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May 21, 2024

Locman, the Italian watch on the world stage

Locman is many things – but one distinct soul. Many things because, historically, it is the most important and structured Italian watchmaking company, with impressive numbers. Just to say, the brand’s distribution network counts 1,200 authorised dealers worldwide and, icing on the cake, seven flagship boutiques scattered between the Island of Elba (Marina di Campo, Portoferraio and Porto Azzurro) and the rest of the world (Milan, Florence, Antigua and Tokyo). It is many things, we were saying, because through the other companies owned by Locman – including Genesi, a Milan factory founded over fifty years ago by brother watchmakers Luigi and Armando Leandri, acquired in 2003 and incorporated in 2021 – Locman is also the Italian reference in the ‘private label’ segment: from the initial project to production. It is many things, moreover, because it is one of the leading partners of the reborn watch manufacturer OISA 1937, a historic mechanical movements factory, ‘Made in Italy’. Which in 2022, after a good five years of research and development, presented the new OISA Cinque Ponti manual mechanical movement. While the soul – alone and firmly at the helm – is obviously that of its president, Marco Mantovani, born on the Island of Elba in 1961 and who, at his home in Marina di Campo in 1986, set up Locman together with his friend Fulvio Locci. It is from the first letters of their surnames that the company acronym is formed.

FIRST STAGE – THE MEETING WITH GINO MACALUSO 

We’ve asked Marco Mantovani about the five most important stages in his extraordinary entrepreneurial career.

Marco Mantovani Locman

Let’s start with the first… ‘Perhaps not everyone knows that in 1986 Locman was founded as a leather goods design company. With Locci, being great watch enthusiasts, we went to Baselworld in the spring of that year. We entered with our briefcases to present our leather straps to the luxurious and stylish watchmaking world. We were young and reckless enough to ignore that we couldn’t sell our products without being exhibitors. The gendarmes quickly caught us and threw us out. We came back with only a few straps in our pockets and met Gino Macaluso, one of the greatest men in the history of world watchmaking. He fell in love with our straps, and that’s how it all started, by meeting the man of destiny.”

SECOND STAGE – RADICA AND CARLO CROCCO

What happened next? ‘The following year we produced the first Genesi watches for third parties, and then, in 1988 we made the first Locman-branded watch. It was the Radica, a completely handcrafted product, with gold parts and heather briar root, a precious wood typical of the Island of Elba and the Mediterranean maquis…’

Locman Radica
Locman Radica

The Radica is a resounding success! ‘Yes, it gave us great satisfaction and, above all, attracted the attention of another watchmaking giant on the world stage: Carlo Crocco, at the time owner of Hublot. Carlo became a Locman shareholder in 1990, and also our global distributor. This was another decisive step in our international growth.’

THIRD STAGE – THE SUMPTUOUS NINETIES

Then comes the triumph of the nineties? Marco laughs. ‘In that decade, many important things happened in my life and in Locman’s life. First of all, I met my wife Gloria, the woman of my life. In 1996, we expanded the Marina di Campo headquarters, just a few steps from the sea. Then two long-standing friends, Giuseppe Pea and the American Ben Feigenbaum, joined the corporate asset. And, above all, on the product side, we introduced the Sport collection with the best-seller in aluminium, and aluminium and diamonds.’

Locman HQ
Locman HQ
Locman HQ

Specifically, can you tell us an anecdote? ‘Let’s say that Locman sales were growing strongly, particularly in the US. And it was also happening thanks to a stroke of luck. On the first day that our watches were on display in the windows of one of the most famous shops on the planet, Bergdorf Goodman, the large luxury shopping mall on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York, Jennifer Lopez and her then partner Puff Daddy walked in. Ms Lopez lingered over an aluminium and diamond Sport model. Puff Daddy noticed his companion’s attention to our watch and, shortly afterwards, returned to the shop alone to buy two. One for himself and one to give to his partner as a birthday present. And that’s when the pandemonium happened. At that point, everyone wanted the aluminium and diamond model. And by everyone we mean people like Sharon Stone and Nicole Kidman. Even Elton John bought three hundred of them as gifts for his birthday guests!

Locman
Puff Diddy
Sharon Stone

FOURTH STAGE – CONSOLIDATION AND CARBON

As they say, fortune favours the bold! What happened in the 2000s? ‘These were the years of consolidation. It was in the year 2000 that a major Italian financial company, Hopa Spa, already a major shareholder of Telecom Italia as well, entered the share capital. It represented a significant change of pace, both in terms of governance and international investment. At Baselworld 2003 we presented the first watch in the world with a carbon fibre case, and in the following years came the Stealth Titanium and Carbon collection, which became our “long sellers” together with the Montecristo line, presented in 2010.’

These were also the years of acquisitions and partnerships… ‘On the one hand, we acquired one hundred per cent of the companies of which we were stakeholders. On the other hand, we started prestigious partnerships with the Italian Armed Forces, leading to the launches of successful collections with the Air Force, the Paratroopers Brigade “Folgore” and the Navy, with the current line dedicated to the wonderful Amerigo Vespucci. And since 2017, we have this equally prestigious partnership with Ducati. While the collaboration with Pomellato, which entrusts us with the production of watches, resulted in the entry of the jewelry company’s former owner Andrea Morante into Locman, after the sale to Kering in 2013. Also, from a corporate perspective, I am pleased to point out that since 2023 we have a new CEO, Edoardo Lauber, formerly CEO of FGX Italy (EssilorLuxottica Group), whose task is to organise the company according to a logic of increasing international development.’

FIFTH STAGE – OISA 1937 AND DECIMO CANTO

And the immediate future represents the fifth stage? ‘Absolutely! We believe very much in the mechanical hand-wound OISA Calibre 29-50 Cinque Ponti movement. Entirely of Italian manufacture, with handmade Côtes de Genève machining on the gear bridges and handmade Perlage on the plate. With ‘Masselottes’ adjustment on the balance, guaranteed autonomy of 60 hours and daily chronometric tolerance. A movement with the highest standards!’

OISA Calibro 29-50
Locman Montecristo OISA 1937

After the Montecristo OISA 1937 Limited Editions – 370 pieces already all sold – and Amerigo Vespucci – 92 pieces – is the collection now continuous? ‘That’s right. There is the Aethalia line, from the ancient name of Elba, which in Greek means sparkle and refers to the glow from the Etruscan furnaces that the Argonauts noticed when observing the island from the sea. With cases in different metals and a sandblast enamel dial, it costs €4,980. Then there is the Decimo Canto model, developed in collaboration with our friend Sandro Fratini, the world’s biggest collector of vintage watches and creator of the L’O brand. The polished titanium case has three flounces, in homage to the three cantiche of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The four lugs embrace the flounces from the glass to the strap and emphasise the uniqueness of the design and volumes. With the sartorial uniqueness of the dials in six different hard stones: mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli, malachite, tiger’s eye, red jasper and turquoise. And each dial, inevitably, makes each timepiece unique. The most precious versions have natural white diamonds set on the hour markers and case lugs in collaboration with Crivelli. With prices ranging from €5,950 to €12,950.’

Locman Decimo Canto
Locman Decimo Canto
Locman Decimo Canto

To conclude, any other significant news? In 2024, OISA 1937 will present a version with an automatic movement based on the Calibre 29-50 Cinque Ponti. And Locman will be thrilled to welcome the new movement into the collection!’

By Michele Mengoli