Italians are dedicated watch collectors as there are so many highly specialized timepiece designers, especially in northern Italy, many of them just being discovered outside the country.
The historic Italian names more commonly known for luxury watches internationally include Bvlgari and Panerai. While of course such companies still make beautiful designs, the growth of these brands over the decades has distanced them from their roots of relying on completely handmade, labor intensive production processes. While some of their limited edition pieces still rely on such techniques, most of their collections have moved to mass production.
Now emerging in the last decade or so are several small production bespoke watch brands much sought after by European buyers and collectors. These brands are still a bit of a secret in other countries and they produce small runs of some exceptional timepieces with the utmost attention to every detail of craftsmanship.
A prestigious watchmaker known for the quality of their casings for deep sea diving and other activities, Anonomio, was launched when Federico Massacesi bought the manufacturing facilities where Panerai formerly operated. He wisely hired the highly skilled Florentine team of watchmakers, led by the famous watch-making Ambuchi family who remained in Italy.
Historic watchmaker Panerai – founded in 1860 in Florence and having made diving watches for the Italian navy for over 50 years – moved production to Switzerland after being bought by Richemont in 1997 although Panerai headquarters remain in Italy. Anonomio took that tradition and quietly proceeded to bring small production waterproof watch-making to new highs for contemporary watch fanatics who also happen to love diving.
Unlike any competitor, some of their editions are now made with full carbon casings, rather than a carbon composite. They only make limited edition pieces and always entirely by hand in Florence (as written on every watch), producing no more than a total of 4000 watches per year.
The next luxury watchmaker to be aware of is U-Boat based in Lucca. This company caters to flight enthusiasts and tastemakers, with the owner Italo Fontana having founded the company based on designs made by his grandfather in the 1940s.
Fontana’s grandfather designed several timepieces commissioned by the Italian Navy Pilots. He developed these pieces to have large faces and with the crown located on the left so that pilots could use them while wearing gloves up in the cold sky. Taking inspiration from his grandfather’s work, we often see these and other vintage aspects in Italo Fontana’s contemporary designs, especially in his brown and bronze collections.