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Leave it to the Italians to come up with something stylish. Is that a cliché? Maybe, but that’s what a cliché is all about. The HTD Safarigraph was designed in Firenze but built for the desert. The original colorway of the 39mm retro-chronograph tells of “sprezzatura” or “studied nonchalance”.

It was the Italians that made the Daytona great. Not great again, just great, period. If it hadn’t been for them Rolex would still be having a hard time convincing dealers to take the Daytona in the collection. I’m exaggerating of course, but there’s a little bit of truth in there. Paul Newman wore a Daytona with an exotic dial on the cover of a highly popular Italian magazine in the early 1970s. And since everybody wanted to be cool like the Hollywood actor they copied the one thing they could copy: the watch.

And so they started buying the chronograph that was collecting dust in the watch stores of Rome, Milan, and Firenze, no doubt. Did this really happen or is it a myth? Newman once said that it could very well have happened like that. We’ll call it true-enough mythology.

The HTD Safarigraph Was Designed In Firenze But Built For The Desert

Meanwhile in Firenze

Nowadays a Daytona with an exotic dial is the ultimate dream watch of many. Probably also of Federico Del Guerra and Federico Zulian, two Italian designers who met during their studies. They set up HTD (Horological Tools Department Design) to produce watches that are meant to excite and even “pull out the best from our soul”. I don’t really know what Federico means but his passion for vintage pieces is evident.

One look at the Safarigraph and you know what I mean. It has that exotic Daytona feel while not trying to copy it literarily. However, some elements are somewhat reverential. The pump-pushers for instance and also the rattling bracelet and basic folding clasp; pure vintage Daytona. You can call it charming if you want.

The HTD Safarigraph Was Designed In Firenze But Built For The Desert

Classic pump pushers

Del Guerra and Zulian state on their website that they “don’t want to overdo it on a technical level” and the Safarigraph makes sure to keep things simple. For this chronograph, they called in the help of Matteo Fratini of The Watch Strategist to do the design. The heart of the watch is straightforward: it’s a chrono with a brown aluminum rotating bezel that feels tight all 120 clicks long. It has a 39 × 10mm steel, polished case with a solid case back, and a tall, domed Hesalite crystal.

The hand-wound chronograph movement HTD uses is a Chinese Seagull ST1901. These Seagull movements are assembled and regulated in their own atelier in Florence. It operates through classic pump pushers and a crown with a double internal gasket showing the HTD logo. The old-school rattling bracelet has been treated to a brushed finish.

Lions on the savannah

The main attraction is the dial. It is inspired by deserts, lions, and the savannah. These notions manifested as different shades of brown and beige with a hint of orange in bright light. A touch of red in the minute counter 3 ‘o clock and the name Safarigraph give the dial a freshness it would otherwise have lacked. Without the red, the dial color could have looked unintentionally faded. The red, however, reminds us this is all entirely deliberate.

What else is there to be seen? A brown tachymeter scale around the dial, brown sub-dials in a “bi-compax” layout, the HTD-logo, and the words “manual wind” and “anti-urto” — shockproof in Italian in — in white. A loupe is required, though, to discover the writing in white on the desert plain…sorry, I meant dial. The white hands have a highly functional design and they are filled, just like the hour markers, with sand-colored C3 Luminova.

The HTD Safarigraph Was Designed In Firenze But Built For The Desert

“Sprezzatura” for sale

Have you ever heard the phrase, “gentlemen don’t wear brown in town”? Well, that might be the case for the London gentleman, for the Italian “gentiluomo” that rule doesn’t apply. The Italian gentleman has “sprezzatura” — studied carelessness, that is — down to a T. Casually swinging a brown-dialed watch on the wrist fits right into that concept. Especially since it looks vintage. And, let’s face it, it’s on the basis of looks you decide to buy the Safarigraph. This model will set you back €750 and since HTD will only make fifty pieces it’s quite exclusive. For more information please visit htdwatchinstruments.

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