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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

Italian design

Without any bias, there are things in life that Italians just do better. Let it be in the field of gastronomy, music, wines, accessories or fashion, naming exceptional people, products or brands is rather easy. Design too is what Italians are famous for. Interior design, industrial design, fashion design, automobile or architectural design – Italy is a global leader in shaping how things should look.

Feeding from their amazingly rich history and fuelled by temperament, Italian designers are able to create extremely loveable and recognisable products. Salvatore Ferragamo or Gucci are epitomes of Italian fashion; Vespa scooters bring the Italian lifestyle to any place around the world; Alessi is well-known for its household objects and kitchenware co-created with famous designers; Ducati, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi or Piaggio for motorbikes; Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati or Alfa Romeo for cars, Pininfarina or Abarth for making them even more unique – and the list goes on and on.

In the “Insight Guide of Italy” the Milan-born “godfather of the 20th century Italian design” Luigi Caccia Dominioni (1913-2016) summed it up: “We have more imagination, more culture, and are better mediators between the past and the future”. This is the conclusion we made too, when we admired Raphael’s quest for perfection and harmony at the ongoing exhibition at the Albertina.

Italian designers are able to look at things differently and come up with something unexpected, bold yet balanced, which attack the heart before the mind has a chance to do anything against it.

These are the ideas we have seen manifested on the Instagram account of Giuliano Mazzuoli. The Italian manufacture designs fine, emotionally stimulating timepieces near Florence and produces them in Switzerland. This autumn we happened to be in Tuscany and besides the Medicis and Ferragamos there was no doubt that we would squeeze in the Mazzuolis. We wanted to feel the heat of the flames their timepieces evoke as close as possible.

Giuliano Mazzuoli

Giuliano Mazzuoli comes from a local family with roots in Tuscany for at least a couple of centuries. He lives and works in Tavarnalle, close to Florence, and when he’s not behind the desk, he is tinkering away at his motorbike, driving one of his Alfa Romeos or checking up on the local olive harvest. The family business has always been creative; his grandfather on his mother’s side built bicycles and his father was a typographer and printer.

Mr Mazzuoli designed catalogues and agendas, and he had his first big breakthrough in the early 1990s with an innovative agenda, the 3.6.5 planner. He also designed a writing instrument line that comprises ballpoint pens, fountain pens, and graphite pencils. Some of his designs recall Italian icons, such as the Moka pen reminiscent of the espresso-makers, or the Nobile Italia pen, which commemorates Umberto Nobile, an Italian aviator and aeronautical engineer. This stationery business is run by his sons today.

For good designers inspiration can be found everywhere – the spark for his first watch was an encounter with a pressure gauge in a garage. His new born was baptised after the Italian name of the tool, Manometro. The case of the timepiece follows the straight cylindrical form of the gauge in 45.2 mm diameter and with 14.8 mm thickness. Emphasising their kinship, the crown is not situated in the usual 3 o’clock position, but above. The design is Italian, but the engine is Swiss: it is powered by the ETA 2824-2 automatic workhorse calibre.

Manometro
Giuliano Mazzuoli Manometro

In the past 10 years, with its individualistic character and simple functional dial surrounded by fishbone-like indexes, Manometro has became a niche cult object. It found its place on the shelves of the best retailers, such as Colette (the “long-standing temple of cool” department store, which is unfortunately closing soon) and Chronopassion in Paris, the Pisa Orologeria in Milan, the Frost of London in the UK, the Cellini in New York and many more.

Manometro
Giuliano Mazzuoli Manometro
Manometro
Giuliano Mazzuoli Manometro

Beyond the original, new versions emerged with different colours that do not necessarily follow the trendy shades and we saw two very interesting hard stone versions too.

The case of the Carrara – launched in 2014 – is Italian down to the bone. It is made of the same Carrara marble like so many sculptures of the Renaissance, such as Michelangelo’s David. Carrara marble is universally recognised as the most prestigious marble in the world, and it is typically characterised by its white colour and dark grey veins in varying tones. For these watches a piece of marble was extracted from the caves of the Apuan Alps in Carrara located just 100 km from Florence. The watch cases were sculpted by hand by Italian master marble workers and due to the changing natural pattern of the stone, every case is slightly different. The dial is available in gun metal, blue or white colour. To maintain a more classic design, the crown on these models is placed at 3 o’ clock.

Carrara
Giuliano Mazzuoli Carrara
Carrara
Giuliano Mazzuoli Carrara

Cemento – as its name suggest – has a cement case. It doesn’t sound too luxurious or an ideal match to high-end watchmaking, but the result is certainly exciting. Mr Mazzouli’s idea was to create a mixture, which keeps the grey/green colour and texture of the wet cement. Together with the shape of the case it has a nice pebble-like look.


 

Mixing materials for new cases didn’t stop here. Coloured powders and composite materials make up the very cool Manometro Camouflage. Their cases are made manually with resins of various colours obtained with natural pigments (extracted from stones and minerals).

A chronograph model also became available with the automatic Dubois-Depraz 2030 inside. Two nice little details give the Manometro Chronograph a unique personality: the sub-dials are laid out diagonally in the same line as the crown and the chronograph pushers have been installed recessed on the left hand side.

There is also a smaller sibling called the Manometrino (27mm case) with a quartz movement for ladies. Funny enough, I saw men wearing it and it looked stylish, while ladies are said to buy the larger 45mm
model too!

Manometro
Giuliano Mazzuoli Manometro chronograph

Contagiri

If you have ever driven on the winding roads of Tuscany, where sections of the famous Mille Miglia serpents run too, you understand why Giuliano Mazzuoli was infected with cars and racing growing up. The inspiration for Contagiri, too, came while driving his Alfa back home. The dial recalls the tachometer – the instrument that causes the greatest thrill by animating the sound of the roaring engine.

The RPM scale and a single hand are what you see when looking at the watch. Although it is powered by a Swiss 4Hz automatic movement, it shows “Italian time” in easy 15-minute increments. The hand flips back to the starting point once 12 o’clock is reached. There is no crown distracting the view from the dial and the cylindrical metal case – Giuliano Mazzuoli developed the manufacture’s first own module for setting the time and winding. The stow-away lever on the side has two elevated positions: in 1st gear you can set the time by rotating the bezel, and the same winds the mainspring in 2nd gear (pictured). When “shifting gears” the little logo at 6 o’clock changes to the actual gear number.

The case is either black DLC coated and plain steel (with a polished steel lever), or all black DLC, or 18k rose gold / titanium combination (with a rose gold lever).

He dedicated a special version to his beloved Alfa Romeo. It reflects the tachometer of the 8C Competizione, which Alfa Romeo produced in a limited batch of 500 pieces between 2007-2010 (and one of which he owns). Giuliano Mazzuoli also created 500 units and the timepieces are first offered to 8C Competizione owners.

Contagiri
Giuliano Mazzuoli Contagiri
Contagiri
Giuliano Mazzuoli Contagiri

Giuliano Mazzuoli is a small, independent watch brand making watches with Swiss movements and with an Italian design that is simple and essential. Watches are priced competitively in the CHF 2500-4500 range (steel). With their handsome and characteristic face and every beat of their existence they convey the Tuscan positive mindset and the personal stories of the creator. For now I suggest for you to follow the Instagram account of Giuliano Mazzuoli, but look for his pieces at retailers world-wide to experience his sketches brought to life on your wrist. You will feel his love and pride for his babies, the scent of the fresh olives and the thrill of the winding roads immediately.

 

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