Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo

Ferretti is an Italian company that is about to apply a Renaissance-era art form to modern watchmaking. Their debut model will feature a hand-painted maiolica enamel dial and will launch on Kickstarter soon. They let me evaluate their sole prototype for this review. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch

Maiolica is a hard-wearing ceramic glazed with a tin or zinc compound that creates a bright white surface that is then painted. The applied pigments penetrate the glaze, which preserves the depth of the colors when fired, but makes every brush stroke of critical importance. It is nearly impossible to mask an error, so every piece is the result of a single take, so to speak. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch macro

My familiarity with maiolica comes from my Italian family heritage as well as my more recent travels. Growing up, I recall my grandmother owned many antique maiolica ceramics, some of which had been handed down for generations. My mother displays them now and I am still amazed by their depth of color and the fine detail in their illustrations. Later in life, when Mrs. Time Bum and I traveled through Italy, we fell in love modern maiolica and returned with a full set of richly decorated dinnerware that has weathered 10 years, two kids, dozens of tipsy dinner parties, and who knows how many trips through the dishwasher without complaint. (As a side note, our dishes once prompted an elderly neighbor to ask, “You seem to like Eye-talian things. Are your people from there, or are you regular Americans?” My wife patiently explained that is possible to be both.) 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch

Ferretti watch dials come from Deruta, a small town In central Italy, which along with a handful of other nearby medieval villages, is the heart of modern maiolica production, and the place where new generations of artisans learn the craft. Applying the techniques to a watch dial required some adaptation. For starters, the base or “biscuit” is not red earthenware like my dishes, but an extra strong ceramic compound that can be formed into the thin, precisely sized disk required for a watch dial and still resist both deflection in the firing process, and the inevitable impacts that will accompany daily wear afterward.

That ceramic substrate is then glazed and painted. As mentioned above, painting is meticulous work, but all the more so in this case as the piece is so small that every stroke will be magnified. The artist who will create these dials is highly skilled in both the maiolica technique and working in miniatures. Once painted, the surface may be scratched to create texture. Next, a thin layer of glass glaze is applied, and the dial is fired at high temperatures. In the last stage of decoration, precious metals are painted on (gold, in this case) for the “terzofuoco” (third firing). Finally, the dial is fired one last time at lower temperatures. Ceramics are notoriously tough so the resulting dial will look the same for decades to come. It is unaffected by light, air, or any other form of natural degradation. You will never see a “tropicalized” maiolica dial. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch wrist shot

Now that I’ve explained the process, I’ll turn my attention to the watch itself. Its brushed stainless steel case is finished in a rose gold PVD coating and is 43mm wide, which is terribly small for a painting, but on the larger end of things for a watch, offering just the right compromise between decorated surface area and wearability. It is big on my 6.5” wrist, but those with a circumference of 7” or more should have no issue. The flat sapphire crystal will have an anti-reflective coating in production, although the prototype is untreated. Its push-pull crown is decorated with a fleur-de-lis and seals for 50m water resistance. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch crown

On the back, you will find an exhibition window, the frame of which features an engraving inspired by the 14th Century Peri Reis map of the world. It offers a view of the Swiss made, rhodium plated and decorated Sellita SW300-1, a 25 jewel, 28.8k bph automatic with a 41-hour power reserve. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch case back

There will be three models in the upcoming campaign. Two will be inspired by the cities of Rome and Venice. The review sample is the Amerigo, an homage to the famous Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America was named. It bears an embellished painting of the Italian training vessel “Amerigo Vespucci” against the American coastline as depicted in the Waldseemuller map, the first to use the name “America.” As you can see, details are rendered in gold using the terzofuoco technique. Each dial will be strictly limited to just 30 handmade pieces, and each watch will be numbered on the case back. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch

Given the history of Italian leatherwork, it should come as no surprise that the genuine alligator skin strap is also made in Italy, in the Marche region to be precise. It is thickly padded and tapers from 22mm to a 20mm signed butterfly deployant clasp. Even the Alcantara display box is handmade in Marche. A single LED makes for a dramatic effect when first opened. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch clasp

I love the fact that Ferretti has employed such an important and time-honored technique to their watches, and have the utmost respect for the painstaking work that will go into their production. That said, I must confess that the final design would not be my first choice. It is too literally an illustration of something Italian, rather than a reflection of Italian artistry. Moreover, the busy image fights function as the brushed gold feuille hands disappear against the background. Ferretti has produced a maiolica ceramic picture of a ship that can be worn as a watch and for many people, that is exactly what they want. I wish they had instead created a more integrated design that infused the flowing patterns and vivid colors of traditional maiolica pieces into the more structured aesthetic of a watch face. Of course, each maiolica work is hand-rendered and unique. I would be very curious to see how different artists might approach the same product, and I hope Ferretti will explore this in the future. 

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch

Pricing and early bird offers are not yet finalized but expect to see Ferretti Watches be around $1000 in the Kickstarter campaign and retail afterward for about $3000. This is no small sum for a new crowdfunded watch brand, but not out of line given the incredible process and artistry that will go into it.

A launch date has not been announced so if you would like more information and updates, sign up at www.ferretti-timepieces.com. ⬩

Ferretti Timepieces Amerigo maiolica watch

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