Tidlos Craft had the great pleasure to speak to Giuseppe Totaro (@giuseppe.totaro), a watch aficionado from Italy, about his passion for vintage watches and the detailed stories behind them. Born and raised in Florence, Giuseppe’s love for watches stems from being able to connect with others via these timepieces. Read along to uncover his fascinating stories including Citizen Eco-Drive, vintage Zeniths, and Daniel Roth.
Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
Tidlos Craft: Thank you very much Giuseppe for connecting, we are glad to hear your story.
@giuseppe.totaro: Thank you very much for inviting me.
“Watches are really something that connects people from different backgrounds, with different occupations and different religions. It is really something ‘transversale.’”
Tidlos Craft: Where are you from and live?
@giuseppe.totaro: I’m 100% Florentino. I was born 40 years ago in Florence and have been living and working in the region ever since. My background is in engineering, I had designed and manufactured large and complex air conditioning systems for 10 years. Now I work for a multinational pharmaceutical company and I am in charge of facility maintenance.
Florence, Italy, Photo Courtesy of getyourguide
Tidlos Craft: When did your passion for horology start?
@giuseppe.totaro: It basically started from 0, buying very simple and cheap watches. However, this allowed me to slowly grow my passion. I spent many hours and even nights talking to friends and researching a lot. The internet and social media was a great way to connect with like-minded people.
Tidlos Craft: What do you love about the world of horology?
@giuseppe.totaro: I love that besides learning about watches, you have the ability to make a lot of new friends from all over the world, learn about new cultures and mix both. Watches are really something that connects people from different backgrounds, with different occupations and different religions. It is really something “transversale,” something to help enjoy life. I’m lucky to have friends in different cities around the world who I could contact for advice and even have a drink with.
Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
“Once you study more brands and learn more histories you will easily find connections among them and this is a very interesting part about the watch industry, everything is very connected.”
Tidlos Craft: How did you start your IG account?
@giuseppe.totaro: It started as a fun project in 2015. It is 99% watch-related, but I’m not managing it professionally. I spend a lot of time on Instagram checking other accounts.
Tidlos Craft: How do you learn about the watch industry?
@giuseppe.totaro: I’m usually very focused. If I have a certain interest in a brand or a topic, I try to go very deep by buying books, reading articles, and usually finding collectors with similar interests around the world to talk to, sharing opinions, and making new friends every day. Once you study more brands and learn more histories you will easily find connections among them and this is a very interesting part of the watch industry, everything is very connected.
Tidlos Craft: What was your first watch?
@giuseppe.totaro: My first watch was a gift from my friends for my graduation. It was a Citizen Eco-Drive. I wore it on my wrist for about 3 or 4 years. Funnily I lost it once in a restaurant in Torino and found it again only a few weeks later, luckily it was still there! Two years later I started getting interested in Seiko watches and started researching them. The first piece I bought was a titanium quartz chronograph from Seiko. My family was not that into horology so we didn’t have a culture of my grandparents passing down a watch.
Tidlos Craft: What was your first mechanical watch?
@giuseppe.totaro: It was a manual winding Zenith, with 3 hands, standard configuration with second hand at 6 o’clock from the 1950s. It had a steel case and was very nice but anyway affordable. I immediately fell in love with that piece. It was something I was able to easily buy at that time and this also allowed me to study more about the craft, which appealed a lot to me.
After the Zenith I started buying many pieces. I used to buy various things on eBay. In the 90s, eBay was a treasure trove for vintage watches but sadly then I wasn’t passionate yet about watches. Ten years ago, it was a better place than now and I bought many things there over the years. Nowadays the market development and the new eBay rules have transformed that platform and it’s very hard to find new treasures there.
Zenith Cairelli, Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
Tidlos Craft: What appealed to you about vintage watches?
@giuseppe.totaro: You know, starting this passion with vintage watches I was able to choose many different topics and brands to study and it has been a great way to learn about the history of horology and watchmaking. If you look at the developments today in the industry you can see that quite everything comes from the past. If you know a bit about what happened in the past, you can better understand contemporary production and what to like or not like about it! My passion stemmed from understanding the roots and the history of the brands and their development. However, everything started from a simple three-hand watch!!
Tidlos Craft: What are the challenges when collecting vintage watches?
@giuseppe.totaro: One topic that you have to be prepared for is serviceability. You must be willing to struggle a bit if you want to use all the watches you own and always have them in good mechanical and aesthetical conditions. I always have one or two watches in service with different watchmakers.
Tidlos Craft: What do you enjoy about collecting watches?
@giuseppe.totaro: I think besides collecting, the greatest joy for me is actually the process of hunting watch models. Rather than owning them, the journey is a joy and it starts from the knowledge and the study.
Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
“I usually start with the movement which is to me, being an engineer, very important. If I don’t like the movement, even if the watch looks appealing, I won’t buy it.”
Tidlos Craft: Is there a philosophy that you follow when collecting?
@giuseppe.totaro: My philosophy is to look into the quality, always analyzing the features that are most important for me. In that sense, I follow my feelings and I try to analyze why I’m attracted to a certain timepiece. I usually start with the movement which is to me, being an engineer, very important. If I don’t like the movement, I won't buy it even if the watch looks appealing. As a second step, I look at the case, bezel, and dial. For example with a chronograph, I look at the harmony of the dial comparing it with the case size, checking the position of the counter, etc. As the last step, the feeling on the wrist is important to me. For example, if a timepiece is too light compared to the size, I won’t get the right feeling putting it on the wrist, and then eventually I won’t choose it.
Daniel Roth, Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
Tidlos Craft: Is there a watch in your collection that holds special meaning?
@giuseppe.totaro: There are two pieces. The first one would be the Daniel Roth Papillon Jumping Hour with retrograde minutes complication (patented). Daniel Roth, a true predecessor for independent watchmaking starting his own Maison in 1988, worked on this watch for the first 10 years of the Maison. It is the first one I bought from him and it is special to me as I had it on my wrist on my wedding day. I love the craftsmanship and the way it looks on the wrist, the case has a unique shape, the guillochè dial has many layers and it has an amazing 3D look and the overall quality is extremely high!
* A retrograde dial is a rather difficult complication, as the hand needs to move gradually in a particular direction along the arc. Upon reaching the end of it, it needs to suddenly jump back to the beginning. The Breguet Classique below features a retrograde dial between 4 and 7 o’clock to display power reserve.
Classique Chronométrie wristwatch in 18-carat rose gold, Photo Courtesy of Breguet
*For More Information about Daniel Roth:
A Collector’s Guide to Early Daniel Roth
The Collector’s Series – A seasoned collector and his rare Daniel Roth Papillon
@giuseppe.totaro: The other one is my Longines Weems Watch from 1930 in a silver case. It is a really important and rare piece. It was used for the exact measurement of time, it has an internal dial that rotates to allow it. You can synchronize the watch with the radio signal to have the exact indication of time also with the seconds. This watch was invented by Navy Captain Phillip Van Horn Weems. It was really important for the aviation industry and Weems helped Lindbergh to apply it.
I like the dimensions of the watch, it is huge, 47mm, it has a porcelain dial and an amazing movement that is derived from a pocket watch. I recently discovered that my watch was in the first delivery batch from Longines to the US aviation (May 1930) and that the writing “Solar” on the dial was added in the US as the watch was calibrated for the Solar time (it means 24 hr per day, civil time) and not for the Sideral time (a bit less than 24 hr per day). These two time measurements were used in the Weems celestial navigation method to do quick calculations along with the flight.
Longines Calibre, Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
The History of the Pilot Watch Part Four: Longines and Lindbergh, Photo Courtesy of Monochrome Watches
Tidlos Craft: Is there one watch that you would love to have one day?
@giuseppe.totaro: Haha, maybe too many. In Vintage the Longines Chronograph Sommatore Centrale, with the 13ZN calibre. It is really rare, one of the holy grails for vintage watch lovers and chronograph collectors. This one would be a piece I would love to find but it’s probably impossible. But oh well, I have a few friends who own it and I’m lucky to try it on sometimes.
Longines 13ZN-12 Sommatore Centrale, Photo Courtesy of Mimandcroket
A Detailed Look At Early Longines Chronographs, Including The Legendary 13ZN, Photo Courtesy of Hodinkee, Author, @phzhou_
In modern high-end watchmaking, there are many pieces. I would like to complete my Daniel Roth collection with a Tourbillon, as I don’t have one yet. His style is really unique.
Tidlos Craft: How do you see the difference between vintage and new watches today?
@giuseppe.totaro: Today it seems that many brands are deciding trends together or maybe copying from one another, which is a bit of a joke. For example this year, every Maison produced a green dial so a lot of green watches will invade the market. It’s hard to find who can invent something new and express this form of art in a new way. Vice versa, it’s hard to find who’s able to express this art in the traditional way either, because it’s usually too expensive for the medium buyer, and it’s not easy to survive as a brand without a strong history and great marketing.
Between the 30s and the 70s, it was not like that, it was a race to achieve some new goal. For example, Breitling was achieving amazing results with their pilot watches, it was a great way of competition. Every watch that was put on the market was there to achieve a specific goal. They were instruments and used for a certain field. Today they are mainly objects to show off. That’s why they are shiny, have diamonds, and need to be seen. In the past they were required to be used, to operate, and help the person to complete day-to-day tasks, for example, a diver confided to the watch to survive.
*A Pilot’s Watch must withstand extremely high stress – Breitling’s watches are known to be bold, extremely robust, and shock-resistant.
Tidlos Craft: How do you look at the watch brands today?
@giuseppe.totaro: I believe the iconic models will always be something of interest. They have a long history. I enjoy seeing how these models are adapting. In general, I’m anyway more interested in independent watchmaking, they are the way of expressing watchmaking in a way that I like. I find it difficult to be passionate about something made on an industrial scale and less led by quality. Independent watchmaking is for my true passion, more real and more connected to the past.
(On Watch Collecting) “I think focusing is very important, my advice is to understand which parts you are most interested in and are attracted to and focus on that particular part.”
Tidlos Craft: What advice would you give younger people who are just starting their collecting journey?
@giuseppe.totaro: I think focusing is very important, my advice is to understand which parts you are most interested in and are attracted to and focus on that particular part. Looking at too many things at the same time may be dispersive, the watchmaking world is huge! I suggest always finding information from different sources and going very deep into what you like.
Additionally, you should improve your knowledge about movements, especially if you hunt for older pieces. I would recommend starting by buying from trustworthy dealers and collectors, in the end, you also buy his or her experience.
And ask people for help and advice. I believe it is impossible to achieve something on your own. If you show the passion you will receive a lot of passion and help in return. If one only senses pure economic interest, one wouldn’t be happy to help. This will help you to increase your knowledge, no one can say they know everything. And this is especially true in watchmaking.
Tidlos Craft: Have you ever gifted watches to your family?
@giuseppe.totaro: Yes I bought vintage watches for my parents and for my wife. I bought a rare Eterna Kontiki with a black dial, “Beyer” signed (Retailer name on the dial).
Eterna 852 with Galvanic Gilt Dial, Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
Lange & Söhne 1 Moonphase, Photo Courtesy of @giuseppe.totaro
For the birth of my son, I bought a Lange & Söhne 1 Moonphase in Yellow gold. He will surely own my entire collection someday!
Tidlos Craft: Thank you very much Giuseppe for your time. It was a great pleasure to learn about your journey and perspective on the vintage market.
@giuseppe.totaro: Thank you very much!