By Shane Snider, Editorial Director
MORENCI, Ariz. — Fernando Mansilla’s dream of designing a watch may have started with a simple napkin doodle, but the real inspiration for his Pontvs and Carmagnolle watches comes from a pit dug deep into the earth’s surface.
The 31-year-old is a metallurgical engineer at Freeport-McMoRan’s Arizona mine – the largest copper producing mine in the U.S. As Mansilla began dreaming up his concept of an Italian-style dive watch, he wanted to utilize the material he spends so much of his time analyzing at work. The natural option was to focus on bronze and brass watches, which both contain copper. “I think it’s a fascinating material,” he said. “There’s something special about the way it oxidizes and changes with exposure to different elements.”
Mansilla’s watch journey began as a child in Peru. His grandmother had given his father a watch from Europe as a present. “I can’t even remember the name of the watch, but I was fascinated by it,” he said. “He eventually lost it, but it was always in the back of my mind.”
Years later, he started looking at watches on eBay and came across a Marina Militare and loved the simple design and size. At the time, he didn’t realize the watch was an homage to Panerai. He scoured the web looking for more information and was hooked by the history and simplicity of the Italian dive watch. So, he bought himself a used Panerai 372.
“I’ve always been into design and I just started drawing watches in my free time,” he said. “I don’t like too many things on a watch. I like to keep it simple.” From those napkins and notepad scribbles, the Pontvs Nessi started to take shape – a design with a nod to his favorite Italian timepieces with his own personal flourishes added. He wanted to pay homage to Italian-style dive watches, but to come up with different details and flavor. He also wanted to make the first watch affordable, using brass and a Japanese Seiko NH35 – the reliable workhorse movement that powers many microbrand watches.
“A lot of microbrands make use of crowd-funding,” he said. “I wanted to do it differently and not be tied down with production deadlines and other pressures from outside investors. So, I funded this project myself. It’s my personal hobby. I don’t need to make watches. It’s a passion.”
Family ties in a new concept
The story of two French brothers who built an early dive suit made entirely out of bronze struck Fernando as the perfect tie-in for his next project – Carmagnolle Watches. These new watches would be a collaboration with brother Juan Pablo, who handles marketing and helps with production. With Carmagnolle, Fernando wanted to create a higher end watch with details like CuSn8 bronze, and swiss movements. He plans to launch Carmagnolle watches after the Pontvs watches are delivered. He expects the price range to be $800-$1,000.
Digging for explosive watch ideas
Fernando continues dreaming and doodling for future projects. He already has a rough concept for “The Hydra,” the next planned watch from Pontvs. While he shared some early design concepts, he wants to keep the designs from public view as the project will likely evolve. The watch will be a marriage of design concepts from different dive watches.
Fernando has another project in mind. He wants to build the better bomb-proof watch. German outfit Kaventsmann received international press when their Triggerfish A2 bronze watch survived a C4 explosive blast. Fernando wants to bring the title of the world’s most indestructible watch to the U.S. He plans on producing his bomb-proof timepieces entirely in the U.S. and will only produce a handful of watches.
“I just thought it would be fun,” he said. “We blow things up all day at work. I want to prove that we can do it better here.”
As for the future of his regular line of watches from both companies, he says he’s constantly making new drawings and dreaming of future projects. As he toils away in the depths of a copper mine, dreams of new designs always pop into his head.
“Every watch I launch is personal to me,” he said. “This comes from the perspective of a hobby I love, not just a business.” – Fernando Mansilla
Fernando’s inspiration may have come from the deep. But he still keeps his head in the clouds, and his sketch pad at the ready. “I’m always coming up with new ideas and designs,” he said. “Work in the mine can be challenging. This gives me a way to release stress.”
The Pontvs Nessi production process is now complete and will soon begin shipping. One last hurdle remains. Fernando needs to have custom packaging completed before orders ship. A wait list is now available at www.pontvswatch.com. The price is $390 w/shipping included.
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