When Italian artisanry and fine watchmaking collide, thoughts instantly turn to the horological cradle of Florence, the beautiful city previously home to the likes of Panerai and Anonimo. But that’s certainly not the only region of Italy to house a watchmaker or two worth a serious collector’s time, particularly if your wristwear tastes venture into more artistic territory.
Situated in workshops in the heart of Rome, Zannetti’s approach to watchmaking is a different one than most, and one that has been overseen by three generations of the family. Originally established by master goldsmith Carmine Zannetti, the brand was originally an exercise in technical excellence and intricate watchmaking, the sort a specialist in precious metal would design. From there it passed to the hands of Mario Zannetti, a fine arts professor and artist in his own right, who introduced a more artistic, geometric style to the creations of his father.
Now, with Ricardo Zannetti, grandson of Carmine, at the helm, the eponymous watch brand is broadening their scope, using their fine balance of artistry and fine watchmaking as a launchpad to bring Italian creativity to the wider world.
And creative is right. While most brands use artistry as a catchall term for hand crafts and artisan outlooks, Zannetti take it a touch more literally. Even from the genesis of an idea, each of their watches is sketched and designed by hand, a prelude to the inevitable artistic bent of the dials: engraving, micropainting and exquisite stone setting are all par for the course in Zannetti’s studios.
Perhaps the most over the top of all of them is the art of Champlevè, a relatively new string to the brand’s bow but one of the most traditionally ornate forms of fine finishing in watchmaking. The technique consists of creating an outline from gold wire then filling it with different colours of enamel. The result is a kind of enamel micromosaic that has incredible depth – fitting for the Carp depicted on Zannetti’s Gladiatore model.
The Carp though is as much a suggestion as a readily available watch. Due to the hand-finished nature of Zannetti timepieces, personalisation is a huge part of what the brand does. If you have something specific, you’d like rendered in Champlevè, micropainting or otherwise, then it’s well within their remit.
Of course, all this talk of artistic techniques is fine, but if the watches underneath aren’t up to scratch then why would you wear it? Why wouldn’t you just go for a piece of jewellery instead? It’s a fine balance and the reason Zannetti rely on Swiss movements to equip their watches. The brand’s skills lie in handcrafts rather than the performance oriented, technical requirements of a calibre. And when you can get a movement as solidly made as an ETA, it makes sense to let the Swiss do what they do best – at least in most cases.
Outside of the movement, many of Zannetti’s timepieces do have impressive specs sheets. The Sucba for example, can survive depths of 550m, making it a serious piece of diving equipment, despite using finishing techniques nobody in their right mind would call ‘utilitarian’. The Repeater leverages one of the highest of high complications there is, making it a work of art both inside and out.
The bottom line however is this: Zannetti is not a watchmaker for lovers of stripped back tool watches or retro charm. Instead, they’re for the kind of collectors that dream of nothing more than wearing a piece of art on the wrist. If there’s any more definitive ‘art watch’ out there, we’ve yet to find it.
More details at Zannetti.