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A Zannetti watch is not only a testament to the family name, but also to Italy’s inherent genius in design, coalescing dependable mechanics and traditional artisanal expertise to create a memorable watch. And with a very limited annual production that maxes out at about 800 timepieces per year, Zannetti focuses much of its imagination on the aesthetic details that make each watch a rarity. These details include highly decorated dials that may take well over a month to perfect, or exquisitely engraved movements and cases that rival some of the best.

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“Roman artisans have for centuries been incredibly talented and skilled in all arts,” says CEO Riccardo Zannetti, whose grandfather, Carmine, was an accomplished watchmaker. “This tradition and know-how [is part of] our entire workforce, making the history and culture of Rome very much alive in all Zannetti watches.”

Save for the Swiss-made movements/modules—ETA, Valjoux, Sellita and Dubois-Depraz—each part of a Zannetti watch is created in Italy. Most components are produced or decorated at the Roman atelier by one of Zannetti’s 20 artisans, who represent a wide range of skills from watchmaker to stone setter. For the few parts and proficiencies not sourced in-house, the company seeks out “the most talented people, no matter where they are in the country,” explains Zannetti.

The Zanetti Piranha

Ray Grenon, New England-based U.S. Distributor of Zannetti since 2012, says he was first taken by the brand when he spotted a champlevé enamel dial on a dive watch while perusing the showcases at Baselworld. “Never before had I seen a company put such a special dial on a diver’s watch,” he says. “We’ve all seen champlevé dials by some of the more traditional brands, but the prices are out of reach for most collectors. What Zannetti was doing for the price really reeled me in.” The Piranha with champlevé dial sells for $5,700.

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The range of possibilities available from this small, quality-driven—and relatively young (since 1982)—company is ample. This one-of-a-kind Piranha, with its exquisitely hand-carved mother-of-pearl dial, is from Zannetti’s Scuba Art collection of artistic dive watches—the collection that first caught Grenon’s eye. A deerskin strap throws a fascinating wrench into the mob of rubber straps typical of dive watches.

Miniature painting, another forte of the company, is represented in a one-of-a-kind timepiece, Skull. This motif, popular on watch dials and jewelry, is depicted here surrounded by roiling multicolored snakes, all hand painted on woolly mammoth ivory. The watch is shown on a custom hand-tooled and stitched leather strap.

Featuring a beautiful silver dial, this 44mm Gladiatore chronograph is artfully embellished with Geneva stripes, while the black mother-of-pearl sub-dials are complemented by a black leather strap with white stitching. The Roman arch-style counter at 6 o’clock adds an eccentric touch to the watch’s somewhat formal appearance.

The Regent Dragon, showcasing an intricately carved 18-karat gold dragon hugging the off-center dial, has a 42mm black PVD case and a hand-sewn black Louisiana alligator strap. The hand-engraved creature—the only deviation in color on this otherwise all-black watch—is revealed in amazing detail, and its placement on the left side of the face adds a sense of movement and power.

This Compass Rose Chrono, from the Magnificum collection, features hand painting on a woolly mammoth ivory dial in shades of red, yellow, and blue. The self-winding chronograph movement powering this one-of-a-kind watch is painstakingly decorated at Zannetti’s atelier.

But aside from its artistic Mediterranean heritage, Zannetti brings another very important aspect to the table: customization. “Wish a watch came with a different color dial? No problem, Zannetti will do it,” says Grenon. “Want a picture of your new Ferrari on the dial? Again, no problem. Or how about custom engraving, enameling or gem setting? Zannetti will make a fully customized one-of-a-kind piece for a price no other brand can match.”

Grenon, who shares Zannetti’s penchant for detail, told an anecdote about one of his clients, who wanted to further personalize his watch to reflect his passion for his Porsche 911. After much searching, Grenon found a 911 armrest from which he had leather removed to fashion a strap. Customization at its finest. And there are other benefits in working with a boutique company. “From city to city [watch collectors] see the same brands over and over again,” observes Grenon. “They are told that 10,000 pieces is a limited edition, and they are tired of the manufactured stories of the big brands. They value something that is authentic.”

He shares his own experience: “It’s wonderful to deal directly with the founders of the company. I speak to Riccardo Zannetti himself and together we come up with ideas for future projects,” says Grenon, alluding to some forthcoming “very artistic” pieces. “It is much more special than just ordering another mass-produced piece from a conglomerate.” Most pieces in the Zannetti collection range in price from $3,000 to $7,500. zannetti.it

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