Our Look at The Best Italian Watch Brands: The Height of Fashion
Watch & Bullion21 May 2020 | 6 min read
The Height of Fashion – Our Look at The Best Italian Watch Brands
When we think of luxury watches, our minds instantly switch to Swiss made pieces – after all, Switzerland is the home of watchmaking and the epicentre for world renowned brands such as Rolex, Patek and Omega.
But Switzerland isn’t the only country that produces amazing watches, and today we’re going to take a look at some of the best brands and pieces to come out of another country that’s packed with style, Italy.
We normally associate Italy with luxury in other areas. The grandeur of it’s historic architecture, car brands such as Ferrari, it’s world renowned Milan fashion week and of course, its amazing cuisine that’s loved across the globe. But Italy is also steeped in watchmaking history; giving birth to some of the world’s best known brands and iconic pieces – so sit back and enjoy as we take you through some of the finest watches with Italian origins!
- Italian Brand – Officine Panerai
- The Most Popular Panerai Watch – Luminor
- Italian Brand – Bulgari
- The Most Popular Bulgari Watch – Octo
- Italian Brand – U-Boat
- The Most Popular U-Boat Watch – Classico
‘Primo’ – Officine Panerai
For those with a mainstream knowledge of watches, the first brand that often comes to mind when thinking Italian is Panerai.
Dating all the way back to the 1860’s, Giovanni Panerai’s first watch shop was opened in Florence and the brand has continued its growth ever since! Early on Panerai didn’t just produce watches, they also branched across into weaponry attachments, utilising radioactive substance to create specialised illuminating weapon sights.
Partnerships with well known organisations have defined Panerai. In the early days, Rolex assisted in Panerai’s movement production with the watches popular throughout the Italian, Egyptian and German armed forces, specifically naval divisions. In modern times, luxury car manufacturer Ferrari jumped on board to create a limited watch range with Panerai. This range included such as the ‘8 Days GMT’ seen above!
The Most Popular Panerai Watch – Luminor
In modern times, Panerai’s most popular watch is their Luminor. Whilst available to the military for a long time, in 1993 the Luminor was released to the public and was an instant success.
Within the current range, the Luminor Base is the entry level piece. At 44mm in diameter, it combines high quality stainless steel casing with a simple black dial, showcasing Panrai’s top quality Luminor lume.
Inside the case you’re also going to get good specs, with 3 hours power reserve driving a 21,600 beats an hour movement that’s all secured to 100 meter water resistance.
The Luminor Base starts at the £4,300 mark, with models sporting further complications such as day/date rising to anywhere between £8,000 – £10,000. If you’re happy with picking up a slightly older Luminor, you’ll be able to easily find one pre-owned under £3,000.
‘Secondo’ – Bulgari
Following on from Panerai, we come to an iconic Italian brand in Bulgari. For anyone familiar with Bulgari, you will know that they don’t just specialise in watches, they’re actually a diverse fashion brand offering a range of products such as jewellery, fragrances and fashion accessories.
Whilst their watchmaking history runs all the way back to the 1940’s, it’s only since the 80’s that the brand has been producing at scale, originally through its subsidiary Bulgari Haute Horlogerie SA. The Italian powerhouse has now been purchased by LVMH, putting it alongside brands such as Hublot and Tag Heuer as part of their wider range.
Bulgari have always prided themselves on super high quality and that doesn’t change as the brand has moved into the 21st century. They have a high number of different models, all staying within a fairly consistent style guide with skeleton pieces and models with a high number of complications commonly found at the top end.
The Most Popular Bulgari Watch – Octo
Bulgari takes the same approach as many luxury retailers in that they have a small number of collections but within those collections, a large variety of different models. This has never been more prevalent than with Bulgari’s Octo range.
The name, as you would expect, comes from the case shaping which overlays octagonal and circle case styles to give a unique appearance. Again, as you’d expect with an Italian brand, style is paramount here which can be seen in the deep red ‘Roma’ model shown above.
These watches aren’t just about appearance though. Here you’re getting a 4hz movement, 42 hour power reserve, a date indicator and 50m water resistance with movement specification and complications increasing as you move up the range.
Brand new, an Octo Roma such as the one above will start you off at just above £5k at £5,350 with the rose gold or diamond encrusted versions moving you right up to around £40,000 brand new. If you head into the second hand market, you should easily find an entry level Octo Roma under £3,000 if you want to save a little on your investment.
‘Terzo’ – U-Boat
The last brand we’ll take a look at in this roundup is one that’s new to the block and that’s U-Boat. Launched in 2000 by Italo Fontana, U-Boat watches take their inspiration from the German submarine of the same name, in their large and robust stylings.
Fontana received the watch inspiration when he discovered designs his grandfather had drawn up years earlier but had never acted upon. In what has been a fairly rapid rise to popularity, U-Boat are now a globally recognised brand and still operate out of their headquarters based in Tuscany.
The brand is built on toughness. U-Boat watches are all designed with a different set of extreme conditions in mind and are perfect watches if you like military stylings and something heavy on your wrist. They also maintain some quirky traits, such as a left-hand side crown again helping them to stand out from the crowd.
The Most Popular U-Boat Watch – Classico
You know a watch epitomises its manufacturers ethos when it’s marketed as its classic piece, and the Classico is quintessentially U-Boat. It comes in at a whopping 47mm of stainless steel and is coupled with a high quality and robust leather strap.
These things are built to last, matching features such as a high quality anti-reflective sapphire crystal with super powerful lume indicators. From a design perspective, again it’s what you’d expect. Big dial, big numbers, minimal fuss. It of course includes their patented left-hand side crown alongside an extension plate which sports U-Boat branding.
These U-Boat Classicos are super affordable, starting off brand new around the £1,650 mark with pre-owned models easily found below £1,000. If you need something sturdy, make sure you check out the rest of the U-Boat range with pieces such as the Chimera great for chronograph features and the U-42 great for any divers wanting something different.
‘Completare’ – The End
That’s our quick look at some of the best known Italian watch brands & companies on the market alongside some of their standout and most popular pieces. If you’re in the hunt for a watch, it’s definitely worth taking a look at something Italian, given the countries flair for high fashion and quality.
Whilst we didn’t dive deep into the specific movements in this article, many Italian watches, including some of those above, still utilise Swiss-made movements so rest assured that the quality inside the case is often as good as you’ll get elsewhere.
All that leaves us left to say is that whether it’s a Panerai, a Bulgari, a U-Boat or many of the other brands, there’s plenty of options to help you get your hands on your very own piece of Italian style!