HISTORY / BACKGROUND
The Fondale’s roots can be traced back to the 1980s, when in 1985 Officine Panerai set about developing a professional diving wrist watch with the intended purpose of serving the Italian Military, in particular the Incursori / Comsubin.
After about two years of development two prototypes were ready and the Fondale as we know it today was born, although one of the models featured Panerai’s crown locking system, which is absent on the ENNEBI version as it’s an exclusive trademark of Officine Panerai.
The prototypes both performed incredibly well, meeting and exceeding (in many cases) every requirement, however due to insufficient orders Offiicne Panerai never put the watch into production.
Almost twenty years later in 2004, two men from the original team of Officine Panerai engineers who had worked on the prototypes, Alessandro Bettarini and Luciano Nincheri set up ENNEBI Instruments and brought the original prototype design back to life in the form the Fondale.
The Fondale came presented in beautifully hand crafted olive wood box, truly fitting for a watch from a Tuscan artisan watchmaker such as ENNEBI. The watch box itself is a little treasure. The feel and intoxicating smell of the wood transporting you to the Mediterranean adding yet more authenticity to what is already a highly authentic item.
Inside the box carefully placed in velvet pouch was the watch itself alongside some special tools for strap changes and removal of the bezel. Alessandro had been kind enough to supply my Fondale with an extra strap (not customary) with a special limited edition Pre Vendom buckle.
It’s hard to sum my first impressions of the watch because I was already so familiar with the Fondale and the work of ENNEBI, but I can say that when I first gazed upon my Fondale every expectation I had ever had was in an instant far exceeded. I was looking upon the Holy Grail of dive watches, a watch that for my mind was only fit for connoisseurs and aficionados and not kind of watch just anyone (myself) would be lucky enough to own.
I was just a young boy in the 1980s, but this era holds a special place in my heart. I’m a huge fan of its automotive designs such as found on the Lamborghini Countach and Lancia Delta Integrale; the use of bold, bulky, angular and aggressive lines that for me are also quite present in the look and feel of the Fondale.
Then there’s the contrast of the lovely hand stitched Italian leather against its Grade 5 titanium case, a combination that would prove too hard to resist. When Italian styling is done right, it’s hard to beat. The look and feel of the Fondale is among the best that this kind of watch making has to offer.
Exquisitely crafted from Grade 5 titanium that has been micropeended (a very fine bead blasting process) the Fondale’s case is utterly unique and wholly original, at 47mm it is relatively large, but as with all titanium cases any bulkiness that might make a watch of this size less wearable is counteracted by the use of titanium a light weight non-corrosive and hypoallergenic metal that is very comfortable to wear.
One of aesthetic properties of titanium is its soft dull tone that comes about through its oxidization, this tone is enhanced and preserved by a process of micropeening making for a rich gray, metallic hue that is both subtle and understated, and adds to the allure of the what is already a very desirable case design.
An unassuming, plain and unmarked self lockable bezel sits on the Fondale’s case. It is bidirectional with clicks that have been incremented to every 2.5 minutes. The bezel can be easily removed to clean away any debris that might have gotten trapped underneath, and even though removed the watch’s water tightness will remain unaffected.
At the 12 0’clock potion the Fondale has a bright polished bezel pip that is available in either 750kt gold, platinum or in my case tantalum a rare and highly corrosive resistant material that was only discovered in the late part of the 19 century. It adds a touch of luxury to what is otherwise a much understated watch and hints its exclusivity.
The Fondale ‘pancetta’ crown is carefully protected by two large angular crown protectors, the model I have features ENNEBI’s new and in my opinion improved chunkier crown. The crown is not a screw down type as one might expect to find on a dive watch, but instead closes (nonetheless) securely by means of a firm push and a reassuringly solid click. In keeping with the simplicity of the Fondale the crown is unsigned.
The Fondale makes use of an enormous 4.6mm thick mineral crystal. I had reservation about mineral crystal as sapphire crystal is tougher and more scratch resistant, however over time I have come to appreciate and understand ENNEBI’s use of mineral crystal, it makes perfect sense for this watch as I’m sure does acrylic crystal that has been used on other artisan watches of this ilk. It adds to the watch’s authenticity and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Scratches can occur, but are easily maintained with some light polishing.
If you order your Fondale direct from ENNEBI one of the benefits is that they will engrave the case back for you, and are able to realize pretty much whatever you heart desires. I was unsure of what I wanted for my case back, but requested that its text included the watch’s specs in Italian and that if it were possible the wording OceanicTime might also find its way there.
When I finally received an email form ENNEBI with an image of my case back with my blog’s logo plus the text I had requested I was thrilled. Having this kind of customization really makes the watch your own and the quality of the engraving was second to none. The case back is held in pace by 6 special screws.
The Fondale is pressure resistant and water resistant to 1000 meters. Its water-resistance is assured by its use of silicone o-rings.
Another benefit of ordering direct from ENNEBI was that I was able to request their logo dial, it was the first dial version I had seen on a Fondale and for me seemed the most appropriate. I love the use of inline fonts as on the ‘Ennebi’ and ‘Fondale’ script it gives the dial a very retro / old skool feel.
An automatic movement with 25 rubies, beating at 28,800 bph at 4Hz with a power reserve of 38hrs sits inside the Fondale. Its functions include hours, minutes and a sweeping second with a date wheel as an option.
The Fondale has excellent lume, its numerals and hands have been applied with a very generous application making for very bright and clear readings of the watch even in low light.
When you order a Fondale you can chose whatever color strap you desire, I chose tan. The strap is made from the highest quality Italian leather and has been meticulously hand stitched. It is extremely comfortable, too.
ENNEBI have designed a fantastic new 5 piece buckle. The buckle has been crafted from the same Grade 5 titanium as the watch case. It is a true masterpiece of engineering and exquisite item in itself. Its lateral sides have been stylishly engraved with ‘Ennebi’.
The ENNEBI Fondale is first and foremost a professional diving instrument of the highest caliber. It has been made to exacting standards and specifications; it’s the epitome of Italian styling and cool, it embodies everything that ever you thought you loved about Italian hand made products.
It has been made with professionals, watch savvy collectors, connoisseurs and aficionados in mind, but as with many other great Italian works it transcends all that one might perceive of it and can be loved and enjoyed by anyone no matter their understanding or knowledge of what it really is. Its understated charm and simplicity appealing to all that have an appreciation of fine Italian engineering.
Dealing directly with Ennebi was an honor and a privilege and I would recommend this to anyone who is thinking of acquiring a Fondale or any other of their fine instruments.