I’m going to go out on a rather safe limb and suggest that there’s a strong correlation between those who know of Ennebi and Panerai owners (well, Paneristi, to be honest), and that second to them, the brand is then most likely to be known amongst modern dive watch enthusiasts. I’d also hazard a guess that the brand’s profile beyond these groups is somewhat low.
Today, I am going to tell you about a new variation of the brand’s most well-known model, the Fondale.
Ennebi’s history can be traced back to the 1980s when a certain Alessandro Bettarini was the manager of the design section of Officine Panerai. Mr Bettarini was fairly much responsible for Panerai’s move from diving instruments and return to watches. Under his guidance, Panerai created a few prototyped professional diver’s pieces and presented it to the attack divers of the Italian navy for evaluation in 1985. One of these was the Luminor, which was chosen to relaunch OP, and the other was the Mare Nostrum. The Luminor prototypes looked like the current Fondales, but with the patented Panerai crown guard which is obviously absent from Ennebi’s watches. Although they performed well and met all naval requirements, these prototypes did not go into production, due to a low level of interest.
After various trials and tribulations in 2004, two decades after the first Fondale, Alessandro Bettarini, along with Luciano Nincheri, who was also from the original team of Pre-Vendome engineers who engineered the prototypes, set up Ennebi, and brought the Fondale back to life. If you want to read a detailed history of how the brand came to be, and it’s worth reading, go to Ennebi’s website here.
The Fondale has become a cult watch in its own right for Panerai owners who want to get a bit of Panerai history, but they are large watches, so for those who have wanted to get an Ennebi but whose wrists can’t negotiate a 47mm watch (which is basically most of us), there’s good news, with the announcement of the Fondale 44 (Ref. 9682) which is, as the name indicates, a 44mm version of their flagship model.
The dial is clean, with simple markers and numerals at 3, 6 and 9. The bezel has a new grip, is bi-directional, self locking, and can be removed from body without affecting the integrity of the watch. Its teeth echo those of the crown, and the sapphire crystal is locked into the case via the retaining ring. To position the pointer index, the bezel must be pushed toward the body, rotated left or right, and released it as it reaches the desired location. The watch is pressure and water resistant to 1000m, and inside the new 44 is the reliable but perhaps not so exciting ETA2824, with a 38 hour power reserve.
The Fondale 44 will be produced in limited editions of 100 pieces in (B14) bronze and 100 in grade 5 titanium. The titanium case back is engraved with reference and serial numbers. What’s interesting, however, is that customisation options are available. Before you get too excited, if you’re susceptible to being rendered mute or find yourself doing a decent impression of a mewling kitten when confronted by too much choice, you may have problems at this point.
So, what are the options?
1. Dial – eight designs (variations on the numerals and the number of indices, two ‘California’ dials, plus the option of ‘fondale 44’ being present/ absent), four dial colours (red-brown, dark matte brown, matte black, olive green)
2. Hands – the hour and minute hands can be white, black or gold; the seconds hand can be white, red or gold.
3. Bezel – the rotating bezel can have one of the following pointers : triangular, skull, diver’s helmet, cross, parachute, Vaira – Bersaglieri Corps hat
4. Crown – the ‘medal’ on the crown can be yellow gold, white gold, silver, or bronze.
What other ‘constants’ are there, apart from the basics mentioned above? Well one new feature will be the partially skeletonised sword-shaped hands.
Each watch is supplied with a black calf strap and a shark brown leather strap. Both straps have the Ennebi roller buckle, in bronze for the bronze 44, and micropeened stainless steel for the titanium watches. The straps can be easily changed, and tools are provided with the watch.
It’s exciting news for those who have always wanted an Ennebi (especially to go with their Panerai) but have been stopped from buying one for size reasons. To be honest I kind of want one myself. However, despite the commendable act of allowing for customisation, I can’t help but think that perhaps there are too many choices, especially with regards to the pointers. There’s something to be said about being faithful to the purity and purpose of the original.
If you want one for historical or you have a desire to be John Malkovich, you’d better get in quick.
So how much will the Fondale 44 set you back? They are USD5,200 for the bronze, and USD4,920 for the titanium version.