There are watches that become classics over time and there are some watches that can become instant classics. Whether it is a watch that is from a company that has a long, rich history or if it is a watch from a new company, there are certain attributes that can make that watch a classic. Then there are watches that our instant classics in our eyes as an owner of that watch. Watches that we instantly fall in love with. We all have our details on a watch that draws us in, that we look for on a watch. Could be a domed crystal or a large signed crown or even a larger detail like if a watch is a pilot style watch or a dive watch. Whatever the reason, it is what initially draws us in to a specific watch and it makes the watch special to us. Then there are reasons that we can’t quite explain on why we love a watch, but we feel that unexplainable force pulling us. Those mysterious forces can’t be explained. Perhaps the watch gods are toying with our affections and have allowed cupid to shoot us with his arrow, making us instantly fall in love with no explainable reason.
This is how I feel about the Anonimo Dino Zei San Marco, the vintage watch that we will be exploring today. I am trying something a little different today. There is a constant flow of new and exciting watches that are coming out all the time, that I often lose focus of the past. So I want to start a new series of reviews where we can take time to explore some watches that are from the past. I will give you a brief history of how Anonimo can to be born from a well known legacy. In life we know we have that choice when something happens that isn’t in our control, we can either sink or swim. I know everyone has a moment in life where they had that choice. This choice was one that Federico Massaces had to face when Panerai was bought by the Vendôme Group and the company was eventually moved to Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Federico Massaces was faced with the choice on moving with the current of Panerai’s sea or swimming against the current and staying with the history deep in Italian tradition in Florence starting something new. This is how Anonimo came to be born in 1997. Instead of abandoning history and tradition Federico Massaces made his choice. A bold and courageous choice. Many of the Panerai watchmakers who did not want to relocate to Switzerland stayed in Florence and joined the Anonimo team.
The case on the San Marco is a true work of art. A case that was milled on the same machines that Panerai used for years. Its those little details that add up making the San Marco a truly special watch. The dark case is beautiful. The case gets this dark color from a unique process done by Anonimo. The Ox Pro treatment gives the San Marco that grey textured finish. Federico Massaces explains that the cases are first machined, they are never stamped. Once the case is hand polished/finished, the Ox Pro-B coating is applied. But insted of stopping there, the case is polished yet again. This is what results in the unique grey color. It looks and feels unlike any other case I have felt.
The case in one massive piece of steel and to access the movement you have to take the screws off the front of the case, remove the bezel, crystal and then by removing the unique screw on the back of the case this release the movement. Evidently there is no removable case back on the San Marco. Very unique. Touching back on the case and how it was made. Each case is hand machined from a solid block of stainless steel. Federico believes that stamping the cases damages the strength of the material used. When you hold the San Marco you do immediately get a sense of the strength and ruggedness. The fixed bezel is held in place by 5 Thorx screws. These screws guarantee a superior grip and a superior tightening (30%) compared to that of a normal traditional head screw. Not only that, but the screws look absolutely killer as well. Something else that you will immediately notice are the various sized/shaped crowns. Each crown note only operates differently, but of course operates the different functions as well. It’s so fun when a watch has multiple functions, so much to play with tickles the watch enthusiast’s fancy.
The king of the crowns located at the 2 o’clock position is the largest of the three. King crown only spins 90 degress and is screwed down with spring release action. Comparable to Gi Joe’s kung fu grip. To unscrew the crown, you push pressure down to compress the spring and turn the crown releasing it pop up style. I never had a crown operate this way, it is quite cool. The king crown is in charge of many of the San Marco’s functions such as winding, setting the date, time and D-Day countdown function. The D-Day function is my personal favorite. You can use it to countdown to an important date that is within a 7-day period. Yes, in this tech filled society we live in you can use your cell phone, but that isn’t magical at all. This is truly mechanical magic and I personally love it.
What I also love is the D-Day counter itself. The raised sub dial at 8 & 9 o’clock position is a real beauty. I am such a sucker for vintage diving helmets and the San Marco is a dream for that. Not only does the case back feature an awesome engrave diving helmet, but the D-Day counter does as well. Printed in crisp white, it looks absolutely fantastic set on the matte black dial. The counter itself has printed white numerals on a black wheel. Easily read. I love the detail that Anonimo did here, instead of eliminating the number 9 they printed it partially on the raised sub dial and partially on the dial itself. Not only does it keep the flow, but it also looks so good like this as well.
The crown signed with the Anonimo logo located at the 4 o’clock position is responsible for operating the inner bezel/chapter ring which is a world time function. You can rotate bi-directionally once you have unscrewed the crown and rotate it. A very cool and useful function especially for those whom do a lot of traveling across the various timezones. This brings us to the final little crown 👑 who is located all by himself between 9 and 10. Unscrewing this little master, allows you to set the “second timezone”. Its a 24 hour timer and is separated into am/pm awesomeness. I love this feature. I work in an environment that uses military time, so this feature helps me quite a bit. The crown unscrews of course and to set the time you use the crown as a button pusher which advances the small white hand on the subdial located between 10 & 12. The pm hours are represented in a deep blue semicircle and the am hours are in a white semicircle.
Some have said that Anonimo never were able to produce a good dial. Some have said that the San Marco’s dial is way too busy. I say bullocks to all of those naysayers. The San Marco’s dial is a real work of art and was extremely well thought out & executed. There is a lot going on with this dial, but it all flows in a beautiful horological dance that is something truly unique to behold. The date window at 2 is this small round window that is encircled with beautiful bronze. That beautiful bronze, perfectly matches the San Marco logo right below it. The amount of detail in the San Marco logo is amazing in itself because of how small the logo is. It has to be the most intricate and beautiful printed logos I have ever seen on a dial. It is like a mini piece of beautiful Italian artwork, and we all know how rich Italian art history truly is.
The hands on the San Marco are quite beautiful as well. The hour and minute hands are partially skeletonize which not only looks great, but also are functional as well. What I mean by functional is that they allow you to tell the time of course but they also allow you to see through them which doesn’t inhibit viewing what is on the dial underneath the hands. The large arrow head tipped second hand is a perfect length that reaches out to the inner chapter ring. The three main hands are white and each has lume treatment that glow beautifully throughout the night. The hour markers are also coated in lume. The lume on the San Marco glows so bright and when fully charged lasts through the night. Even still after 10 plus years. There is a wee little red hand that appears to be floating on the dial just slightly to the right above 6 o’clock. This little hand serves as the power reserve marker. I personally love power reserve indicators because you never have to guess if or when your watch needs a good winding. Not only that but it is so addicting to wind it up and watch the indicator hand “juice up” the power.
Yes you can keep track of how much “juice” is left on the San Marco, but what movement is responsible for powering this watch? It is a mod. 12000 Movement Automatic Soprod SA, caliber 9055/2892-A-2-SO on base ETA 2892-2. It features 30 jewels. This movement also antichoc Incabloc anti-shock protection. The San Marco’s hesrt bests a 28,800 A/h and has a overall power reserve of 40 hours. Let’s get geeked here for a few and state that the escapement is Glucydur balance, with an Anachron hairspring and is adjusted in 4 positions. This movement has an accuracy tolerance of 0 +15sec/day. The movement has a Colimaçon finish, with a very nice Anonimo Firenze rotor. Inside the escapement assortment is high quality made, which is set up to chronograph certifications (COSC). What is really a set up is that Anonimo added an upper module that is laid on the base caliber, the upper module is in charge of running all the San Marco’s additional functions.
Not that we have explored the San Marco inside and out, let’s strap this bad mother f’er to the wrist. How? By the beautiful brown leather strap of course. Probably one of the nicest factory straps that I have come across. It is so nicely padded, stitched with patina color precision stitching and features a killer buckle that features the Anonimo logo and an engraved diving helmet. This strap looks fantastic even after 10 plus years of use and abuse. Its so comfortable on the wrist and it makes me fall in love with leather straps every single time I put this watch on my wrist. As you can tell I really love everything about this watch. This is one of those watches that remains in a collection for a very, very long time. Some would refer to this as a true keeper.
There is so much history in this watch, yes the company is not that old, but you think about the machines and craftsmanship that went into making this watch, it truly is a classic. The machines alone that made this watch is so cool. Most of the original Panerai machines were left behind when the company was moved to Switzerland as did a lot of the watch makers. The knowledge of the past forged this watch on the machines of the past, creating a true classic that is full of wonderfully small details. These details add up to a spectacular watch, that never disappoints but functionally and aesthetically. If you are a fan of dive watches, a fan of Italian watch history and a fan of unique watches, then you owe it to yourself to track down one of these beauties to try it for yourself. Take a look at what Anonimo is doing this year at Baselworld, I believe that they are on the right track of reinventing themselves.
Thank you all for reading my first vintage review. As always comments and questions are welcome below.