Visconti W115 Abyssus Full-Dive Inox - Italy, is this a country of...watchmakers?
The Italian art of horlogerie is usually associated with the city of Florence and that's also confirmed by last century's historical events that saw the birth of legendary brands like Panerai – which was later acquired by the Richemont Group – and of more recent independent manufacturers like Giuliano Mazzuoli. These watch companies have long represented our very own traditions and style and, except for some very rare cases, like for instance Terra Cielo Mare, Tuscany is still considered the Italian county that best coincides with the concept of Silicon Valley for start-up horlogerie brands (among which is also Locman). Visconti has been a well-known brand for the last 25 years, mainly thanks to its writing tools but in 2015, the company also decided to enter the world of mechanic watches by launching some collections of sports timepieces that revamp the old Italian passion for this particular niche market. Despite the recent economic crisis, the passion for sports watches has never disappeared in Italy and that's why, in the last few years, many Italian men have become key figures in the most well-known Swiss haute-horlogerie brands.
Nowadays, entering the market of mechanical watches can be quite a dangerous move; those who purchase luxury timepieces place particular importance on the value of a brand, and the risk of manufacturers becoming a one-hit-wonder in this niche market is very high, like a few strong and renowned brands have recently experienced on their own skin. This phenomenon is also due to the fact that watches fans are more and more looking for original timepieces, customized items that are produced on a small scale and that completely clash with the idea of industry-made and popular items (or “bespoke items” as people would say using a word coined by Jermyn Street). Brands specialized in the production of niche timepieces need access to important financial resources and, unless they belong to one of the few existing luxury groups, that proves to be quite a difficult thing to achieve. Visconti decided to opt for a completely different path, something that they consider “an adventure”; in my opinion, their mission is the creation of items with a particularly strong flair that, aestethically speaking, represent some sort of a “style statement”. Rather than being technical wonders, these items have the advantage of being easily recognizable among the countless timepieces that are currently available in the market.
The Visconti W115 Abyssus Full-Dive Inox is one of the entry-level models of the collection of diver's watches, a specific kind of timepiece that has always fascinated me and that is widely-discussed on Horbiter (a couple of days ago I wrote about a professional diver's watch crafted by Seiko). This specific category of timepieces represents the real challenge for manufacturers; in order to look credible, companies need to craft items that professional scuba divers can actually use and items that feature something more than their competitors' creations.
Visconti has decided to interpret the classic automatic diver's watch with three counters by mixing together three different concepts; a strong case made of AISI316L sporting a winding crown at 4 o'clock that is perhaps an homage to the Japanese watch-making school and a reliable Swiss mechanic technology. The latter one is guaranteed by the presence of the evergreen ETA2824-2 caliber, the automatic movement running at 4Hz that is probably the most widely-used caliber in the world (definitely in Europe). Visconti's last ingredient for success is represented by what we call “the Italian style”, that is to say that natural ability to give elegance and personality to any item, something that, if made somewhere else, would be considered “extremely aseptic” and “plain”.
In this particular case, I am not referring to the original and beautiful shades of green that have been used on this timepiece but rather to the crafting of the case; it is one of the strengths of this watch and I am saying that from an engineer's perspective and from a collector's and fan's point of view too. The original steel block used to craft the case has been skillfully shaped through CNC milling machines and the final result is an original continuous sequence of concave, convex, brushed and polished surfaces, small and big rays that pay homage to an Italian patented item that is now widely-used everywhere; the Allen screw. If I were to summarize my impressions in one sentence, I would say that the Visconti W115 Abyssus Full-Dive Inox is the Italian interpretation of a Japanese diver's watch.
The architecture of this timepiece definitely takes inspiration from Japanese engineering, examples of this are the crown located at 4 o'clock and the sturdy crafting that makes this watch waterproof up to a depth of 1,000 metres, despite the fact that it features no helium release valve at all. The Visconti W115 Abyssus Full-Dive Inox is much more similar to a real diver's watch or to an ISO-compliant/JIS-compliant timepiece (although there's no confirmation of such certification) and it clearly represents an Italian state-of-the-art diver's watch. Its wearability and finishing are of the highest level: the case is not coupled with an “accordion strap” but rather with a Nubuk leather one sporting green stitchings and a comfortable buckle. It is not a diver's watch's typical strap and it clearly shows Visconti's willingness to craft something different from a tool-watch, something that can be worn on a daily basis. If you are a professional scubadiver and would like to use this timepiece in the sea, I would suggest looking for a different strap, since, as far as I know, the only alternative one available for the Visconti W115 Abyssus Full-Dive Inox is an identical strap with a folding clasp.
The black dial sports a central plaque with a green writing that states “Abyssus 1000 metri” (Abyssus 1,000 metres) and the baton hour-makers are crafted using bright green glowing material. Both the hours hands, the minutes hands and the 12 hours are filled with green glowing material and they sport Arabic numbers, a choice that reminds me of the California dials that used to be very popular in the US in the 50s and 60s. I am still not aware of what the retail price of the Visconti W115 Abyssus Full-Dive Inox is, and I would love to be able to provide you with this piece of information to give you a full evaluation of this timepiece but, unfortunately, I am not in a position to do so just yet. For the time being, I can only tell you that, if we consider the position of this brand in the market and the design and crafting quality of the Visconti W115 Abyssus Full-Dive Inox, it is very clear that the brand is aiming at entering the horlogerie premium-level-market by offering an extremely original product. This is is a limited-edition timepiece with interesting technical features and, if I could suggest a way to achieve a higher degree of refinement, I would tell Visconti to replace the current caliber with a Soprod or with a Concepto-built one.
(Photo credit: Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter