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The 7 Top Affordable Italian Watch Brands - A Buyers Guide

Posted on May 10 2021

The Best Affordable Italian Watches

There's more to Italy than pizza, wine and Vespa's.

Arguably, they are the nations best exports. Followed by pasta, gelato and Ferrari's.

You'd expect a nation with such a rich heritage and a reputation for high fashion to have a history of watchmaking. But that's not really the case.

They don't have watch brands that are their equivalents of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. We know they can build awesome cars. But watches? Not so much.

Italian watches tend to be more fashion influenced. You'll be familiar with watches from Armani, Gucci and Versace.

Let's have a closer look and see what affordable watches that the nation does have to offer.

And yes, Panerai will get a mention too.

Does Italy Make Good Watches?


Like most nations, Italy doesn't make watches as such.

They design watches.

They do have a history of watchmaking, but that is gone now. Their most well-known brand, Panerai, moved to Switzerland in the late 1990s. Their Italian factory was bought by Anonimo, who then relocated to Switzerland in 2013.

Once we get into this list, you'll see a number of the watches are actually Swiss made. That's just how the watch industry works.

So some Italian brands use Chinese factories and some use Swiss production facilities. Like everyone else, the affordable brands favour Japanese movements that give excellent quality at a good price.

What we're looking at here are watches designed in Italy. And that's exciting because the Italians are famous for their art and fashion. Apart from pizza's and wine, it's what they do best.

Here are my seven favourite affordable Italian watch companies. I've skipped their expensive brands and for the most part, avoided their fashion houses. Instead, I've focused on affordable watches from specialist watch brands.

Trust me, there are some cracking watches here.

Out of Order Casanova watch

Out of Order watches are fun.

This is a brand that takes pride in damaging your watch before they ship it to you. I guess that needs a bit more explanation.

Although they use the tagline Damaged in Italy, their watches are worn-in rather than broken. They age your watch so that it looks like a vintage piece or a family heirloom.

So when you receive your new watch it has tarnish, discolouration and scratches. The idea is that you get a new watch that already looks like it's lived a full life.

It's an intriguing concept and they've incorporated other lighthearted elements.

The Casanova is a quartz Submariner style watch. It's a quirky piece that looks like it's been well-used. It's very affordable and due to the hand ageing, each one is unique.

Out of Order Casanova OOO.001.18.MS

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Meccaniche Veneziane Nereide Watch
The Nereide was Meccaniche Veneziane's debut model. Named after the Venetian submarine, it was the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017.

It was a popular design. They funded this watch in 20mins and it is now the centrepiece of the company’s collection.

Before I get into the design, let’s cover the specs. It has an MV145 automatic movement - built from Seiko's NH35A. Everything else is as you’d expect from a microbrand at this price point.

There is a 42mm case with a domed sapphire crystal. It’s a legitimate dive watch with 200M of water resistance. Like the Casanova, it is an attractive interpretation of the Rolex Submariner. It's finished off with a hand-crafted Italian leather strap.

Although there are some colourful models, I'm taken with this black version. It's clean, simple and has a vintage edge.

The Nereide isn't the cheapest automatic dive watch. Instead, it's a great example of a brand doing their own interpretation of the Submariner style.

Meccaniche Veneziane Nereide 1302002

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic CAL.MV145 Movement
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 


Squale 1521 Watch

The 1521 Ocean from Squale is a handsome 500M rated dive watch. It's at the top end of what I'd class as affordable.

Squale are an anomaly for an Italian brand. They made their name as a supplier of watch cases for other brands - particularly skin diver style watches. They were a Swiss brand, collaborating with other Swiss companies.

Then in 2010 the brand refocused under the command of their new Italian owners. But their watches are still Swiss made. Swiss-made, but designed in Italy.

And these designs are great aren't they?

This model harks back to the heyday of dive watches, with an aesthetic reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s. This is Squale referencing their own heritage.

It has massive water resistance, a Swiss ETA movement and a discreet crown tucked away at 4 o'clock.

This is a high-quality Swiss watch with Italian input.

Squale 1521 Ocean 1521OCN.ME20

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 13mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 500M Water Resistance

 


Breil Manta Professional Automatic Watch

Breil is one of the most Italian of the Italian watched companies. They have a real watchmaking heritage, having initially launched as a manufacturer of alarm clocks in the 1930s.

Nowadays, they're more of a fashion brand. But they still make some nice mechanical watches.

This model is from their popular Manta collection. It's an attractive automatic watch with a very distinctive appearance. It has bold numerals and some fun colourful touches.

There is a real authenticity to Breil. They're Italian owned and always have been. They're still based in Milan and have a flagship store in the city.

If you want a fashionable name on your wrist, this could be your best bet.

Breil Manta Professional TW1358

  • 42mm Diameter
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


CT Scuderia Dashboard Watch

The Dashboard is a motorcycling inspired piece from an Italian brand with a real watchmaking heritage. It’s uniquely styled and recreates the speedometers of vintage British motorbikes.

The story behind this watch is great.

The company's founder, Enrico Margaritelli, is a third-generation watchmaker. He has previously designed watches for Fossil and Shinola. And he's also created a few earlier watch companies.

He channels his love of design, watches and motorcycles through CT Scuderia.

The results are stunning.

The Dashboard is a Swiss-made watch, powered by a Swiss automatic movement. It has an unusual speedometer dial, a crown at 6 o'clock and a large case with an industrial aesthetic.

It's not for everyone. It's too bold and too eccentric.

But if you're a fan of Italian flair, you'll want to take a closer look at this model.

CT Scuderia Dashboard CWEK00519

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • 26mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


U-Boat Darkmoon Watch

There’s a good chance that you won’t have seen anything like this watch before.

This watch is filled with oil. The oil immerses the quartz movement and the dial. U-Boat has left a single air bubble so you can see the oil move.

It gives the watch a unique appearance which is strengthened by the colourful dial and bold numerals.

Everything is quirky and distinctive. Like the CT Scuderia, this is another watch that will have a limited appeal. Again, like the previous watch, this is for fans of Italian design.

U-Boat watches are assembled in Tuscany and the Darkmoon sticks to the brand's penchant for a left-handed crown.

U-Boat Darkmoon 8701

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 18mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


WeWood Titanium Watch
WeWood uses wood in the construction of their watches. It's eco-friendly and in keeping with younger consumers tastes.

On this model, they've replaced the wooden case with titanium. That's a good choice. Titanium is lighter than stainless steel and doesn't corrode. It's also non-toxic to the human body.

The finished watch is another quirky design that looks like something that you'd find at a craft market. It has a hand-made look, with an understated style.

I like it. It's not the most masculine piece - there is a big contrast to the Squale for example - but's a fun, lightweight watch. It's also very affordable.

It's a great way to round out this list and demonstrates the wide scope of Italian watch design.

WeWood 70370031

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 8mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Titanium
  • Quartz Movement



Conclusion


There is more to Italy than pizza and scooters.

When it comes to watches, they don't have the history of other European nations. But, they're at the forefront of fashion. There are a lot of big-name Italian fashion houses that put their name on watches.

But that's not what watch fans are looking for.

You guys want higher quality watches. You want watch brands with a proven history and plenty of innovation.

You have to dig a little to find those Italian watch brands, but they are there.

How often have you seen a watch with the crown at 6 o'clock like the CT Scuderia? Or what about U-Boat's oil-filled model? Or WeWood's mixture of wood and titanium?

Don't dismiss Italian watches because a Panerai is too big or too expensive. Follow some of the links in this piece and investigate these other companies.

And sign up for my email list so you can be kept up to date with the world's best affordable watches.

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