In 2013, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Italian luxury-pen maker Visconti took a page out of Montblanc’s book: it launched a watch line. It’s a natural diversification for the brand, Visconti founder Dante Del Vecchio says: “The pen and the watch are the only universally acknowledged jewelry for a man.”
Visconti watches are designed and produced in Florence using Swiss mechanical movements. Del Vecchio has transferred to his watches the design characteristics of his pens – bold, high-styled looks often made with unusual materials like ancient ivory, ebonite and Lucite. Visconti’s headliner watch at Baselworld this year, for example, was the limited-edition Crystal Demo, featuring a case and bracelet made out of sapphire. Visconti has been making transparent pens, called “demonstrators,” for two decades. Del Vecchio reasoned: Why not make a demonstrator watch?
Under the direction of Antonio Ambuchi, a former Anonimo executive who heads research and development for Visconti’s watch division, the firm has produced a watch that is a head turner. The giant case (47.5 mm wide, 57.7 mm long and 15.2 mm high) is made of polished sapphire. The front and back of the watch are covered with a flat sapphire glass. The result is that you can see into the watch from every angle.
One version of the Crystal Demo has a bezel and crown protector made of 18k rose gold. This is limited to 38 pieces priced at $38,500. Another version comes with a bezel and crown protector made of grade 5 titanium; this is limited to 88 pieces priced at $25,000. The bracelet on the watches is made of nine sapphire links and stainless steel with either gold or titanium elements.
The second dominant feature of the watch is the two curved stainless-steel bridges that span the case and are stamped with the Visconti logo. The curved-bridge motif, inspired by the famous Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River in Florence, has been Visconti’s symbol for 15 years. “I wanted to make an Italian watch,” Del Vecchio says. “The bridge is a wonderful metaphor, a smooth flowing arc joining two opposite banks. If man were a builder of bridges rather than a defender of borders, mankind would be a far happier and advanced species.” Del Vecchio called Visconti’s original collection of six watches introduced last year the Bridge Over Time collection ($2,900 to $5,500). All those watches feature two steel bridges over a round dial. This design, which Del Vecchio calls “squaring the circle,” is Visconti’s signature watch look.
Del Vecchio didn’t want to use a “standard commercial” movement for the Crystal Demo. Instead, his team worked with Switzerland’s Technotime to develop an exclusive demi-squelette, twin barrel, automatic movement. Visconti Caliber VI-AC304-01 has 45 jewels, a Glucydur balance wheel and a five-day power reserve. Visconti says its average rate is -3/+12 seconds per day. The see-through dial shows two retrograde displays: a date calendar at the 1:30 position, and at the 5 o’clock position a power-reserve indicator (in days). The hour and minutes hands have an exclusive Visconti design, with tips reminiscent of fountain pen nibs.
Visconti has serious watch ambitions, Del Vecchio told WatchTime. Growth in the luxury-pen business has slowed in recent years, he says. Florence has a tradition of watchmaking. (Panerai, for one, was born there.) His goal is to revive luxury watchmaking there and create a new business opportunity for Visconti. He has created a luxury-watch manufacturing area within the historic Medici villa where Visconti pens are produced.
In addition to the Crystal Demo watch, Visconti introduced at Baselworld 2014 its first chronograph watch, in the Bridge Over Time series, with limited-edition pieces (250 each) in titanium, bronze, black PVD, and stainless steel. The watches contain an ETA 2892A2 base movement with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module and are priced at $6,950 to $7,250.
The company also introduced its first professional divers’ watch, the Scuba Abyssus 3000M. It comes in titanium, bronze and steel versions (399 pieces each). Its monobloc case measures 54.4 mm (at the crown) by 57.9 mm and is 17.5 mm thick. The watch is water-resistant to 3,000 meters. The watches are powered by a Soprod movement and cost $8,350 to $8,950.
This story first appeared in the August 2014, issue of WatchTime Magazine.