As the 18th century drew to a close, Europe bore witness to a Venice in turmoil and, ultimately, demise. The grand republic had been dissolved and dismembered under military pressure from Napoleon, with Ludovico Manin, the last Doge of Venice, presiding over the patrician Great Council’s vote to abolish the 1100-year-old state. The French took control and, before an agreed-upon transfer of Venice to Austria, looted the city and decimated its once-powerful Navy. To symbolize his victory, Napoleon set his eyes upon the Doge’s ceremonial barge, the Bucintoro. Over 100 feet long and almost 30 feet tall, the two-story floating palace was resplendent in its opulence, with gilded ornamentation and a 90-seat main salon covered in red velvet. Napoleon ordered the Bucintoro destroyed, broken down with its contents burned to recover its gold; the pyre raged for three days and 400 mules were needed to cart away all the gold. The all-new Bucintoro chronograph from Italian brand Venezianico pays tribute to this legendary vessel, attempting to strike the delicate balance between elegance and function.

Venezianico (previously Meccaniche Veneziane) was established in 2017 and since then has delivered a number of watches that tick off the New Brand Model List: a diver, a GMT, a watch made with carbon, a skeleton dial. Aside from the Redentore Riserva di Carica, the watches never really stood out among the sea of microbrand options. But the brand’s first chronograph, the Venezianico Bucintoro, grabbed my eye with its soft profile that eschews the modern preference for reissues and does its own thing. On the wrist, the 40mm stainless steel case is comfortable and feels rather compact, owing to the effect of its drastically stepped dial and its reasonable 48mm lug-to-lug.

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The case is tall, however, with a height of 14.5mm. While there are certainly taller automatic chronographs, the Bucintoro’s short, sloping lugs, and the four-facet bezel really make it stand out on the wrist. (Maybe an Italophile would argue that the height of the case echoes the grandeur of the Bucinotoro itself, though it’s not that tall.) Happily, Venezianico opted for a flat sapphire bezel. The case finishing is very satisfying, with crisp brushing and well-defined transitions. The crown is appropriately sized and easy to operate, and I appreciated the pushers—not just buttons or pumps or rectangles, but sculpted forms that follow the lines of the case. I also liked the vertically brushed bezel, which plays with light differently than a fully polished or even circular brushed bezel might.

The watch is paired with what the brand refers to as its Canova bracelet. I know it bears a striking resemblance to a very famous steel sports watch’s bracelet, but I think at this point, we can stop pointing fingers and recognize that there are only so many styles of bracelets available before you get into truly avant-garde designs. The 20mm polished and brushed bracelet is a great match for the softness of the case. It lacks a quick-release mechanism that I would’ve preferred it to have, and I’m sure everyone will have something to say about the butterfly clasp. For my part, I always find the seamlessness afforded by such clasps to be an aesthetic asset. And if sizing is really a problem, you can always buy a half-link from the brand for $30.

The Venezianico Bucintoro’s blue dial is filled with polished metals and textured surfaces. Also available in silver or black, the applied indices and handset are high-polished and have lume application, while the dial itself has a sunburst finish with an applied Venetian cross logo. The running seconds and 30-minute chronograph subdials both feature azzurage finishing with polished rings to create separation from the dial. The subdial hands are a bit stubby and could certainly stand to be longer. The dial text is well-balanced, avoiding unnecessary clutter, and is all in Italian (even the numbers), driving home the brand’s origins. Finishing off the dial is a raised tachymeter scale and a 6 o’clock date bisected by a groove that surrounds the central dial.

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In fact, it’s those two elements that stood out above the rest for me. In the case of the raised tachymeter, I mean that literally. It’s the reason the dial (and the watch) feels a bit compact. This isn’t a common choice for chronographs, because when you have a lot of sub-dials and text taking up space, you want the dial to feel as open as possible. That said, it’s not a choice that’s entirely unfamiliar: the Soldat Promessa comes to mind immediately, and I’m sure there are plenty of others. The date was the other feature that struck me as unique. It’s easy to just use the supplied date wheel from the movement manufacture, but Venezianico clearly went the extra distance here, giving the date wheel a luster that I haven’t seen anywhere else and that complements the brushing of the bezel and the radiance of the dial.

The BGW9 Super-LumiNova is applied evenly and could be fairly described as just OK; it’s kept to just the hands and markers with no special flourishes. It serves its purpose, though I always question the need for and importance of lume on chronographs. Strictly speaking (and ignoring that almost no one uses chronograph watches for their intended function), you’re not likely to use a chronograph timer in the dark or even in low light—feel free to let me know in the comments if you do. Given the dressy versatility of this watch, though, I think lume has its merits here.

Were it not for the dratted 9SC5 in the new Grand Seiko Tentagraph, we’d be dealing with the entire Seiko Watch Corporation’s most modern automatic chronograph. Certainly, one of the most recently released automatic chronographs, the Seiko NE86 is the same as the brand’s 8R46 automatic chronograph and features a column wheel, vertical clutch chronograph mechanism, and a 45-hour power reserve at 28,800 vph. As with Seiko’s other movements, we really don’t see them used externally except for by microbrands and affordables. While there’s every indication that the NE86 is as robust as other Seiko calibers, we haven’t really seen the same proliferation amongst microbrands as we did with Seiko’s other movements. The issue may be that there are simply a lot of alternatives these days, from Seagull to Sellita to La Joux-Perret, one of which is markedly cheaper and two of which come with the “Swiss Made” cachet.

Barring a buyer’s affinity for Venice, or maybe big fancy ships that were destroyed at the end of armed conflicts as a symbol of victory, I’m not sure the Venezianico Bucintoro has a unique selling proposition (USP). I also don’t think that’s important. It’s a larger conversation, but not everything needs to have a USP. Sometimes, things can just be attractive and well-made and resonate with a specific set of buyers. That’s probably 90% of watches—because they can’t all be Richard Milles or Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chimes—and that’s certainly the Bucintoro. While not perfect, with its vibrant stepped dial and a case that isn’t beholden to trendy design, it will certainly have plenty of fans. The Venezianico Bucintoro is priced at $1,495 USD and is available from authorized dealers or directly from the brand. For more information, please visit the brand’s website

Necessary Data
>Brand: Venezianico
>Model: Bucintoro
>Price: $1,495 USD
>Size: 40mm diameter, 14.5mm-thick, 48mm lug-to-lug, 20mm lug width
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Any time I want to wear a chronograph that doesn’t scream, “I wish I was a race car driver!” or “I love space!”
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: My uncle, the Italophile
>Best characteristic of watch: Compact design, radiant blue dial, smooth design of the case
>Worst characteristic of watch: Taller case and butterfly clasp

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