When Italian entrepreneur Francesco Calamai sold his business in 2008, he set out to create something that would combine his two greatest passions in life; airplanes and watches.
Calamai’s father was a fighter pilot in the Royal Italian Air Force and participated in the Battle of Great Britain as well as the Spanish War. His father’s military career inspired Calamai to do something great as a tribute to his father while taking into consideration his accomplished career as a pilot. This is how the Orologi Calamai brand was born. A pilot himself, Francesco understood a watch's importance when flying. Rather than simply creating a brand, Calamai set out to design something he himself would want to wear, something with its own story.
Instead of using conventional materials, Calamai watches incorporate real airplane parts in their structure. The G 50 model in particular has a case made out of the turbines of the F 104 combat fighter jet. The F 104 or “Starfighter,” as it’s sometimes referred to, was first developed by the United States Air Force in 1958 and was used by more than a dozen nations for almost fifty years. This high-performance fighter jet is famous for being the first ever combat aircraft capable of sustaining Mach 2 flight and remains a symbol of excellence years after its creation. Calamai’s watches use a particular model that was used in the same Italian Air Force his father once served in.
But there’s more to these incredible watches. The G 50 is available in two distinct models. The “Chronograph Model” is an intricate design with three different chronograph counters measuring seconds, minutes and hours. The “Automatic Date Model” is more in the vein of a conventional watch. Both were created with a tremendous standard of quality. Readability was an important factor for Calamai when first designing the watch. His hope was to create a product with which the consumer could tell the hour and minute without having to look twice.
All Calamai watches are COSC certified. The COSC is a Swiss institute that certifies the precision and accuracy of watches made in Switzerland. The group was founded back in the 1970s and assigns a serial number to each chronometer that has been officially certified. In order to be certified, the watches are put through a painstakingly detailed series of tests. Each single movement is tested individually over a course of fifteen days in five different positions and in three different temperatures. The watches' automatic mechanisms are cut off for theses tests and measurements are made daily. There are then seven types of eliminatory criteria that must be met in order to be COSC certified, all based on the previous measurements and data gathered during the testing. The individually assigned COSC certification number can be found on the back of each Calamai product.
Quality is an important factor in the production of each Calamai watch. Each miniscule component is held to a certain quality of excellence. Calamai watches use a robust Swiss mechanism also certified by the COSC. It was also important for the assembly process to be COSC certified. With only three percent of Swiss watch production being COSC certified, Calamai products are certainly part of a select few, alongside renowned watch makers such as Rolex and Omega.
While a majority of their competitors’ products are mass produced, Calamai chose to go the opposite route, having a single master watch-maker perform the assembly process.
“I didn’t want to make just another mass produced product,” says Calamai, “but a timepiece with indescribable quality, passion and the life-long experience of a true craftsman so that each watch is one of a kind.”
From the idea behind the product to the materials used, Calamai watches are nothing short of exceptional. The attention to detail as well as the desire to create a quality hand made product is apparent in each unique model. Driven by a passion for aviation, a strong respect for his father, and with roots spanning as far back as the Second World War, Francesco Calamai took to doing something as old as watch-making while adding his own personal touch to the process.
“This watch is dedicated to those who do not want to be something they are not” says Calamai, “but those who want to express their own individuality. I hope the ones who wear my watches will feel the love and pride that have gone into the creation of these exquisite timepieces.”
It’s reassuring to see such care, passion and dedication being put into the creation of something as simple as a watch. In a world where the majority of what we purchase is mass produced, the idea of a company still creating things so meticulously and being guided by a unifying vision and commitment to excellence is not only impressive, but admirable as well. What makes these pieces different is not only the material used, but the process in which they’re crafted as well as the unique story and passion behind their conception.