There is an ongoing and rather contentious debate happening in the world of watch manufacturing. And it all has to do with what is now being described as “affordable luxury.” And trust me when I tell you that brands like Filippo Loreti are not the only direct-to-consumer companies using that phrase. That phrase is being bandied about relentlessly by these brands to market themselves to a certain consumer group. I have an ever-growing spreadsheet list of these watch manufacturers making similar luxury quality claims.
Of course, the conflict comes from the world of discerning watch collectors, horology enthusiasts and the higher-priced brands. Claims of poor manufacturing quality and poorer components abound. And yet, if the rise of these direct-to-consumer watch brands has proven anything, it’s that there truly is a place for a thriving “affordable luxury” category in the marketplace. And while I hate to label these companies as disruptors, they are certainly upending consumer expectations and putting pricing pressure on the watch sector’s mid-range. In hindsight, this yawning hole in the marketplace, that companies like Filippo Loreti have rushed to fill in, was obvious. When selling products at markups of 5-40x their cost, the smaller fish will tend to sniff that out and want a piece of that lunch.
So who is Filipo Loretti, and why did they send me a watch to review? This European company is another brand looking to deliver “affordable luxury” timepieces at a fraction of the cost that its higher-priced competitors sell theirs. Started in 2015 with a crowdfunding campaign, Filippo Loretti was founded by two Lithuanian brothers, Danielius Jakutis and Matas Jakutis. And while it may be a little strange that a company headquartered in Lithuania gave itself an Italian name and bases its watch collection on Italian themes, it’s the sort of inspiration you don’t normally see. While that may be offputting for some snobby purists, I found it an interesting part of their brand story.
Each watch in its Men’s and Women’s collection pays homage to many icons of the Roman empire along with nods to the art, history and culture of Italy. In 2016, this brand ran a second Kickstarter campaign that raised a massive $5.17 million in thirty days from over 18,000 backers. The campaign broke all kinds of records and went on to be the 18th largest crowdfunding project in Kickstarter history at the time.
As I stated at the top of this review, Filippo Loreti is a brand that is caught up in the traditional war between horological purists who say that a great luxury watch must be made with parts sourced from certain countries. The purists also declare that great timepieces must be manufactured in specific parts of the world with rich watchmaking histories. On the other side of the war stand brands like Filippo Loretti. They have a strong devotion to the idea that great design and manufacturing methods can flourish from anywhere and the final product offered to the consumer for a much smaller price.
That said, it would be disingenuous to claim that the Filippo Loreti brand belongs in the high-end luxury category. It doesn’t. But where it does neatly belong is in the low-to-mid end spectrum of luxury watches—beautifully designed, yes. The height of Swiss or Japanese watchmaking? No. For that kind of luxury, you’ll have to look elsewhere. After all, most of their watches use fairly standard and unmodified Seiko and Miyota movements. But if you want to put a watch on your wrist that will look and feel good, and only spend between $150 – $600, then you’ve come to the right place.
And before we get to talking about the Ascari Moss Chronograph, the watch that was sent to me for review, I will say this. I’ll rarely come across any watch brand, at any price point range that I don’t find a design dud or two in it. Oddly enough, looking at the entire range of their Men’s collection, there is something that appeals to me in each one of them. Putting aside any other factor for the moment, whoever is designing these watches at Filippo Loreti, deserves a pat on the back. Oh, and I’ll also give them this, they sure do produce some slick marketing materials such as this video for their Ascari collection.
The Ascari Moss Chronograph
This watch belongs to the Ascari Grand Prix chronograph collection. It’s a tribute to the famous Italian racer, Alberto Ascari, Ferarri’s sole Italian champion at the GP World Championship. He was once described as ‘virtually impossible to overtake’ when leading, but the infamous Enzo Ferrari.
The entire Ascari watch collection comprises nineteen different combinations of dial, case, and strap options. So if you do like the look of this watch, but the green and gold finish isn’t quite your style, don’t worry, Filippo Loreti has plenty of other finishes to choose from.
Design & Aesthetics
As I’ve already stated above, I do like the overall look and feel of Filippo Loreti’s lineup of watches. That said, I think it would also be fair to say that the brand doesn’t have an overall cohesive design philosophy. It’s more of a throw things at the wall approach and see what sticks. Luckily the things they seem to be throwing at the wall so far appear to be quite sticky. How’s that for a tortured metaphor?
The Ascari watch I was sent was the Moss Rose Gold Rubber variant, and for all intents and purposes, it’s a beautiful watch. The dial strikes a good aesthetic balance by using the space wisely for both complications along with hour and minute markers. The Ascari Chronograph avoids the dreaded cluttering of the dial that so many modern-day Chronographs have fallen prey to these days. Perhaps my favourite aspect of the design is the gold colour on the stainless steel case’s finish. And while the “gold” comes through fairly strong in photos, in real-life settings, I have found the colour to be more reflective of a very soft bronze finish, which ultimately matches the green rubber band quite nicely.
Turn the watch around, and you’ll find an amazingly engraved old-school race car, completing the design theme for this watch. I also appreciate that Filippo Loreti had the restraint to once again, not clutter every square millimetre of the caseback with unnecessary information. The name of the brand and collection name “Ascari” adorning the caseback is just the right size.
The general sentiment about the build quality of Filippo Loreti watches appears to be somewhat mixed. At least based on everything I’ve read about them online. Perhaps we can chalk that up to the war between the purists and those that do in-fact desire luxury-looking watches without the need to rob a bank to be able to afford them.
Nevertheless, I can only give you my impression of the build quality if the Ascari Chronograph. Owning dozens of watches at various price points, from the absurdly high to the comically low, I’ve learned how to calibrate my expectations at those different price-category stratifications properly. That said, this watch from Filippo Loreti exceeded my expectations quite handily.
At least that’s true of the watch’s exterior as I have not cracked it open to see the internal build and movement, though I assume its fairly standard given that it uses the Seiko VD54 Quartz movement.
Using my magnifier, it would appear that the placement of each marker on the dial is placed relatively precisely with no major flaws. There are no detectable seam welds around the case or stainless steel buckle, and no elements of the watch aren’t centred precisely. Even the joints between the rubber band and case are small, precise and only expose the lugs ever so slightly when looking at the back of the watch.
If there’s one change I’d make regarding this watch’s build quality, it’s the choice of glass. According to Filippo Loreti, the glass is made of a “Sapphire Coated Mineral,” which reads as not pure Sapphire glass to me. I’m not overly concerned about what that means for this watch right now. After all, it’s brand new. But it may be one of those cost-saving material compromises that Filippo Loreti has made that will result in the face of this watch being scratched more easily than what you would expect with a proper Sapphire glass.
Size and Feel
Water-resistant to 100m, the Ascari Chronograph feels appropriately weighty. The combination of its 42mm case size and the rubber band results in a very comfortable watch. I’ve worn it for a bit over a week, and it feels just as comfortable as any of the other timepieces I’ve had for years.
The unidirectional outer bezel makes an interesting clicking sound when you rotate it, and at times I wish that noise was a bit less high-pitched. But that’s an incredibly minor quibble. The turn feels precise and requires just the right amount of force to turn, so no complaints there.
The Chronograph pushers feel solid and even nice to push on this 42mm case (a good sweet-spot in size for most Men’s wrists). At 11.9mm, the case thickness is also very middle-of-the-road. Not too thick, not too thin. Goldilocks territory!
The Band / Strap
This is the one part of the watch that I’m rather torn about. On the one hand, I love almost everything about this watch band. The pure rubber has a glorious silky feel to it that makes it comfortable and strong. The integrated stainless steel buckle is nicely complemented on the underside with an almost 3D waffle pattern along with a subtle brand mark. Those are all huge positives. But there is one part of this band that drove me a little crazy. In everyday use, you won’t notice it much, and in fact, anyone looking at your watch from a distance won’t see it much either, but there is no question that this rubber strap is an absolute lint and fluff magnet. Tiny small specs of white dust and dirt seem just to be natrually attracted to this band like there’s no tomorrow. So keep that in mind.
Presentation and Packaging
There’s not much to write home about here. The watch arrives in a fairly standard box without too many accoutrements. Pretty much what I’d expect at this price level. However, the one standout feature was the box’s reflective design, which brought it up a notch for me.
The Ascari Chronograph is a lovely watch, in almost any variant of strap and case colour. It has a lot going for it. Aesthetics, build quality, and look and feel are all, putting aside some relatively minor flaws I mentioned above, very good. The quality to price ratio here is very good, and that’s what many savvy young shoppers are looking for. Is it the same quality you’d expect from a $1000+ Chronograph? Obviously not.
That said, if you’re looking to add some colour, fun, outstanding aesthetic appeal and more than good-enough quality to your watch collection, don’t shy away from the Filippo Loreti brand. It’s well worth the money you’re going to spend.