The New Venezianico Nereide Ultraleggero — The Brand Formerly Known As Meccaniche Veneziane’s Flagship For The Future
If you’ve never heard of Meccaniche Veneziane, don’t worry about it. Those days are gone. They’re in the past. There’s a new kid in town, and he’s here to stake his claim to the narrow streets, historic bridges, and ubiquitous canals of MV’s hometown of Venice. From the ashes of the brand’s original name rises Venezianico, an ear-catching neologism that skips off the international tongue far better than its forerunner ever did. For the past week, I’ve been wearing the new Venezianico Nereide Ultraleggero, the renamed brand’s flagship for a new age. Having done so, I can safely say that it isn’t just the image that’s been overhauled; the watches themselves have stepped up their game too.
I’ve owned two Meccaniche Veneziane watches since the successful conclusion of the brand’s first Kickstarter in 2017. I remember the moment I backed the brand well. I was lounging by a pool in a hotel a few kilometers outside the center of San Diego, idly scrolling through novel watch projects while the sun did its best to incinerate me. My choice? The black-dialed Nereide with a red bezel. Why? Because I saw it as a cost-effective alternative to the Heritage Black Bay I’d been eyeballing for some time.
I opted for a see-through case back and a Japanese movement. I seem to remember that that option didn’t hang around in the regular catalog for too long. That’s a shame. The rotors turned out to have nice decoration and, all things considered, it was a very good watch for the money. It was so good, in fact, that I bought two. I went for the “Hulk” version as well. I’m not sure why I was feeling so flash at the time. Maybe the sun had baked my frugality into submission. Whatever it was, I backed them both and found myself impressed when they arrived.
As I always say, branding gets you the first sale; the products themselves get you the second. Meccaniche Veneziane had won me over with the hometown-hero backstory. A watchmaker in Venice? Whoever heard of such a thing! What if these guys turn out to be good? I don’t want to miss this…
Straight out of the box, I was impressed. Firstly, I must admit, I was impressed by the luxurious wooden box. It outpunched the packaging I’d seen from brands retailing for ten times as much. Honestly, conjuring images of what I could store in those boxes excited me more than the watches at the time. But that’s not to say I was disappointed with the timepieces; it’s just that I’d expected so little in the way of add-ons, the wooden carton pleasantly surprised me.
The one negative thing I’ll say about the branding of Meccaniche Veneziane (and I’ve made this clear from day one, whether I meant to or not) is that the name, totally in isolation of the watches, was entirely, totally, 100% crap. Need me to prove to you why? Just ask me to say it. I still can’t. Not after five years of owning two of the brand’s watches. Not after talking directly with the founders. No. I cannot say it even after practicing it. When I first tried it without tuition, it was even worse. It was, to say the least, a disaster.
There are about three things I remember from my childhood. One: I lost my favorite yellow football in the river of my first house in County Wicklow, and I was too scared to jump in after it. Two: I got another yellow football on our ’94 holiday to Corfu. Three: around the turn of the century, Jif (a popular cleaning fluid available all around Europe) changed its name to Cif.
This kept me up at night more than the despair of losing that first flyaway and more than the joy of procuring a second. I couldn’t understand it. Try as she might, my poor mother couldn’t explain it to me either, and so, every night, as she lay me down to bed, she was forced to hover in my doorway, listening to me agonize over what I took to be a completely unnecessary about-face by a well-loved brand.
“Cif” tried to explain that the problem was that “people on the continent” couldn’t pronounce the hard J in Jif. This was clearly a post hoc justification for changing the UK bottle (a move undoubtedly motivated by the cost of producing multiple labels for multiple territories), as the people of Europe had been cleaning with Jif for years and never countenanced for a second changing their cleaning fluid to Cif. I also tried pointing out that surely the letter “C” is also difficult for some nations (I mean, is it “Siff” or is it “Kiff”?), but money talks louder than a 15-year-old boy. I shut my mouth and waited until now, 22 years later, to bring it up again. Thanks, Venezianico; I owe you one.
Excuse me, sir. Did you order a point?
My point is this: universal branding is an art form. We all have different languages, accents, and human experiences that shape the way we read and say things. Coming up with a brand name that is short, catchy, memorable, and pronounceable by all is, well, quite frankly impossible. Coming up with a brand name that is most of those things to most of its consumers is, at the very least, hard work.
One read of branding in which Meccaniche Veneziane/Venezianico succeeded from the start was its logo and wordmark. My rule for an excellent logo is that it should work without color and entirely on silhouette alone. A logo can be embellished with color (as the Venezianico cross often is with gold and the wordmark with a just-off-black gray), but it should not depend upon it. Shapes matter. They are memorable. I have talked at length about the importance of an “identifiable silhouette” for a watch case. Here, the same is true. Venezianico nailed the logo from the get-go. The name, which would almost certainly be mispronounced by the majority of the brand’s customers, needed a revamp.
And it got one. And how! Venezianico is a neologism, so don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what it means. It is derived from “Veneziano”, which is an adjective meaning “relating to Venice”, and “-ico”, which is a Latin suffix meaning, “a way to be”. So, to put that all together, Venezianico is a word expressing a lifestyle and a culture that is inherent to Venice and her people.
The watch that’s flying the flag
Somewhere within this article, there is a line or two about a watch, I promise… The Venezianico Nereide Ultraleggero is the futuristic successor to the pair of Nereides I bought all those years ago by the pool in San Diego. As luck would have it, I have them both in hand, and I’m able to compare the differences between the watches from day one and the brand’s modern-day fare.
There are some very striking differences between the dials, which I’ll address shortly. What I’d like to focus on first, however, are the significant improvements made in case manufacturing. Now, the designs of the Nereide and the Nereide Ultraleggero are slightly different. The Ultraleggero has a seamless transition from the case band to the lugs, but the lugs themselves are angled on the tops, creating a sharper and edgier appearance from the top down.
Adding a layer of refinement to proceedings, however (and most definitely the biggest improvement between old and new), is the polished chamfer that runs all along the edge of the case band and down into the lugs. Not only does this effectively and decisively separate the brushed finish of the case band from the brushed finish of the lug face, but it also adds significant visual interest to the case in general. It is, quite simply, a masterful improvement, and it instantly adds value to the newer model.
A better bezel
The original bezel inserts on the debut Nereide models were anodized aluminum. They were fine. I actually kind of liked the old-school look. And it’s worth pointing out that even though the modern Ultraleggero is clearly a better product than the original Nereide, I don’t necessarily like it more. It is just materially superior, and the bezel is no exception.
The bezel of the modern version I have here for review is different in a few ways. Firstly, it is not anodized. Rather, it is bare metal with engraved and filled numerals and markings. It sits within a 120-click unidirectional 60-minute timing bezel, the outer teeth of which are polished and squared as opposed to brushed and scalloped. It is certainly less “off-the-shelf” than the original design. Initially, I wasn’t so convinced by the fact it was polished. I generally prefer brushing on the more exposed surfaces of tool watches. But next to the sunray brushing of the bezel insert, it works as a point of immediate contrast. It’s also an obvious external link to the polished hour markers that feel more integrated into the design because of it, as well as the polished chamfer of the case band.
Holding these two watches side-by-side is a weird experience. It would, I think, be valuable for many watch lovers to do the same to see (and, perhaps more crucially, feel) the differences here. Everything about the Ultraleggero is done to a higher standard. Every angle is more precise. Every finish is more competently applied. Muddy, buttery, bleeding elements from the early designs are all gone in favor of crisp, deliberate, and well-marshaled elements that have elevated this offering in a way befitting of its new retail price.
Honestly, I prefer the open case back of the original Nereide to the modern version’s Da Vinci-inspired decoration. Nevertheless, that’s a personal thing. The big talking point here is on the other side of the watch, after all. The dial of the Nereide Ultraleggero is as eye-catching as they come. And, in my opinion, it is a lot better when scrutinized than it appears at first glance.
Dialing it up a notch
This is not a skeletonized movement. Instead, it is an open-heart Seiko NH70A, giving us a pretty uninterrupted view of the balance at 9 o’clock. It has been cleverly overlayed with two cut-out plates with different surface finishes. This gives them the appearance of being slightly different shades of anthracite, although their plating process is undoubtedly identical.
This gives the dial incredible depth. It is not as visually noisy as a true skeleton, which I’m glad to see. The fact that the hour markers, dial text, logo, and wordmark all sit above this smart decoration, printed or mounted on a totally see-through disc, also helps with legibility. Put succinctly, this is, in theory, everything I don’t want to see in a watch display done so well (especially considering the price point), that I don’t just find myself tolerating it, but actually drawn to it again and again.
What does it cost?
So, I mentioned not only the price point but also the fact this model is significantly more than the original model. However, we’re still dealing in the ultra-accessible regions of the industry. The original Nereide from 2017 cost €229 during the Kickstarter campaign and €469 thereafter. This model, the Venezianico Nereide Ultraleggero, costs a rather reasonable €685 in 2022.
…a very interesting, quite unexpected step forward for the brand…
Generally speaking, this is not the kind of watch I buy these days. But there was clearly a point in my collecting career that this was absolutely what I was susceptible to falling for. I think the Nereide Ultraleggero is a very interesting, quite unexpected step forward for the brand from Venice. I had expected something more conservative, but it’s clear that the brand is channeling the inventive spirit of its home city to great effect.
While I’m fond of both Nereides I’ve had on my wrist, I find the newer Ultraleggero to be the more interesting of the pair. The machining is very good for this price point, and the novel dial construction (in which the lower decorative layer also acts as the casing ring) is a cool, patented feature that I think justifies the asking price. What do you think of this watch? What are your experiences with the brand? Let us know in the comments section below. Learn more about the newly rebranded Venezianico here.