Watch Review: Fonderia Navale Veneto

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! This Sunday, I’ll be reviewing the Veneto from Fonderia Navale.

The Fonderia Navale Veneto.

The Veneto name is derived from the warship Vittorio Veneto. According to Fonderia Navale, the Vittorio Veneto “…was the second member of the Littorio-class battleship that served in the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) during World War II.” Let’s see if this watch is as robust as its namesake!

Fonderia Navale – the Brand

Fonderia Navale is the sister brand of Pontvs, both of which were founded by Fernando Mansilla. Fernando Mansilla is currently working as a metallurgical engineer at Freeport-McMoRan’s Arizona mine, which is the largest copper producing mine in the U.S. That perhaps explains his love for copper, brass, and bronze – all Pontvs and Fonderia Navale watches feature either brass or bronze materials in their case. Fernando’s enthusiasm for watches was first jolted when he came across a Marina Militare watch on eBay. Enamored by the distinctive look of Italian-styled dive watches, he soon purchased a used Panerai 372 thereafter. It wasn’t long before he started coming up with his own watch designs, scribbling on napkins and notepads. Last year, Pontvs released their debut model – the Nessi – to rave reviews.

The Pontvs Nessi, now sold out worldwide.

As aforementioned, Fonderia Navale is a sub-brand under Pontvs. While Pontvs watches are inspired by Greek mythology and feature brass cases, Fonderia Navale watches are inspired by Italian navy history, and feature bronze cases. In contrast to Pontvs, it seems that Fonderia Navale watches are positioned as slightly higher-end, with the usage of more premium materials. I think the brand story of Pontvs/Fonderia Navale is interesting, and actually reminds me of the brand story of Gruppo Gamma in some ways. Be it Pontvs or Fonderia Navale, it seems that Fernando is dedicated to creating chunky, nautical inspired timepieces that will patina over time. There’s something unapologetic about that, and I appreciate it!

Fonderia Navale Veneto – Build Quality

This is one solid watch – in fact, I would argue that it was engineered to take a licking!

Single domed sapphire crystal is utilized here, with AR coating applied.

Firstly, the Fonderia Navale (FN) Veneto features a single domed sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge fan of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. The sapphire crystal here is also AR-coated, preventing potential nasty reflections from occurring and allowing one a clear view of that grained enamel dial. (More on that later!) In addition, its 200m WR rating means that you can bring the Veneto out to the beach or the pool, no problemo.

Tin Phosphor Bronze is used for the case.

The case of the Veneto is made of something FN calls Tin Phosphor Bronze, which is a “heavy-duty” bronze alloy comprised of copper (90.5%Cu), tin and phosphorus. As compared to the bronze alloys commonly seen in watches, the tin in the alloy increases corrosion resistance and strength, while the phosphorus bolsters the wear resistance and stiffness. Certainly, Fernando’s metallurgy background is evident here! Personally, I love the natural patina that bronze develops with age, and the unique character that it brings to each timepiece. Due to the variables involved in patination, no two bronze watches should look exactly alike. Bronze watches are all the rage lately – with both luxury and micro brands churning out bronze models – and with the Veneto on my wrist, the appeal is clear. Bronze watches are just so striking on dive/navy inspired watches – there’s no other metal that brings out the nautical nature of dive watches as well as bronze.

The workhorse Seiko NH35 powers the Veneto.

The Veneto is powered by the ubiquitous Seiko NH35 movement, a movement that I have covered countless times on this website previously. Some quick specs: the movement beats at 21600 vibrations per hour, has 42 hours of power reserve, contains 24 jewels, and is hacking. I’m a fan of the Seiko NH35 movement, and greatly prefer it to the Miyota 8 series movement (which is the alternative movement commonly seen at this price point). This is due to the fact that unlike the NH35, the Miyota 8 series movements are non-hacking, suffer from a stuttering second hand (some models), and in my own experience with the Miyota movements, are also more prone to accuracy problems. Given the workhorse reputation of the Seiko NH35 (I have multiple NH35 watches and none have given me any problems), I think it fits the robust nature of the Veneto perfectly!

A vintage leather strap comes standard on the Veneto.

I absolutely love the strap that comes on the Veneto. It gets a lot of things right, and I can tell that FN have paid great attention to the details here. Firstly, the strap is sufficiently thick enough to complement the chunkiness of the watch. A lot of chunky divers (especially affordable ones) comes on catalog leather straps that aren’t thick enough, making it disproportionate to the watch. This certainly isn’t the case here! Secondly, the leather used here looks really good. It’s oiled, and over time, has already developed a really nice patina. Seeing the strap patina alongside the bronze case/buckle was simply lovely. Thirdly, the strap comes with rough, unfinished edges – I think it complements the robust, tool character of the Veneto really well! On the wrist, the beefy strap is supple and comfortable, requiring little to no break in time at all. Lastly, I love the bronze buckle – it’s big, it’s pointed, and it makes for a statement.

Swiss C3 Superluminova is used on the Veneto.

The lume on the Veneto is unsurprisingly strong and long-lasting, given the usage of Swiss C3 Superluminova. Given the watch’s relatively affordable price tag, it was a pleasant surprise to see C3 lume used here!

Overall, I’m mightily impressed by the build quality of the Veneto – I think it definitely punches above its price tag.

Fonderia Navale Veneto – Design

I like the unapologetic, masculine design of the Veneto.

A grained enamel dial is used on the Veneto.

The star of the show here is definitely the grained enamel dial – now that’s something you don’t see on divers everyday! Not only is it unique, it also adds some contrast in texture which prevents the dial from looking too “flat”, given that the indices on the Veneto is printed, not applied. Due to the inherent properties of enamel, there is a depth to the surface of the dial. In addition, the enamel dial looks different in differing lighting conditions. Under sunlight, the dial appears dark blue – under darker lighting conditions, the enamel dial appears black. I find that intriguing, to say the least! Elsewhere, I appreciate the symmetry of the dial, as well as those big, fat hands. Given the chunky proportions of the Veneto, the hands seem proportionate and appropriate. I like the rose gold accents of the hands as well, as it complements the bronze case nicely.

Beautifully machined case-sides, and nicely signed crown.

On the case, we get some beautiful milling – look at those curves! I like the fact that FN opted for crown guards too, as it stays true to the vintage Italian Navy watches of old. We also get a nice signed crown, forged in bronze. I’m pleased to report that it is proportionately sized, making it an ease to wind the Veneto.

Unfortunately, the caseback is rather pedestrian.

My only niggle with the watch would be the caseback. The screw-down caseback of the Veneto is rather forgettable, featuring a simple motif of the FN logo, as well as some basic information of the watch’s specifications. I would loved for FN to have done an embossing here – perhaps an artwork of the Vittorio Veneto warship that served as the watch’s inspiration? As per the usual for bronze watches, the caseback is made of stainless steel. This is because brass/bronze leaves a green residue when it oxidises, which would be undesirable on the skin.

Overall, I would say that the design of the Veneto is more of an understated one, one that possesses a subtle charm.The grained enamel dial, paired with that big bronze case, is a winning combination.

Shootout: Fonderia Navale Veneto vs Regia R103

For today’s shootout, I’ve decided to compare the FN Veneto against the Regia R103. Both watches are inspired by the history of the Italian Navy, and are in the same price range.

The Regia R103, priced at $375 USD.

In terms of build quality, the Veneto has a slight edge. While both watches uses the Seiko NH35 movement as well as sapphire crystal, the FN Veneto uses “heavy-duty” bronze for the case, while the Regia R103 uses brass. As compared to brass, bronze is stronger and more corrosion and abrasion resistant due to a higher copper content. In addition, the WR rating of the Regia R103 is merely 100M, making it unsuitable for the pool or the beach. Given its nautical inspiration (it even has a depiction of a ship on the dial), that’s a bummer.

In comparison, the Fonderia Navale Veneto, priced at $350 USD.

From a design perspective, I have to go with the Veneto as well. While the Regia features a sandwiched dial, it looks too close to being a Panerai homage for my comfort. In contrast, with its grained enamel dial and those chunky hands, the aesthetics of the Veneto comes across as more unique and striking. In addition, I prefer the case of the Veneto better as well, especially those crown guards and thick crown.

In addition, the Veneto also has the edge when it comes to value. At $350 USD, it is slightly less expensive than the Regia R103 at $375 USD. As such, due to the Veneto’s superior build quality and more original design, I have to proclaim the Veneto my winner in this shootout.

Conclusion – so the Fonderia Navale Veneto “shiok” or not?

For the price, definitely. Despite the Veneto’s low price tag, you’re getting a lot of watch – domed sapphire crystal, a reliable Seiko automatic movement, a unique tin phosphorous bronze case, a grained enamel dial, strong lume, and a superb strap. That’s a lot of boxes that the Veneto ticks. In fact, I’ll say that the Veneto is definitely one of the best watches I’ve reviewed thus far in the under-$500 SGD category!

Before we go, a wrist shot.

If you like big, chunky, unapologetic watches, this affordable bronze beauty should be near the top of your list.

Check out Fonderia Navale/Pontvs full range of watches here.

Specifications:

Case diameter: 42 mm excluding the crown – lug to lug 50 mm

Movement: Seiko NH35 automatic

Case material: Tin Phosphor Bronze for heavy-duty applications

Crown: Tin Phosphor Bronze screw down crown 9 mm

Crystal: AR Sapphire single Domed 3.5mm thick

Dial: 32mm diameter grained Enamel with printed Swiss Super Luminova C3 lume .

Water-resistance: 200 meters / 660 feet / 20 ATM

Case back: Stainless Steel

Strap: 22mm brown leather 3.5 mm thick. Screw lug bars.

Buckle: Tin Bronze Buckle

Shock resistance: Shock-absorber device for balance staff

All orders get an extra zulu strap with brass buckle.

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