Anonimo Watches: A Rebirth In Florence, Italy

Anonimo Watches: A Rebirth In Florence, Italy

Anonimo Watches: A Rebirth In Florence, Italy   look inside manufacture

The birth - or occasional rebirth - of a company is always a noteworthy phenomenon in the galaxy of watch making. It is so because it either grants us the chance to follow the formation of a new star that will shine on for decades or even centuries to come or the sight of a falling star, something that only temporarily existed and barely left anything significant behind. What we have now is the rare opportunity to take a closer look at the earliest stages of a watch brand's revival as I was among those invited by Anonimo to visit them in the beautiful Italian town of Florence. We gathered to discover and to discuss their plans for the future and also to see where and how they will have their trademark brass cases manufactured.

Those familiar with the brand will know that the creation of Anonimo in 1997 already meant a second chance, a new beginning in itself. It happened that year that Officine Panerai (which was also based in Florence at the time) was purchased by the Vendome Group of Richemont SA. It was one important acquisition for this giant luxury group that currently owns A. Lange & Söhne, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, Piaget and several others. The new owners of Panerai relocated its manufacturing and design facilities to Switzerland, leaving several of its engineers, craftsmen and much of its Florentine manufacturing heritage behind. Consequently, Anonimo's birth meant a new beginning partly because some of those craftsmen who used to work for Panerai (but could not or did not want to follow it to Switzerland) started working there, and partly because with Anonimo there remained a luxury watch brand in Florence.

Anonimo Watches: A Rebirth In Florence, Italy   look inside manufacture

Basically, the goal of Anonimo was to create a brand that would help keep the Florentine watch making traditions alive by pairing Italian designs and cases with Swiss-made mechanical movements. Since Anonimo in one way or another substituted Panerai in Florence, it primarily concentrated on designing divers' watches. All in all, it was a successful concept as (despite its brief history) the brand quickly gained a cult following; something that still exists, especially when it comes to appreciating some of the earlier models. In September 2011, the founder Federico Massacesi left the company to a new ownership and - truth be told - we have not heard much from Anonimo ever since. Late last year however, I was one of the handful of people who were invited by the brand's new owners to Florence to visit the workshop where their famous bronze cases will be made, and also to look at some early prototypes.

Anonimo had, without the shadow of a doubt, been a brand that was rather difficult to make sense of. With some iconic patents and designs (and some not so good ones,) the brand turned into one of those small companies with a unique personality, something people could more closely relate to. At the same time, possibly in an effort to try to make everyone happy and also to find its true identity, Anonimo also became infamous for creating countless different collections and model versions. That not only made it difficult to determine actual second-hand values for their watches, but ultimately it also made it more difficult for followers to establish a thorough understanding of the brand's position. With that said, there is a base of followers who appreciate and collect the brand's previous watches.

For them, the recent quiet years of Anonimo meant a lack of information regarding the brand's present or future. That is something I will get out of the way right now, so before looking at the brand's future offerings, we will discuss its present. Anonimo (actually Anonimo Switzerland SA) is not linked in any way to Anonimo Firenze's management, meaning that it is a completely new company. While the brand's bronze cases (as we will see further on in this article) are manufactured in Florence, Italy, the watches are assembled in Switzerland. In short, Anonimo changed owners and it is a new company that carries on some of the key elements of the "old Anonimo", while totally restructuring its collections, and its networks of suppliers and distributors. Consequently, given that they are starting from scratch, they will not be able to create parts for warranty repairs of discontinued models by Anonimo Firenze, and have an extremely limited stock of only some select parts for the older models. Hopefully that gives the fans of the brand some insight into what is happening now behind the scenes. Anonimo itself is set to debut at this year's Baselworld.

Anonimo Watches: A Rebirth In Florence, Italy   look inside manufacture
Gianluca Gervasi, the Florentine master case maker, responsible for Anonimo's bronze cases

With all that said, let's begin with discussing the secrets of the "Bronzo" case - something that will likely serve as one of the key elements for the new Anonimo's collections. The idea of bronze watch cases may be unfamiliar to many, and there's good reason for that. During the past couple of years cases done in carbon fiber, titanium and other space-age materials have become not only increasingly popular, but more ubiquitous too, as several high-end brands have began to incorporate such advanced materials into their collections. Bronze appears to be a deliberately ignored material that is only available from a very limited number of brands and for an even more limited number of their models, all for reasons we will shortly discuss.

Anonimo has a history with bronze cased watches (just look at the Polluce and the Dino Zei for two famous Anonimo designs also executed in this material). To put it in context, Panerai introduced their first commercially available bronze watch in 2011 (the PAM382) and the PAM507 two years later - both limited to only 1,000 pieces. Beyond them the Ennebi Fondale, the Gérald Genta Safari and only a few indie-brands spring to mind when it comes to bronze cased watches... and that's about it. So far neither Panerai, nor any other brand has established an easily accessible, non-limited collection that allowed enthusiasts to acquire a new watch cased in this apparently mystical material. So why is that exactly?

Anonimo Watches: A Rebirth In Florence, Italy   look inside manufacture
Anonimo's bronze cases in different stages of completion at Gervasi's workshop

Interestingly enough, the reason for brands to not want bronze in their permanent collections is the exact same reason why people do want bronze cased watches. Let me explain by giving you the primary reasons why collectors might be so tempted to fit this several millenia old, non-precious material into their collections. For one, bronze looks very cool in person and complements military and-or diving watches perfectly with its uneven finish and rugged, nautical aesthetics. Two, bronze, thanks to its special characteristics, develops a completely unique patina over the years. This aged look is unique to each case as its color and the extent to which it affects different parts of the case will depend on where, under what circumstances and for how long the watch has been worn.

Primarily it is the case's exposure to humidity, water (or sea water) and different temperatures that will define its patina. It works in a way that once the surface of the bronze parts have developed this layer the process will end and the metal underneath will not suffer from further oxidization. So you don't have to be afraid of the watch slowly but surely rotting away as time passes. This attribute of bronze offers an awesome, truly unique look to the watch and, truth be told, many collectors love the idea of having a piece in their collection that is able to transform into a one-of-kind piece that absolutely no one else has.

12 comments
NelsonDevicenci
NelsonDevicenci

Optimistic...yes, Anonimo is DEAD ! Anonimo SA really? WHY take a Brand Name with Italian roots then make it in WHATEVER? Intentions? YES and not the right ones... bla bla bla about the parts they have for Historic Anonimo but it's ok anyway is business only but WHY not the intention Hey Anonimist we still producing Militare line so we can supply the parts you guys need ! BUT NO !


as a good friend and collector said all is in our wallets ! 

MKRoma
MKRoma

I would love a watch with bronze case.  However, since the metal reacts differently with each persons skin, I don't want a Used piece but nor do I want to spend 9k for a new Genta Safari.  Maybe the new Anonimo watches will be a better option.

BIGCHRONO
BIGCHRONO

This scaled down inventory shouts "Limited Edition" formats to me. Another way to gouge via very few models, & greatly

reduced quantities.of each. Regarding the callous dumping of its preincarnation, leaving faithful followers f*****: Reprehensible.

AtotheG
AtotheG

My first automatic was an Anonimo Millemetri in 2004.  Two years later, I bought a Militare, which at the time I thought was the coolest thing ever (boy have my tastes changed since). When I was selling both, I read a bunch of Anonimo forum posts and learned more of the recent history of the brand, their reinvention, and basically how they abandoned a strong and loyal customer base.  And while I get that it's "not really the same company", you can't help but think they made up a bunch of excuses so they wouldn't have to service their customers, which is a terrible and helpless feeling in this hobby.  If a company goes under, well... that happens and we accept the consequences.  But to rebound as quickly as they did, keeping the same name and aesthetic, and providing zero customer support feels like a slap in the face.  A huge part of the appeal of Anonimo (and why they chose the name "Anonimo") was the story of these proud Italian craftsmen, refusing to be beaten, staying in their factory and making a quality product by the people, for the people, blah, blah, blah… IMO, they should have changed the name.  It would signify not only a new beginning but also a new attitude. Thankfully for me, I'm over the whole clunky watches thing anyway.

rclayton
rclayton

What a disappointment.  I have had 2 Anonimo's.  Traded one but kept a beautiful model 2005 Chronoscopio Summer Edition. chronograph with a mechanical Valjoux 7760 movement, Superluminova, sapphire caseback, 12 ATM water resistant with screw-down crown and chronograph buttons., and a leather strap treated to resist saltwater for 24 hours. A lot of watch for the money, and my second favorite after My Rolex sub.  Now no support and just another moderately priced Swiss watch without the "Made in Italy" panache.  From what I have seen in this article, I doubt they will succeed.  Sad.

LapYoda
LapYoda

The first time I saw an Anonimo, it was at a dealer who showed me the Militare, and it became somewhat of a grail watch for me since I couldn't possibly afford it at the time.  Since then I've looked online for good deals on their watches, but the loss of US distribution and the lack of replacement parts make their older models a tough sell even with significant discounts off original prices.  Now they're back - sort of - with bronze cases for the Militare that appeal to me but dial and hand designs that don't, an ugly logo with ugly fonts, and the inability to support those who have bought Anonimo Firenze watches in the past.  Most importantly, they have alienated their biggest fans.  It's going to be an uphill battle for the new owners to reestablish goodwill for the brand, and if they price these new watches unreasonably or provide bad customer service, I wonder if they will survive.

Grinnie Jax
Grinnie Jax

Thank you for the article, I always get more confidence about the brand when I see some part of how it is produced. And I see that Anonimo production seems to be at very high level according to the photos.

I quite like their new collection (especially the bronze one), suppose it looks even better in real life as other Anonimo do.

Panagiotis
Panagiotis

Anonimo has such great potential with their early designs...then they totally dropped the ball--they probably hired the same designer that does the ugly breitling fonts, and gave him complete artistic freedom...

And thus the Marlin was born...one of the worst watch designs IMO....


I for one would love to see them come back. The new designs look good--just change the hands and you're all set!

ZL
ZL

Really cool and interesting article.

David  Bredan
David Bredan

@LapYoda  The supply of replacement parts does put the brand in a very problematic situation - even if that is no consolation to those owning an older piece in need of repairs. The brand will have a limited supply of components but that is coming from whatever is left from when the previous owners of the brand were in place. I am told there are watches of which only an extremely limited amount were made and if a part is unique to that then it should be no surprise that creating new components would only be possible at an unreasonable cost.
Having said that, I am told that once all available components have been assessed the brand will try and repair those watches that have replacement components in stock. Furthermore, it is this situation that motivates them to create and keep a more simple line of watches in the future, hence steering the brand away from such after sales nightmares in the future. Again, this is not to say that the owners of previous models are not rightfully resentful. I am just trying to provide as much information here as is possible to give you guys a better understanding of what's going on and what the brand is trying to do in the future.

LapYoda
LapYoda

@David Bredan @LapYodaThanks for the reply, David.  I have lurked on the Anonimo forum on Watchuseek for a while, and luckily for some owners of the older models, third parties have attempted to fill the void for higher-wear parts, like screws and strap attachment pins.  Unfortunately - and I understand the position of both the owners and the new Anonimo - many owners of old Anonimos are left in the lurch for repairs.  I think a gesture toward these owners and most important, transparency, would be helpful in building relationships with their fans so that they will consider a new Anonimo watch in their future instead of jumping ship to a different brand.

rclayton
rclayton

@LapYoda @David Bredan Well stated, LapYoda.  I have been thinking about a Professionale dive watch (nice with the cream face) or a Dino Zei Argonaut.  Both are available at a good price, but they are off my list now.

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