|Source • Brands||
Price • Origin
Assembled in U.S.A.
3501 Challenger St.
Torrance, CA 90503
3501 Challenger St.
Torrance, CA 90503
(Below North American Standard)
(Below North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
Santec, Inc. and Vissoni, Inc. are two California companies, founded and owned by Nicholas Chen, that assemble and finish faucets and showers from parts and components sourced globally. Vissoni, Inc., although legally a separate company, is as a practical matter, the luxury end of the Santec faucet line. Components, sourced globally from Germany, Italy, Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan, are assembled into luxury faucets and finished in one of four basic and 15 special finishes in Torrance, California.
Santec and Vissoni faucets are certified safe, reliable, and lead free, but the statement required by the Energy Policy & Conservation Act certifying that faucets comply with the maximum flow limit of 2.2 gallons per minute for sink faucets has not been filed with the U.S. Department of Energy. Consequently, Santec and Vissoni faucets may not be legally imported, sold or offered for sale in the U.S. until the required statements are filed.
Santec, Inc., founded in 1980, and Vissoni, Inc., established in 2005, are two California companies that assemble and finish faucets and showers from parts and components sourced globally from Germany, Italy, Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan as well as from within the U.S.
Nicholas S. H. (Nick) Chen is the founder of and controls both companies which operate from the same address in Torrance. The companies are managed largely by members of the Chen family. Mr. Chen also owns or has an interest in Sharp Industries, Inc. which sells and services precision machine tools+. Vissoni, Inc., although legally a separate company, is, as a practical matter, the luxury end of the Santec faucet line, similar to the relationship between
Santec faucets are finished in one of four basic finishes (Roman Bronze, Satin Chrome, Polished Nickel and Satin Nickel) or 15 special finishes, including Wrought Iron and Rose Gold. A special finish can add $300-400 to the cost of a faucet. Vissoni has its own separate finish palatte that includes Platinum and Satin Platinum as basic finishes.
A large variety of handles are available. We counted 96 different handle styles offered by Santec, although not all handles will fit all faucets. Sixteen handle types comply with ANSI/ICC A117.1-2009, are certified compliant by ICC-ES (PMG-1130), and are suited for use by persons with physical limitations. Using these handles with any faucet on which they fit will convert the faucet to an ADA-qualified fixture suitable for use by those with physical limitations.
$200 Some Santec/Vissoni faucets include embedded Swarovski crystals for that small additional touch of luxury.
For the most part the faucets appear to be proprietary designs. While some are mundane, most are striking and visually unique, especially those in the Vissoni "families" (which is what the company calls its collections). Santec does not, however, own any design patents or identify its designers, and does not appear to have entered any of its designs in juried international competitions — all indicators we use in identifying true designer companies. We are still researching the source of Santec's designs.
Designs range from traditional to very contemporary, and the Vissoni lineup has some handsome examples of Art Deco and Arts and Crafts design that would be at home in any period bath renovation.
Bathroom collections include lavatory faucets, showers, tub fillers and bidet faucets for a well-coordinated look. There seems to be just one kitchen collection, in the Santec Designer Series, composed of four basic faucet models including two kitchen faucets, a bar/prep/pantry faucet and a pot filler.
Santec faucets are well made, with heavy, thick-walled brass castings, well machined and carefully finished. Polished finishes are highly polished. The cartridges installed in the Santec faucets we inspected were made by Studio Tecnico Sviluppo e Recerche, S.r.l (STSR) of Milan, Italy. STSR is widely recognized as manufacturing a superior ceramic cartridge used in any number of high-end Italian faucets and at one time by
The faucets also included Neoperl® aerators made in Switzerland. Faucet aerators used to be simple devices that merely infused a little air to soften the water stream so it would not splash out of the sink. Today, however, they are precision products used to limit water volume to the lower flows required by conservation laws and, in faucets with pull-out sprays, to prevent back-flow that could contaminate household drinking water. It is important, therefore, that this little device, often smaller than a dime, be the best available. And that, almost by definition, is the Swiss-engineered Neoperl® aerator.
Santec sells through Briggs, a nationwide plumbing distributor, high-end showrooms, interior decorators and select contractors. Santec faucets are also widely available over the internet from sites such as eFaucets.com, qualitybath.com and Faucetdepot.com. Vissoni faucets appear to be available only in showrooms.
The prices of Santec faucets are in line with those of other U.S.-made luxury faucets. Visoni faucets, however, are priced somewhere in the stratosphere, and vary considerably depending on the degree of customization and any special finish. Figure somewhere around $1,000 to start, then the sky is the limit. For the price, however, you get a little piece of faucet art, easily on par with other U.S. luxury faucets such as
The websites of the two companies are well designed with intuitive navigation. The information provided about each faucet is adequate, but not comprehensive. Installation instructions are clear and easy to follow. Specification sheets are sparse, however, and include only very basic information and a measured drawing. It's almost as if the companies are reluctant to disclose the best features of the faucets that make them quality products.
The quality of the components used in the faucets does not get much play any where on its website or in company literature. Nothing we have read, and I think we read everything the companies publish, is there even a mention that the faucets are equipped with some of the most reliable ceramic cartridges available made by one of the most respective European technical ceramics companies. Similarly the companies disclose the flow rate of every faucet, but omit the fact that the flow is controlled by a carefully engineered Neoperl® aerator used in some of the world's finest faucets. Whoever is managing marketing for the two companies is promoting style and exclusivity but giving short shift to quality. The company has done a good job of producing quality faucets, and should at some point at least mention it, if only in passing.
Both the Santec and Vissoni warranties are below the standard for North America. The standard warranty, pioneered by over 40 years ago, is a limited "lifetime" warranty to the purchaser. This means that all significant parts are included in the lifetime terms, including body, spout, cartridge and finishes. Neither the Santec nor Vissoni warranty rises to this level of protection. Part of the problem is that neither warranty appears to have been written by a lawyer (or it it was written by a lawyer, he or she needs to go back to school), and the writer did not have a good command of legal concepts or language.
The ceramic cartridge in a Santec faucet is guaranteed for a lifetime (although the term "lifetime" is nowhere defined)), as are three finishes: Polished Chrome, Polished Nickel and Satin Nickel. Everything else — all the remaining finishes, mechanical parts, body, spout, hoses, handles and aerators — are guaranteed for just ten years.
The Vissoni warranty is no better. Only three finishes are guaranteed for a lifetime (Polished Chrome, Platinum and Satin Platinum). All other finishes are covered for one to five years, depending on the finish. The mechanical parts of a Vissoni facet are guaranteed for a lifetime, but the cartridges for just five years.
We don't know for sure what kind of cartridge is used in Vissoni — our budget did not cover the purchase of one of these high-dollar faucets for examination and destructive testing — but it is probably the same STSR cartridge used in Santec faucets — surely a more robust that its 5-year warranty implies. But, there is always the possibility that management knows something about the cartridges that we don't. So, if management thinks they will last just five years, we'll take it as gospel and look for a faucet with a better cartridge.
Customer service is good to very good. The Better Business Bureau has had one complaint about the Santrc in three years, and it was, frankly for an issue that was probably the customer's fault for not understanding what he was buying. But, neither company is a BBB-accredited business or has undergone the vetting that accreditation requires.
Santec has had legal troubles in the past aside from the largely frivolous patent infringement lawsuits that faucet companies fire at each other routinely. In 2005 Santec, Inc. was charged in a federal criminal complaint (U.S. v. Santec, Inc.) with unlawfully discharging manufacturing waste into a public sanitary sewer and unlawfully storing hazardous waste. The company pleaded guilty after negotiating an agreement by which it was sentenced to two years probation, a fine of $200,000, restitution of nearly $40,000 and a special assessment of $1,200.
The companies are still not quite legal under federal law.
North American-made or -assembled faucets comparable to Santec and Vissoni include
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Santec or Vissoni faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.