anita Ekberg, proudly donned Bvlgari jewels. Consequently, many other glamorous leading ladies of the era also loved Bvlgari: Elizabeth Taylor, Monica Vitti, Sofia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Audrey Hepburn.
Soon, the brand was embraced by Italian nobility, prominent businessmen, and politicians. This period of tremendous success provided Bvlgari with the influence and capital to further expand and diversify its product lines.
In recent decades, Bvlgari has broken world records with its ultra-thin watches featuring in-house movements and cutting-edge complications. High in demand are; the lady’s pieces bursting with color and shimmer. To the men’s that exude bold masculinity and timeless elegance.
Many of Bvlgari’s most impressive pieces are featured in its “Haute Horlogerie” collection of high-end designer watches. The models in this contemporary collection truly push the limits of watchmaking excellence: Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Squelette, OF Automatique, OF Répétition Minutes, Grande Sonnerie Magsonic, Il Giocatore Veneziano and the Papillon to name a few.
Officine Panerai is undoubtedly the second brand that comes to mind when considering Italian timepieces. In the “Pre-Vendome” era, Officine Panerai was producing popular watches inspired by their military icons. They introduced re-editions of their historic Radiomir, Luminor, and Mare Nostre watches in the early 90s.
In recent years, Panerai has demonstrated their horological expertise with the release of their own manufacture movements. They’ve been known to push the limits on case materials, introducing innovations such as Carbotech and ceramic. These Pre-Vendome, or “Pre-V”, Panerai watches are extremely collectible in the modern day. The PVD versions even more so.
As we move away from the typical picks of Gucci, Prada, Armani, Versaci. In 1942 Ilvo Fontana designed a watch to meet the newest requirements of the Italian Royal Navy. Though his designs were not produced, they survived until Ilvo’s grandson, Italo, brought them to life almost 20 years ago.
Since then, the U-Boat watch brand has been producing oversized timepieces easily recognized for their canteen-style crown cover and varied material options. From PVD to forged carbon and bronze, U-boat exhibits the bold attitude that has garnered them a loyal following.
Founded in Florence, Anonimo was the brainchild of Federico Massacesi of Ferragamo and Dr. Dino Zeo, an ex-CEO of Panerai.
Anonimo would release the Polluce Bronze, the first bronze diving watch, in 2006. Considered an innovator at release, the true impact of the Polluce would not be felt until later, when the likes of Panerai and Tudor followed suit with their own PAM 382 “Bronzo” and Black Bay Bronze 79250BM.
Today, Anonimo has pared down their offerings to just 4 lines: Sport, Militare, Professional, and Dino Zei. All of these embody the brand’s compromise with functionality, appealing designs, and robust quality.
Visconti is another Florence-based watch brand more commonly known for their writing instruments. Newest in the business they stepped into the watch space in 2013.
Although Visconti Watches are powered by Swiss movements, their cases are a product of their extensive research into cutting-edge materials. Previously employed in their luxury pen lines, the Florentine watchmakers have been able to translate this expertise into watches. Markedly, their current Opera watch exemplifies this commitment to craftsmanship and sophistication.
Giuliano Mazzuoli timepieces, as many of the other brands originate from Florence. Giuliano, the brand’s founder and designer had previous success in designed pens, agendas, and notebooks.
Mazzuoli drew inspiration from his clockmaker DNA and stepped into the watchmaking space. Aiming to create a watch like none other before, Mazzuoli searched through books and articles on watches looking for inspiration.
In the end, inspiration found him. An air pressure gauge in his shop would serve as the foundation for his first watch, the Manometro. From there, he would expand on the round case theme, as well as the automotive look, to create the Transmissione Meccanica and the Contagiri model lines.
Giuliano Mazzuoli’s watches are true eye-catchers and may take a couple of looks before being truly appreciated. Nevertheless, the designs are spotless, as well as truly functional.
The list of designers can go on for hours yet the Spring seasons top pick for men are a Brega E600 SEA-AMALFI, Movado, Forzier, or MeccanicheVeloci. As for the ladies; a Ferragamo Gancino stainless steel with black leather strap and gold face, Emporio Armani, MVMT or Versace. So, the next time you’re in Milan, Rome or Florence make sure to pop into the authentic watch retailers and grab yourself an accessory that could perfect every outfit through the test of time.