Your Bag

Nothing in cart

What Does It Take To Be Handmade: The Story of an Italian Atelier

What Does It Take To Be Handmade: The Story of an Italian Atelier

Let's get deeper to know more about Steinhart watches, their origins and whose the man behind it. Check out article!
May 22, 2024

Many enthusiasts may find themselves less acquainted with the world of Italian watchmaking, a segment that often goes unnoticed, especially when compared to more prominent industries like luxury goods and automotive. Despite this oversight, Italian watchmaking boasts a rich history and notable achievements, with brands such as Officine Panerai and Bvlgari standing out. While Panerai is now under the ownership of the Swiss company Richemont SA, several Italian watchmakers continue to uphold the tradition of horology.

In this exploration, we turn our attention to a lesser-known player that operates discreetly in comparison to the aforementioned giants. This brand, Gruppo Ardito, has endured the test of time, consistently producing some of the world’s most robust and captivating timepieces. If you’ve been following our website, you may have guessed correctly – we are spotlighting our esteemed partner, Gruppo Ardito.

Gnomon Watches X Gruppo Ardito

Renowned among watch enthusiasts for its handcrafted artistry, our paths crossed with Gruppo Ardito several years ago when this Italian watchmaker set out on its journey. The collaboration with Gnomon Watches in mid-May marked a significant milestone, placing the spotlight firmly on the Lince dive watch collection.

The 2021 iteration of the Lince collection is a testament to the brand’s dedication to crafting exceptional tool watches that fearlessly explore the depths of the ocean. Gruppo Ardito’s Italian identity is encapsulated in the Lince collection, from its rugged, industrial aesthetics to its artisanal dial.

To truly grasp Gruppo Ardito’s craftsmanship, we’ll take a closer look at the Lince Crimson Red timepiece. This model showcases the brand’s prowess in watchmaking, incorporating precision engineering and micromechanics onto the 1000m diver, along with handmade elements that hold tangible value for watch enthusiasts. What makes a military-grade watch like Lince more of a want than a need? This model and its maker will help answer this question, revealing the successful recipe for a tool watch – one that possesses unorthodox beauty.

Every single component is meticulously crafted with precision engineering and micromechanics

Through this article, my sincere aim is to redirect attention to small indie brands like GA and shed light on what makes these robustly constructed watches, with a ‘raw’ aesthetic, so appealing to particular watch enthusiasts. We’ll explore timepieces that exude subtle allure rather than overt opulence, focusing on the origins of the Lince timepiece – an elegant creation crafted from materials that elevate it to an ideal daily companion.

As mentioned earlier, a bold dive watch like the Lince has the potential to redefine our perception of the entire dive watch segment. After spending considerable time with it since its launch, let’s delve into the exceptional Lince Crimson Red – a meticulously handcrafted titanium dive watch capable of diving to 1000 meters – and get to know the artisans behind this remarkable creation.

The Emergence of an Italian Artisan in Small Independent Tool Watch Craftsmanship

A 1000m dive watch hails from the workshop of a small indie Italian watch company

But who is the master artisan behind these captivating timepieces? The tale unfolds in 2016 when Gruppo Ardito established its inaugural workshop in Alessandria, a province internationally recognized for its rich artistic traditions. While GA’s expertise lies in crafting rugged tool watches, the region is equally celebrated for its exquisite goldwork and the creation of luxurious, handcrafted jewelry.

The choice of the name ‘Gruppo Ardito Watches’ was deliberate, aiming to evoke a proud ‘mission’ in its Italian identity and a ‘commitment’ to fashioning robust timepieces that honor their roots with a touch of flair. The name draws inspiration from the ‘Arditi Personnel,’ where ‘Arditi,’ translating to audacious, was the moniker for the elite assault troops of the Royal Italian Army, established in 1917. The founders found resonance not just in the name itself but in the qualities it represented: enterprise, valor, patriotism, a strong sense of duty, and an indomitable spirit of sacrifice—qualities that etched indelible chapters in history during both World Wars.

The quartet of partners—Fabio (CEO), Barbara, Ivano, and Elvado—brings diverse professional backgrounds spanning precision mechanical engineering, design, and micromechanics tailored for watchmaking applications. While their professional paths have diverged, a shared passion for timepieces unites them. Collaborating with other industry experts versed in precision mechanical engineering, micro-mechanics, and watchmaking, they collectively form this small independent company dedicated to crafting exceptional tool watches distinguished by high quality and technological innovation standards.

GA’s maiden timepiece, Numero Zero, emerged in 2016, capturing attention for its meticulously engineered aesthetics. Constructed from AISI 316L steel or grade 5 titanium, this model boasts an impressive water resistance of up to 1000 meters, setting it apart in its class. Housed within is a sandwich dial, entirely fabricated by GA from stainless steel sheets, shielded by a chemically-hardened mineral glass (Hardlex type) measuring 4 millimeters in thickness—an engineering marvel.

Following this debut, the brand broadened its horizons with the release of Numero Uno in 2016, a favorite among Gnomon’s discerning clientele, thanks to its distinctive case and dial designs. As the company took greater control over the development and production of its timepieces, Numero Uno became available in various case materials and dial configurations, including traditional 316L stainless steel, lightweight grade 5 titanium, and the distinctive CuSn12 bronze, reflecting an Italian touch. This collection showcased the brand’s customization ability without compromising on build quality. Like its predecessor, Numero Uno boasted an impressive water resistance of 1700 meters across all case materials.

One of my favorite beastly designed divers – the Kraken
The customization aspect extends into the Lince collection

In the subsequent years, Gruppo Ardito didn’t rest on its laurels with a handful of meticulously engineered yet thoughtfully designed mechanical watches. It introduced standout models such as the imposing Kraken, the L-shaped lugs adorned the shape, and the clean and minimalist Lince collection—the focal point of this article.

The Lince Collection

Emanating the allure of a military-grade tool watch

To provide a concise overview, let’s turn to the words of Gruppo Ardito themselves, as captured on their website:

“The Lince is the new gateway model to the GA world, a sports watch that seamlessly transitions across various occasions while upholding the meticulous craftsmanship characteristic of GA timepieces.”

While this characterization aptly captures the essence of the Lince model, it goes beyond mere versatility. The Lince emanates a distinctive fusion of ‘rawness’ and ‘wabi-sabi’ elements, qualities that often elude precise verbal description. Before immersing ourselves in these captivating traits, let’s delve into the specifications:

1. Dimensions: 42mm in diameter, 49mm lug to lug, and 12mm thick.

2. Construction: Crafted entirely from titanium grade 5, the 3-part case features a microblasted matte finish.

3. Movement: Powered by the Swiss Sellita SW200-1 automatic caliber – comprising 26 jewels, operating at 28,800BPH, with a commendable power reserve of 40 hours.

4. Aesthetic Appeal: Dressed in a Crimson Burgundy Red with a degradé effect, adorned with a customized logo and font.

Matte Looks Grasp Details

Full matte outlook

Determining the beauty of an object often involves an emotional process rather than a dispassionate assessment of facts or market trends. In the case of wristwatches, it’s widely recognized that they are often purchased for emotional rather than purely practical reasons. Being aesthetically appealing is a means for a wristwatch to capture a consumer’s attention and evoke a genuine desire. However, watches like those produced by GA challenge this status quo.

Constructed entirely from titanium, the Lince timepiece weighs 85 grams, yet it exudes confidence and solidity when worn. Titanium is preferred for sports watches like this due to its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. In GA’s case, titanium benefits us in two distinct ways.

Firstly, it allows us to appreciate how a fully matte dark grey case can enhance our tactile and visual senses. It invites us to closely examine the finely micro-blasted case silhouette and its well-defined finishing. This lightweight watch is perfect for individuals with active lifestyles, offering comfort throughout the day. Secondly, the use of titanium for watch cases can be seen as a tradition in crafting utilitarian watches in Italy. In the 1950s, local brands like Panerai’s Luminors and Radiomirs were crafted from this lightweight yet durable material for Italian troops, a tradition carried on by several related watch companies like Anonimo.

I personally appreciate the full military-style matte look of the Lince

The details on the Lince are something to admire, although it may take some time to get accustomed to the matte finishing if you’re more familiar with polished styles. You might wonder what’s compelling about a watch that appears ‘naked’ with no glossy finish, potentially giving it a dull look. However, it’s quite the opposite.

Allow me to explain my perspective. When a watch lacks any signs of polishing, it enables us, as wearers, to truly appreciate its craftsmanship. Every corner, facet, and side becomes more pronounced, unlike mirror-finishes. The non-reflective appearance lets us quickly discern the precision and quality of the case’s execution. Whether good or bad, nothing is concealed when the case is finished in matte—it exudes confidence and readiness.

As tactical looking as it can get

Now, back to the Lince’s case. Every facet is impeccably constructed, from the mid-case and lugs to the crown guards, crown, bezel, and case back. The corners exhibit refinement, evident when we run our fingers across the lugs and bezel. With no contrasting polished finishes, all watch components blend seamlessly, allowing us to appreciate the meticulous craftsmanship of the GA team in machining each part with skilled hands.

As much as the matte case helps us appreciate the handcrafted effort, the Lince epitomizes what an instrumental ‘military-style dive watch should be—it doesn’t dazzle its wearer with unnecessary embellishments. These details indicate that the Lince timepiece is a visually appealing artisanal watch and an authentic, no-nonsense dive watch, ideally suited for efficiently handling water depths.

Analyzing The Lince: A Closer Look at Its Design Elements


The “fixed” bezel design reveals intricate details deserving of scrutiny

To unravel the intricacies of The Lince’s construction, let’s start with its bezel design. The fixed, micro-blasted bezel is held in place by five custom screws arranged in a star formation. Amidst the overall matte finish, these hand-polished screws offer a striking light grey-on-dark contrast, enhancing the watch’s utilitarian aesthetic.

Encircling the glass, an O-ring and an L-shaped ring gasket are strategically positioned, ensuring the bezel seals the glass against the case. This meticulous design guarantees the watch’s water resistance.

Efficient clamping of the gasket within the bezel

A standout feature is the L-shaped ring gasket, crafted from solid polymer, distinguishing it from traditional rubber gaskets. Its solidity enhances water resistance, even when the bezel is detached, maintaining a secure seal between the glass and gasket.

The fixed bezel, executed with precision, stands out as one of the watch’s defining features. Its rugged military appearance, slightly recessed within the case, boasts flawlessly chamfered edges culminating in a 90-degree cut into the mid-case. Every groove for the screws is meticulously cut, seamlessly integrating them within the bezel’s overall dimension.

The bezel, akin to the case back, secured by five custom screws


Transitioning to the mid-case, the handcrafted intricacy is both original and captivating. The Lince’s case sets itself apart with sharply angled lugs mirroring the bezel’s angular design. These lugs elegantly taper toward the dial, resembling a blossoming flower. As a tool watch, the inclusion of lug holes allows for effortless strap changes. The drilled lug holes, precisely placed between two distinct sides, exhibit meticulous execution rarely found even in higher-priced watches.

Lug holes befitting a proper tool watch

Every facet of the mid-case is meticulously defined, including the integrated crown guard. Seamlessly designed, the crown guards merge form and function, akin to the fenders of a Mercedes C63 AMG.

Crazily lightweight yet sturdy crown with “GAW” engraved neatly in the middle

The screw-down crown, micro-blasted to perfection, features grooves broader and deeper than typical dive watches, providing an exceptional tactile experience. Its stepped design, adorned with a deeply engraved “GAW” emblem, showcases meticulous craftsmanship.

The case-back, also held by five custom screws


The case-back reflects the same impressive craftsmanship, secured by five screws aligned with those on the front bezel. Crisply defined edges and grooves ensure the screws sit flush, sealing in the thick O-ring gasket. The Italian inscriptions add a unique touch, while a handcrafted torpedo emblem, exclusive to Gnomon, is prominently engraved at the center. Each serial number is thoughtfully positioned at the base of this emblem.

The screws seamlessly flushed with the case back

GA’s watchmaking prowess extends to the movement holder—a lightweight yet robust metal piece adorned with a metallic blue finish. Securing the Swiss Sellita calibre, it exemplifies GA’s commitment to durability for a 1000m dive watch.

Dial Work

Rare dial craftsmanship that defies ordinary watch industry standards

Finally, the Crimson Lince’s dial is a masterpiece in itself. Boasting a striking burgundy red, the matte texture with a degradé effect creates a harmonious juxtaposition. The smoky dial, executed flawlessly without sunburst or iridescent effects, radiates ornate sleekness.

The subtle degradé effect adds to the dial’s allure

Intricate finishing extends to the retro-inspired hour markers and handset, featuring a ‘fauxtina’ hue reminiscent of aged tritium or radium luminance found on vintage watches.

The captivating crimson red dial exclusive to Gnomon Watches

Gnomon’s exclusive design forgoes the typical 3 o’clock date display, maintaining a clean, uncluttered dial. The fully polished internal rehaut enhances the dial’s illusion, creating a reflective border for a heightened aesthetic appeal.

The Ever-Reliable Movement

Since the introduction of the NumeroZero model, GA has consistently chosen some of the industry’s most tried-and-true Swiss mechanical movements for its timepieces, namely the ETA 2824-2 or SW200-1. In the case of the Lince, they’ve opted for the 26-jewel Sellita SW200-1 movement, a decision grounded in its long-standing reputation for unwavering reliability. As I’ve emphasized in previous articles, ETA and Sellita movements are akin to the legendary Toyota 2JZ-GTE inline-6 engine—reliable powerhouses that have stood the test of time.

A proven mechanical workhorse

Moreover, given the ongoing scarcity of ETA movements, Sellita emerges as a dependable alternative. The robustly constructed SW200-1, enhanced with an extra jewel, offers outstanding reliability and excellent value. Renowned for impeccable precision and reliability, these movements serve GA and its customers with utmost precision—considered some of the most reliable workhorses in watchmaking history. With meticulous quality control at the Italian artisan’s workshop, the movement is finely tuned for years of dependable service, complementing the exquisitely crafted watch case.

The Clash of Italian Watchmaking Artistry

Ennebi vs Gruppo Ardito

To showcase the craftsmanship of indie watchmaker Gruppo Ardito and their Lince Crimson Red, let’s embark on a detailed comparison with another Italian artisan’s timepiece: the Ennebi Fondale. While initial impressions may reveal similarities in dial execution and case engineering, a closer inspection is needed. But before delving into this comparison, let’s briefly explore the background of Ennebi, Gruppo Ardito’s competitor.

Founded in 2004 by Alessandro Bettarini and the Luciano Nincheri Company, Ennebi is headquartered in the scenic Florentine countryside. Although a relatively young company, Alessandro and Luciano, veterans in precision engineering, have crafted exceptional military-grade watches, including the Fondale series.

The Fondale – a classic Ennebi series

While Ennebi has been in operation for just over two decades, Alessandro and Luciano’s experience in producing instrumental timepieces for Italy’s elite military personnel is evident. Comparing my personal Fondale Ref. 9652, we can appreciate its meticulous construction, surpassing industry standards for professional dive watches. How does it measure up against the Lince diver? We’re about to find out.

Fortunate to place these two brands side by side, Gruppo Ardito and Ennebi are hidden gems in the horological world, often flying under the radar. This comparison aims to showcase how the Lince comes remarkably close to the offerings of their seasoned neighbors from Chianti.

Bumper to bumper comparison of both watches

Titanium Titans

Having personally handled both watches, especially the Fondale for about six years, I can attest that the Lince diver falls just slightly below Ennebi’s quality, albeit by a marginal difference. Both watches are crafted from raw titanium with precision, with the Lince achieving approximately 85% of the sharpness and meticulous execution found in the Fondale. Considering its sub-$1500 USD price point, GA’s watch exudes a tactical, form-follows-function appearance akin to its premium Italian counterpart.

Different brands, same philosophy

Delving deeper into their distinctions, the bead-blasted finishes on the Fondale are notably more intricate, exuding a premium allure reminiscent of high-end tool watches from the Pre-Vendome Panerai era. Another discernible difference lies in their fits, finishes, and engineering methods.

The Ennebi imparts a sense of substance, primarily due to its consistently larger case size, excluding weight. The physical presence is undeniably distinct. On the other hand, GA’s Lince maintains a close affinity with its appeal and execution, holding its own even when compared to its larger “Grand” sibling. The Lince boasts more unisex wearability, thanks to its 42mm case size and 12mm thickness, and significantly lighter weight than the Fondale.

One is like the bigger brother of the other

Many prefer the Lince due to its sizing, aligning with the current market demand for versatile wear. Still, the Fondale adheres to the true-to-size nature of robust tool watches made exclusively for the Italian Navy. GA gains an edge over Ennebi regarding sizing while providing an impressive 1000m water resistance, matching its 47mm competitor, the Fondale.

The Fondale has a beefier case construction

While their case constructions and aesthetics appear similar, a side-by-side comparison reveals nuances. For instance, the bead-blasted finishes on the Fondale are notably more intricate, exuding a premium allure reminiscent of high-end tool watches from the Pre-Vendome Panerai era. Both watches feature screws on the bezel and case-back, allowing for customization, and utilize Swiss equivalent movements. However, the similarities in construction end here.

Distinguishing Atelier Approaches

Same, yet distinctly different upon closer inspection

Having extensively worn both timepieces, it becomes apparent that each atelier employs unique methodologies in watch construction. The Fondale leans towards a more intricate approach, boasting a complex case design, while the Lince opts for simplicity and functionality. Both models emanate sportiness with clear military inspirations, but the Fondale edges towards a more luxurious appeal.

Both the Lince and the Fondale feature interchangeable bezels for customization. However, the Fondale takes it a step further with its ingeniously designed rotatable bezel, requiring deliberate compression to rotate in either direction, preventing accidental adjustments while enabling intentional changes.

Bezel customization, from sterile titanium to bronze bezel with a “porthole” look
Ennebi uses a compression system to rotate and lock in the bezel

An additional distinctive aspect lies in their crown systems. The Lince adheres to a traditional design, requiring unscrewing for adjustments, whereas the Ennebi Fondale, showcasing decades of expertise, features a screw-less design for time adjustment and winding, maintaining an impressive 1000m water resistance—an homage to the pre-Vendome Panerais era.

Screw-less design bezel is an engineering marvel

Although the Lince feels featherweight compared to the more substantial Fondale, GA assures its durability matches its heavier counterparts. The Fondale’s weight provides a sense of value, reminiscent of a heavyweight boxer like Mike Tyson, while the Lince, like featherweight Willie Pep, carries a different charm.

Moreover, the dials on Ennebi watches, marked by exceptional artisanship, distinguish themselves from any other watch face. While the Lince boasts an impressive dial showcasing genuine Italian flair, the Fondale takes dial craftsmanship to a different level.

Exceptional dial craftsmanship
Engineering precision extends to the titanium buckle

Lastly, the quality of the leather straps deserves mention. Both watches feature handcrafted leather straps from renowned Italian leather makers, but the Fondale’s straps exude a touch more finesse. Quick strap replacements can transform the Lince, highlighting new aspects unexpectedly.

The Handmade Ensemble

When evaluating the Lince’s design and watchmaking values, it’s evident that assessing it solely based on intrinsic case manufacturing qualities would be incomplete. The Lince embodies a fusion of exceptional artisanship while maintaining the professional demeanor expected of a high-level diver’s watch.

Military-grade gear with artisan flair

The artisanship leans towards handmade craftsmanship reminiscent of superior military equipment, renowned for functionality and style—qualities exemplified in Gruppo Ardito’s Lince Diver. It encompasses sleek lines, rugged materials, and distinguishes itself through unique colors and patterns.

Collectors, especially those appreciating watches as military-grade gear, find compelling reasons to be drawn to timepieces like the Lince. From commissioned models by Panerai to contemporary ones like the Ennebi Fondales, these watches encapsulate strength, toughness, and prestige. Wearing a military-grade Lince signifies a penchant for robust gear, bolstering confidence in its durability.

Personal preference for this genre of watches

Therefore, attraction to a watch extends beyond visual design, encompassing materials and meticulous manufacturing. These elements are integral to a watch’s overall beauty. The Lince establishes a deeper connection with those appreciating the dedication behind crafting such a timepiece, preserving Italian traditions in producing professional gear.

In Conclusion

In today’s watch market, many dive watches draw inspiration from the past, incorporating vintage-inspired elements that form a significant part of their charm. Gruppo Ardito watches, and the Lince collection in particular, stand out for their exceptional toughness, both in construction and appearance. Meticulously designed with a focus on mechanical precision, they exude a distinctive character that speaks of handcrafted excellence.

The Lince is handcrafted with excellence

The Lince collection comprises professional diving and military watches, proudly designed and meticulously crafted in Italy. Engineered for outstanding long-term durability, even in the most demanding conditions, these watches have evolved beyond their original intended functions. Through this comparative article, I aim to shine a brighter light on the impressive capabilities of Italian watchmaking.

You may like this

Related Articles

Compare watches
Comparison Chart

No watches in comparison chart

Artboard 1
Artboard 1



Lug width

Water resistance


Lug Width
Water resistance