In Focus Watches

HTD Bring Italian Cool to No Nonsense Tool Watches

HTD Watches Tennis Sport

A name says a lot about a watchmaker. Vacheron Constantin has the ring of historical pedigree; Urwerk the hint of an engineering degree. Some require a little digging to get to the core of what their name means, some wear it written large on their sleeve. When that name is ‘Horological Tools Department’, it’s not hard to figure out which category they fall into. It’s a label more self-explanatory than any tin of wood stain.

Despite a name that epitomises a very British approach to utilitarianism, HTD was actually born in Florence, a city with plenty of watchmaking heritage in a very specific breed of tool watches. Cushion-cased ones, obviously. But rather than the military slant associated with the biggest Italian watch names, HTD’s initial focus was cars.

HTD Watches Founders
HTD Watches Hesagraph Jungle

HTD founders Federico Del Guerra (bottom) and Federico Zulian (left) / Hesagraph Jungle

It wasn’t an idle direction. When the founders Federico – Federico Del Guerra and Federico Zulian – met at university, they had an inkling that they’d like to pursue watches, which was only the start. When they met watchmaker Renzo and mechanic (an ex-bike racer) Piero, they found precisely what they wanted to do. On the one hand, the miniscule tolerances inherent in fine watchmaking; on the other, the smell of oil and engine ingenuity of motoring. It helped of course that Renzo and Piero had shops right next to each other. It’s like it was meant to be.

The first result of this partnership was the Hesagraph, a collection paying loving tribute to the 50s and 60s, the golden era of daredevil racing. It was designed as an ode to Steve McQueen and, while the man had his own, now-famous taste in watches – particularly square models – it’s not hard to see that mix of retro cool and performance in HTD’s debut.

HTD Watches Hesagraph Dollarone

HTD Hesagraph Dollarone

Rugged and stripped back in the same way as a vintage racer with every unnecessary element stripped right out, the bixcompax chronograph nonetheless has a certain charm to it in that pared-back, less-is-more way. Inside is the manual-wind Seagull ST1901, a Chinese-made movement true, but a solid one that easily outpaces its price tag in performance. It also, and this is important, meant that the initial Hesagraph collection was immensely affordable.

Not that it was easy to get though. That initial batch of HTD watches was incredibly limited and ever since the watch brand has continued to only release strict runs of their watches. For serious collectors, even ones dabbling in the sub-£500 realm, that’s nothing but a benefit. It not only means that you won’t see HTD watches everywhere, but it gives the brand freedom to create a ton of different designs. More variety is always better.

HTD Watches Aquatic
HTD Watches Aquatic

HTD Aquatic

For HTD, that’s meant expanding beyond the Hesagraph. Leveraging that same balance of tool watch practicality and pared-back, retro style, they’ve built a more overtly vintage chronograph with a genuine 1980s plexiglass (the Safarigraph) and a run of fun dive watches known as the Aquatic. Neither is particularly unexpected in a tool watch focused brand, but certainly appreciated. However, HTD’s next realm of exploration is a little more unusual: Tennis.

HTD Watches Tennis Chic

HTD Tennis Chic

Tennis as a sport is dominated by sponsorships, but there are very, very few watchmakers actually taking inspiration from the sport to create their watches, and while the HTD Tennis isn’t specifically designed to be worn while playing, it still pays loving tribute.

At 37mm across, it falls into the same catchment area as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Omega Aqua Terra and the reams of likeminded makers building small, simple, colourful timepieces in the same vein. That kind of colour is here to, with the triplets in blue, green and bright orange. And yet despite being similar on paper, there’s no mistaking the HTD Tennis from the crowd. To amp up the theme, the three o’clock, six o’clock and nine o’clock markers have been replaced with miniature white tennis balls with the words ‘fifteen’, ‘thirty’ and ‘fourty’ written around them respectively.

HTD Watches Tennis Sport Cemento Blu
HTD Watches Tennis Sport Erba

HTD Tennis Sport Cemento Blue and Erba

At first you might assume they’re doubling as minute counters, but then what’s up with fourty? Instead, it points to the three scores before winning a game (assuming you don’t both end up on deuce). Visually, it’s a fun nod to the sport that not only adds some additional flavour to the brightly coloured dials, but helps set the HTD Tennis apart. As, indeed, does the price.

In keeping with their debut racing chronograph, the Tennis is temptingly affordable at €690, approximately £600. It’s backed by a Miyota movement – specifically a premium version of the automatic calibre 9039 with 42-hour power reserve – meaning it’s perfectly reliable and will wind with every forehand, if you do insist on wearing it while playing. We wouldn’t blame you. The flipside of course is that, like every HTD release, it’s limited in production (rather than an actual limited edition). So, you might want to be quick if you fancy snapping up what might just make the perfect Wimbledon wearer.

More details at HTD.

3 Comments

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  • It would have been cool to offset the third tennis ball at the 8 mark to keep the 15/30/40 theme going with accuracy. Quirky and noteworthy.

    Speaking of accurate, much as I’d struggle with the mis-placed ball at the 9 mark, in no world could I get comfortable with the mis-spelling of forty!

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.