TUSCAN GENIUS U-BOAT,
AN ENDLESS SOURCE OF IDEAS
Interview by Roberto Chilleri
Italo Fontana created his first U-Boat watch 16 years ago, inspired by a model designed in 1942 by grandfather Ilvo for the Italian Navy but never produced. It was an impressive underwater time-piece, with the crown for adjusting the hands on the left. Perfecting and implementing the characteristics of U-Boat, he has created a unique style, capturing the wrists of many celebrities. The Tuscan designer’s dynamic creativity has now generated a series of innovations: from the tungsten bezel to the prototype of the first ultra-slim U-Boat, which customers are able to preview at Baselworld.
BWDN: Crown to the left, button extraction, super-sized. Do you easily recognize your watches?
Italo Fontana: We patented the automatic crown extraction system, aiming to safeguard the nails of the ladies, but men like it, too. On the other hand, a big, bulky case is no longer the only option because we also have smaller models, a better fit for those who have a slender wrist. But even in those sizes, U-Boat style is unmistakable.
On the subject of personal style, how would you describe Italo Fontana?
I’m not too accustomed to talking about myself. Let’s say I’m not keen on following trends and I prefer to go my own way. In practice, I’d say that for others I design the watch of my dreams, and that somehow reflects who I am.
Can you share any important news?
I have to mention at least three things. One is the bezel made in tungsten – a metal that only a diamond can scratch and that in a hundred years’ time will seem as good as new. It’s a solution we’ve been testing recently and now we’ve applied it to two different models, including one of the two versions of the cutting-edge Chimera Net, with stainless steel rather than a bronze case.
That’s only two.
The third is a model of a timepiece I’m very fond of – the Chimera Skeleton Limited Edition. Given the success of the first Skeleton, presented a year ago, we came up with a grade 5 titanium case. The dial is pared down to the bare minimum and we added a fourth-day- night chronograph to the three already in place. The movement is our customization of the U-77 Valjoux basic and the handcrafted strap is upcycled leather, another detail typical of the U-Boat style. This is not just any watch.
And is it true that you’ve designed an ultra-slim watch?
Yes. It’s not available until September, but at Baselworld we have a prototype to preview for our customers. It’s ultra-slim with manual winding. It’s clear at a glance that it’s one of our watches, but it’s also a model designed for those in formal wear. When I designed it I was thinking of it on James Bond’s wrist, when he came out of the water and under his wetsuit he was wearing that immaculate white tuxedo.
You said three previews but you’ve mentioned four.
We don’t like downtime. We’re also experimenting with glass that in sunlight changes colour in just a millisecond. We’ll be opening new boutiques. After the recent inaugurations in Florence, Rome and Venice, we’re heading for Dubai. But the future is there to be discovered, and I’m curious to see what’s in store.