CT Scuderia, led by a third-generation Italian watchmaker, embraces the Café Racer lifestyle to create a unique brand on the rise.
By Logan R. Baker
Photos by Dani Vernon
Given Switzerland’s proximity to Italy, it has always been something of a surprise that we haven’t seen a greater number of watch brands crossing the border for either commercial or manufacturing purposes. The few that have done so, such as Florentine-based Officine Panerai, have shed any connection to the billion-dollar Italian fashion industry. Instead, they have made names for themselves through a historical identity aligned with the Royal Italian Navy. Only Bulgari SpA has successfully navigated the confusing distinctions between haute Italian fashion and horology.
The latest Italian lifestyle trend to breach Switzerland’s traditionalist watch industry doesn’t come via the runways of Milan, but from sources with an unabashed desire for high speed and stripped-down, mechanical aestheticism.
This is where Enrico Margaritelli and his brand, ContaTempo (CT) Scuderia have found their niche. Translated to English, contatempo simply means “time counter.” Through his bullhead chronograph-filled collections, Margaritelli is determined to challenge common perceptions and advance watches crafted as a celebration of the Café Racer lifestyle.
Margaritelli is a third-generation watchmaker from Parma, Italy, who grew up racing motorbikes as well as developing a love for design. After spending 15 years at the Fossil Corporation in senior management, he left to form an independent marque that combined his passions.
The Café Racer motorcycle trend first emerged in the U.K. during the late 1950s, as young men started tearing their motorbikes apart to create minimalist, lightweight structures focused on speed, rather than safety or longevity. The design typically called for an elongated tank with low-set handlebars and a single slender seat. During the decades since its inception, the Café Racer design has popped up in a diversity of influential settings including a 2011 Chanel ad in which Keira Knightley rides a stripped-down 1973 Ducati that perfectly embodies the desired Café Racer aesthetic.
In contrast to motorcycle design, for which brands and trends often focus on variations of a certain style, it is rare to see a watch company fill its collections with a recurring design motif such as the bullhead style. To resolve this, Margaritelli developed a patented case construction, making the bullhead format more accessible and comfortable for the wearer. With most bullhead watches, where the crown and pushers are located at 12 o’clock, the strap has to be attached at the bottom of the case, which often makes for a flat case that suffers ergonomically and impairs comfort on the wrist.
Margaritelli solved this problem by developing a global patent for a two-case construction. He started with an inner case shaped like a stopwatch, and an outer one that is cut so that the inner portion of it attaches to the 12 o’clock side and the outer portion attaches to the 6 o’clock side. This outer case has integrated horns that turn down, enabling the wearer to operate the pushers at 12 while still yielding a watch designed to wrap and fit the wrist.
“This time around Enrico wanted to create his own brand that melds those passions in his life, as opposed to designing for others,” explains Barry Cohen, the United States distributor for CT Scuderia and original founder of Luminox.
The watches themselves are a combination of design panache and mechanical potency, much like the motorbikes that inspired them. Some of the more noteworthy lines that Scuderia carries include the Scrambler collection, with a chunky tonneau shape and a legible dial. The Testa-Piatta series is the only collection of chronographs that leaves the crown and pusher on the right side, presenting a more classic size and shape compared to the rest of CT Scuderia’s lineup. The Master Time section features the lone Swiss Made automatic chronograph movement, placing it in the upper range of the company’s offerings. There are 15 more collections that include several design tweaks ranging from subtle color changes to completely distinct dial textures and case shapes.
“CT Scuderia uses a highly stylized design, but uses fine components,” says Cohen. “And when you are creating fashion, it is Enrico’s thinking that it’s better to create something more approachable, more attainable so that the consumer won’t gasp at the price of something more fashionable.”
CT Scuderia timepieces are available for between $800 and $3,400 and can be found at fine timepiece retailers such as London Jewelers.