When we first saw the ContaTempo Scuderia watches at Basel World 2013, we were immediately excited. Consisting solely of large bullhead cases with distinct and thoughtful designs, they managed to standout from the crowd at the world’s largest watch fair, not an easy task. The watches appealed to that same part of us that stops on the street when we see an old muscle car or a well restored vintage motorcycle. That part that is drawn to things that are simultaneously masculine and classically cool. Needless to say, we’ve been eager to get our hands on one for review.
But before we get to that, it’s worth learning a bit more about the brand and its charismatic founder and lead designer, Enrico Margaritelli. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a brief chat a few weeks ago, where I learned more about his history and the motives behind the brand. Watches are a family business for Enrico, who along with his brothers have been in the industry for multiple generations. However, unlike the rest of his family, his interests ran towards the creative side things; design, development, quality control, etc…
In the 80’s his passion for watches bloomed as he began collecting vintage. With an eye for the Art Deco, his collection was mainly from the 30’s and 40’s, including Rolex Princes and the like. He also picked up some more contemporary Rolexes that were unpopular at the time, often hidden in back drawers. Yes, in the 80’s if you had a smart eye you could pick up Daytonas for a few hundred bucks, only to sell them down the road for a heck of a lot more.
After starting his own brand in the US called Soviet Watches (good luck googling that), Enrico worked with Fossil for 14 years, where he helped develop the brand from a relatively small player to a global institution and household name. During that time he learned the ins and outs of the business, met and collaborated with prominent designers such as Phillipe Stark and Giorgio Armani. Now, with his wife, he runs Glam Rock and CT Scuderia.
The inspiration for CT Scuderia has two sides, one was simply to create something unique with the beginning point of the stopwatch, and the other is his life long love of motorcycles. At the age of 14, Enrico starting riding motorcycles, eventually going on to race professionally and test drive for brands. The aesthetic of the CT Scuderia bullheads owes much to this passion.
Movement: ValSwiss CHR – 01 STD
Water Res.: 100M
Dimensions: 44 (46 listed) x 52mm
Thickness: 14.4 mm
Lug Width: 26 mm
Crown: 10 x 2 mm
The CT Scuderia line includes many models, ranging from Ronda Quartz chronos to 3-hand automatics to automatic chronographs. Though the least economical, we couldn’t pass by the chance to play with and wear an auto chronograph bullhead. The City Racer, which Enrico was wearing when we spoke, features a decorated ValSwiss movement, PVD case, sapphire crystal, bold looks and a hefty price tag of $3,095. Though quite spendy, perhaps too much so, the watch is a good indicator of what the entire line is all about.
The main attraction of the CT Scuderia watches is the unique bullhead case design. With a multi-part construction, it not only has a rugged industrial aesthetic, it tells the story of the bullhead through design. Measuring a sizable 44 x 52 x 14.4mm (though it’s listed at 46mm diameter, perhaps as an average), the case can be broken down into three main sections: the top lugs, bottom lugs and central case. The central case is designed to look like a standalone stopwatch; it’s a smooth puck shape with curved sides and crowns/pushers at 12 that seems as though it would feel nice in the hand.
The top and bottom lugs are then designed to appear as attachments to the stopwatch case that allow it to be worn as a watch. There are many interesting little details going on here, such as how the lugs grip the top and bottom of the case with a small lip, and the many small hex head screws that appear both functional and aesthetic. The lugs themselves, which have a whopping 26mm width, are teardrop shaped on the bottom set, with a large hex head detail suggesting a screw bar that unfortunately doesn’t line up with the actual spring bar.
The top lugs appear as though they started with the same shape, but were machined away to allow access to the chrono-pushers and large 10mm wide screw down crown. The top lugs also allow for the strap to drop away when held in the hand, so one can have full access to the pushers. Enrico explained that the lug design is a real point of pride on this watch. Other bullheads, vintage and contemporary, have the top portion of the strap joining the case directly, in lugless fashion. Though this emphasizes the top pushers, it makes for a less ergonomic design.
The case back features a display window for viewing the ValSwiss chrono inside, which has some finishing worth enjoying. The design of the surrounding area is a bit different as the case back is PVD and is decorated with green, white and red (Italian flag) scallop shapes. There is a bit of text, which is filled in white too. Being that the PVD City Racer is sandblasted matter, there isn’t much to discuss in terms of finish. That said, the multi-part case allows for different finishes on various components for a more dynamic look. For example, on the Mastertime chronograph (which we also had on hand) the central case is polished while the lugs are brushed. I would have loved to have seen a drop more variation on the City Racer, perhaps with a gun metal PVD, or a mix of matte and brushed finishing.
The City Racer dial is about as subtle as the vehicles that inspired it. The bold, in-your-face design is aggressive, yet fun and sporty with a bit of 60’s flair, bringing to mind racing, tachometers, etc. The black dial surface contrasts the various indexes. The outer most index, which is quite busy, has a checkered flag motif. The minutes alternate, up and down, with white blocks and lined areas. Every 5 minutes or hour, there is small break for a rectangular marker. It’s definitely a striking design that takes a moment to get used to reading, but once you do telling time is natural.
Moving in, there is an index of oversized numerals for the minutes. It’s well executed with very crisp edges, though there is a bit of crowding, particularly around “55” which feels a bit too close to 60. Disrupting this index are the three sub-registers. At 3 and 9 are the minute and hour chronograph totalizers, respectively, and at 6 is the active seconds display. The sub-registers are all quite large and rimmed with a polished steel inlay, to separate them from the rest of the dial, and each has it’s own slightly different index vocabulary.
The minute register has 10, 20 and 30 numerals with hash marks at an interval of 2.5 minutes. The hour register has numerals for 12, 3, 6 and 9 alternating with dots. The sub seconds then has just lines at 10 second intervals. Within the seconds register is text reading “CT-014” in white, “Automatico” in red and two checkered flags.
The City Racer features a fairly modern handset design with narrow roman swords for both the minute and hour. The sub-registers all feature small stick hands, though the chronograph totalizers are distinguished by being red. The 60-second chronograph hand about the center of the dial is white. I really liked that the chronograph sub-registers had red hands and was surprised that the 60-second hand wasn’t red as well. There is lume present on the minute and hour hands, as well as the numerals on the dial, though it is quite weak all around.
Inside of the City Racer is the somewhat mysterious ValSwiss CHR – 01 STD movement. The brand itself is not one we were familiar with before this watch and unfortunately there is little info about them available. Enrico explained that they are quite small and new to making full calibers, but are a full-featured manufacture that makes all of their own complications. Clearly they are trying to provide an alternate source of Swiss made movements now that ETAs are largely unavailable to new brands.
The ValSwiss CHR – 01 STD is a 27-jewel automatic with a cam chronograph, hacking seconds, hand winding, date (though not in use), 40-hour power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 BPH. For all intensive purposed, it seems to be a stand in for the industry standard Valjoux 7750, with the same layout and function, though a few more jewels. The movement, which is viewable through the case back, has some interesting finishing in the form of a rotor with black PVD and perlage texture, a winding plate with PVD and cote de Geneve and blue screw through out. The black details are a nice touch and a bit different, though for a $3,095 watch, I expected a bit more finishing throughout.
In my time with the watch, I had no issues with accuracy, power reserve or chronograph function.
Straps and Wearability
The City Racer comes mounted on a medium to dark brown leather strap that compliments its aggressive style. Starting at 26mm at the lugs, the strap quickly tapers down to 19.5mm to provide a more comfortable wear. The strap is nicely designed, with white stitching, black edges and red lining. It also features quick-release spring bars. The only somewhat disappointing detail was the generic Pre-V buckle used. It works with the look of the watch just fine, but at this price point I don’t want to find stock parts or derivative designs. Considering the bold language of the case, there is clearly geometry they could have worked with.
The City Racer, and by extension the whole CT Scuderia line, wears very nicely. It’s much more tolerable than I expected given the large dimensions, sitting nicely on top of the wrist. It’s still comparatively huge, but comfortable and easy to wear. This is largely due to the lug-to-lug length (52mm) and bullhead crown positioning. The PVD also makes it seem a touch smaller than a steel version would.
Bold, aggressive and straight up cool, the design of this watch really comes to life on the wrist. It’s a watch, but it feels and looks like equipment. The multi-part case has a strong, machine-like aesthetic that has a lot of presence and will definitely turn heads. The dial is bright and energetic, giving the PVD case less of a mean, tactical look (as PVDs can be prone to) and more of a sporty tone, reflecting the motorcycles the watch draws from. Clearly, given the size and styling of the watch, it’s best worn with rugged and casual clothing. It’s got a leather jacket, blue jeans and work boots kind of feel.
For me, this watch is all about the bullhead case. It’s unique, well executed and intriguing. It speaks to vehicles, vintage sport watches and timing equipment. It’s the kind of design that you can just keep ogling and enjoying. The multi-part construction is clever, emphasizing the idea of a converted stopwatch, yet manages to very wearable for a large watch. It also allows for mixed finishes, which while not present on the City Racer, creates an even more dynamic design.
That said at $3,095, it’s very expensive and in tough competitive terrain. There are many high quality mechanical chronographs that can be had for less, as well as a few in house 3-hand movements from both German and Swiss brands. Considering the case, the watch’s main appeal, is also available on their least expensive models, the cost must be coming from elsewhere.
On a 3K watch you’d perhaps expect a higher level of finishing or unique case materials, but that isn’t what’s happening. So, I think the price indicates a couple of different things; the scarcity of new Swiss made mechanical chronographs, driving up industry prices and the brand’s desire to go retail. It’s not a secret that ETA isn’t making movements available to new brands, and is restricting quantities to its existing customers. That leaves brands like CT Scuderia with only a couple of options for movement sourcing, and a lot of competition for those movements.
Given Enrico’s history with brands like Fossil, his goal for the company is quite large. He wants to market this watch to trendsetters, and though perhaps a slow burn, create an enduring brand. For distribution, they are currently available online, but they are looking into large watch retailers and luxury department stores. Clearly, if they are presenting at Basel World, their goal is exposure and to attract buyers from larger retailers globally. Though on w&w we are used to small brands that do primarily internet sales, this is the more typical model, which does create higher prices.
That said, CT Scuderia has a range of quartz-chrono models, some of which have dial designs that are perhaps a bit stronger than the City Racer’s, such as the Red Zone, with it’s colorful palette and vintage lume, or the Cronoscalata Pikes Peak with it’s square sub registers and clean, non-numerical index. So, if the case has won you over, but the price hasn’t there are less expensive (though steep for quartz) and still stylish options.
By Zach Weiss