Pisa Orologeria, a story of passion30 May 2022
Once upon a time, and still today, there was a small town in Emilia Romagna called Gualtieri. There lived the Pisa family, who had a particular love for watchmaking. There were 13 brothers in the family, and the second, Divino, had started developing a passion for micromechanics and watches in the early 1900s.
THE ORIGINS OF PISA
That passion soon involved two of Divino’s younger brothers, Osvaldo and Ugo. A big city, however, offered greater opportunities than the province, especially in years in which the political and social situation in Italy was not easy. Thus, from Gualtieri, in the 1930s the Pisa family moved to Milan. Together with their belongings they packed their desire to work, to build something. They took their tenacity with them.
A tenacity, that of the Pisa brothers, as strong as their love for watches – so much so that Divino founded the first Italian watchmaking school, while Osvaldo opened a shop-laboratory in Milan in 1940. They were only 15 square meters in via Verri, with a single window overlooking the street and in which Osvaldo worked as a watchmaker.
That passionate gentleman, always busy with geartrains and springs, soon called the attention of the passersby and, over a short period time, he won a loyal clientele that kept growing more and more, along with the work. However, the war stopped everything – but not the determination of Osvaldo who, in 1946, resumed his activity and called Ugo to work with him, so he could dedicate himself to the workshop he had, also in via Verri, just across the street.
In a short time, thanks to Osvaldo’s expertise and technical ability and Ugo’s commercial initiative, the Fratelli Pisa workshop became the place where the middle-upper class Milanese could find the right watch for their lifestyle. While Milan reopened to the world after WWII, more and more international customers began to shop at Pisa.
GRAZIA AND MARISTELLA PISA, THE “HANDS LADIES”
That rapidly growing company found continuous inspiration in the family, thanks to a passion and dedication to watchmaking that Ugo passed on easily to his daughters, Grazia and Maristella: they were involved from a very young age in the beautiful and complicated world of fine hands. A world of which Ugo was by now a very fine connoisseur.
To entrust the custody of the family business to the daughters was a very far-sighted choice. In fact, Ugo passed away in 1971 and, on his death, Grazia and Maristella immediately took over the company to continue the story that was part of the lives of so many people, as well as their own.
The two “Hands Ladies,” as the Pisa sisters were then nicknamed, were not alone in leading their entrepreneurial adventure. Fabio Bertini, Osvaldo’s nephew, contributed to the growth of the business. Assisted by him, the commercial director of the company who grew up first in the laboratory and then on the sales floor, Grazia and Maristella gave Pisa Orologeria a new image, developing timepieces in an original way, without fear of daring.
A MODERN INTERPRETATION OF WATCHMAKING
Their signatures on the way to present watchmaking – that, since then, has never been the same – were evident in their search for fresh and creative watch brands and collaborations with major brands to create special editions for Pisa. On the dial of these watches, some of the most important brands placed their signature alongside that of the Milanese company: from IWC to A. Lange & Söhne, from Panerai to Patek Philippe to Vacheron Constantin. Without forgetting the first Pisa watch, an expression of the family style and a piece of the highest technical level.
“We felt the desire to create, for the first time, a wristwatch to understand and learn the technical and creative process that this experience would have encompassed”
In the 1980s, still in via Verri, and in front of the historic shop, Grazia and Maristella opened Pisa Minuti. It was the reference point for enthusiasts looking for creative and modern watches, in contrast with the mainstream. This new way of dealing with customers led to expanding the business in the 90s, starting with the renovation and expansion of the boutique in via Verri.
In the 90s, Pisa Orologeria organized an unprecedented event for Milan. A month after the watch shows in Basel and Geneva, the new timepieces were on preview for customers during an exclusive evening hosted in historic and evocative places in the city. The events became, for ten years, the most awaited appointments by fans, including foreigners.
BELOVED BY CELEBRITIES
And, over the years, among the fans there where many celebrities. Women and men from showbusiness, culture, politics, sports. Personalities who made the history of Italian and international costume passed by via Verri, attracted by the magic of timepieces and sure to find at Pisa the competence and passion not of those who sell watches, but of those who embody them.
“One day Fausto Coppi enters the shop. He asks me for an ultra-thin watch. I propose a platinum Audemars Piguet, which few people knew. He wanted to give himself a beautiful gift after the many victories he won”
Maria Callas, Totò, Raffaella Carrà, Ornella Vanoni, Fausto Coppi, Jane Crawford, Aldo Fabrizi, Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, Lou Reed, Karim Aga Khan are just some of the characters who dropped by to embellish the Pisa family’s memory board, to get the best of haute horlogerie, and to forge long-lasting friendships.
BOUTIQUES AND FLAGSHIP STORE: PISA OROLOGERIA’S NEW LOOK
By now the road had been paved and Grazia’s and Maristella’s constant commitment brought Pisa Orologeria into the new millennium, during which Milan became increasingly important for business and for the new national and international structure that the sisters gave to the company. Thanks also to a new entry: Chiara, Maristella’s daughter and third generation of the family, joined the company. A strong testimony of how a sector that still has a very strong male imprint has seen women become more and more numerous in recent years, both as customers and as leaders.
This new Pisa Orologeria way led to a great expansion of the commercial offer, starting with the opening, in 2008, of the Rolex boutique in Via Montenapoleone, followed by the Patek Philippe boutique in the old Pisa space in Via Verri, and by the multi-brand store that has become a unique reality of its kind, mirroring the company’s identity.
The Flagship Store in via Verri is still a contemporary boutique of about 1000 square meters but with a strong family imprinting. Three floors are designed to welcome Italian and international customers and to involve fans of all generations, even the youngest. To them, Chiara Pisa and her staff want to convey the technical, artistic and artisan values of watchmaking in a welcoming and familiar space, made for knowledge, not just for buying.
In 2017, the new Pisa Orologeria Patek Philippe boutique was opened in via Verri 9, as well as the Hublot boutique, inside the Flagship Store. The latter, in 2022, found a new dedicated location alongside the historic multi-brand and now occupies two floors, to give more space to the brand’s collections.
Together with the Flagship Store and the Rolex and Vacheron Constantin boutiques, the Hublot boutique constitutes one of the “planets” of the family and entrepreneurial galaxy which is always renewing itself. As demonstrates the launch, in 2020, of Pisa Circle, a digital showcase accessible from any device and from anywhere in the world, and of Pisa Timeless, the dedicated and safe exchange service for watches purchased in the past.
Not to forget the Pisa family’s attention to high jewelry, which has today a dedicated floor in the Flagship Store, the Salone Gioielli. A space where historical and contemporary brands coexist, to which Pisa dedicates an attention that comes from afar and that has become stronger in recent years.
In 2018, together with the creation of the Salone Gioielli, the Pisa Diamanti collection was launched by the will of Maristella and Chiara; a collection flanked by brands such as Boucheron, Chaumet, Chopard, Messika and Palmiero. A collection that encompasses the values and vision that were always at the core of the family business, a high-end jewelry brand where femininity is expressed in all its essence.
The figures testify to the fact that the idea of combining fine jewelry with fine watchmaking was not a bet, but a clear business strategy. This sector has in fact performed very well in recent years, growing 64% in 2021 compared to 2019.
A growth that has certainly benefited from the inclusion of jewelry in the Pisa Circle online showcase, but which is also the result of a project in which the company has believed and still strongly believes. A project that focuses on femininity, craftsmanship and taste.
BETWEEN PRESENT AND FUTURE
What about the future? It is a page still to be written, given the continuous evolution of Pisa Orologeria both in terms of business and watchmaking culture. Certainly, the present speaks of important financial figures for year 2021: total revenues of 88.8 million, +15% compared to the pre-pandemic figures of 2019. A growth of all the main economic and financial KPIs, supported not only by a sustained increase in turnover, but also by a general improvement in the main turnover rates of loans, inventory and credits.
It is the present of a story that began in the Emilia province, blossomed in the great Milan, starting from 15 square meters and reaching the world. Fifteen square meters that, in over 80 years, have become a company with a new way of presenting itself and with an opening towards new interpretations of “quality” and “excellence”. Without losing the familiar character that has always distinguished it.
By Davide Passoni