Crafting Emotions in Toronto

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The Art of Horology through the Eyes of a Craftsman

In the brisk, early days of March, as Toronto began to shake off the chill of winter, I found myself in conversation with one of my favourite master watchmakers, U-Boat’s own Italo Fontana , marking his first-ever visit to our vibrant city. The encounter promised to uncover the deep and intricate layers of a craft seldom explored outside the elite circles of haute horlogerie.

Our meeting began with the typical casual greetings — “Hello, how are you?I am a huge fan, bla bla bla” — that soon escalated into expressions of surprise and elation. “Unbelievable! I just survived when, yesterday…..!” he exclaimed his enthusiasm. His presence in Toronto was not just a physical arrival but a profound connection to his life’s work and philosophy, resonating deeply even in these initial, light-hearted exchanges.

More Than Mechanics

What brought this celebrated watchmaker to Toronto? “It’s my first time here,” he shared with a hint of awe. “U-boat is a big family; it’s not just a job, not just business. It’s about more than numbers.” He views his craft as much more than the mechanics of timekeeping — his customers are his community, and his relationships are built on sincerity and time itself.

Despite his prominence in the world of watchmaking, he shared a surprising personal revelation: “I don’t actually love watches.” Yet, his life is dedicated to them. “When you buy a U-boat, you’re not just buying a brand; you’re buying an emotion, not just any but my own emotions.” This approach informs every timepiece he creates, transforming them from mere tools to emblems of personal identity and emotional resonance.

Inspirational Muses

Inspiration for his designs springs from his rich Italian heritage, blending seamlessly with his innovative spirit. “My latest inspiration? My boat, the Dark Moon, features a compass with oil inside,” he described, showing how his ideas often emerge in the solitude of night, a blend of restlessness and revelation.

Reflecting on his trailblazing journey, he noted his role in popularizing large watches, a trend that has paralleled developments in other design fields, such as automobiles. “I introduced big watches 25 years ago,” he explained, detailing his innovative design choice to position the crown on the left to enhance wearer comfort — a thoughtful detail that shows his empathy for user experience.

A Vision for Canada

His aspirations for Canada are ambitious, aiming to make a significant impact on the market. “I see potential here to do something special, to create a ‘wow’ factor,” he mused, considering future boutique openings and unique market strategies similar to his successes in cities like New York and Rome.

As our conversation turned towards the future, his enthusiasm for his craft was evident. He emphasized the upcoming bronze Capsule Collection as a pivotal evolution for his brand, noting as unique as the established Capsoil collection with its full oil dials and distinctive materials. “It’s different from anything else on the market,” he asserted, his eyes sparkling with the excitement of innovation.

Our conversation wrapped up with promises of future visits and continuous innovation, leaving behind the story not just of a man who makes watches, but of one who crafts moments, memories, and emotions, all wrapped around the wrist. His March journey through Toronto was not merely a passage through space but a timeless exploration into the very heart of what makes his watches truly special.

Podcast Preview and Special Invitation

This article offers just a preview of the detailed and engaging conversation featured in our upcoming podcast. To hear the full discussion and delve deeper into the art and philosophy of watchmaking, subscribe to the Canadian Jeweller’s Newsletter. Subscribers will gain exclusive access to this episode and many more insightful stories from the world of jewellery and luxury watches. Join us to ensure you don’t miss this fascinating episode!

Italo Fontana and the Rise of U-Boat Watches

In the quiet streets of Lucca, a picturesque town in Tuscany, an extraordinary story of innovation and design began to unfold in the late 1990s. In the historic ambiance of Lucca, Italy, Italo Fontana unearthed a family treasure that would soon transform the watchmaking landscape: the bold, original designs crafted by his grandfather during World War II, intended for the Italian Navy but never produced. Inspired by these robust and distinctive designs, Italo launched U-Boat Watches in 2000, turning visionary sketches into tangible masterpieces.

The Art of the Unconventional

U-boat watches are renowned for their size—often exceeding 50mm—and for features like the unique crown-locking system and the use of luxury materials like titanium and bronze.

But it’s not just the size or the materials that make U-Boat stand out. It’s the philosophy behind them. Each piece is infused with a narrative, one that speaks to both its historical roots and its modern execution.

Italo’s involvement in every step—from design to assembly—ensures that each watch is not only a product but a personal testament to his dedication and passion. This hands-on approach has kept U-Boat niche and exclusive, appealing to enthusiasts who value authenticity and craftsmanship over mass production.


A Timeless Statement

U-Boat’s global recognition today goes beyond its large dials and bold aesthetics; it’s celebrated for embodying Italian luxury and the spirit of bespoke craftsmanship.

Italo Fontana’s journey with U-Boat is a powerful reminder of the impact of blending history with innovation. His work not only honors his grandfather’s legacy but also pushes the boundaries of traditional watchmaking, proving that true inspiration can shape not just timepieces, but time itself.

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