For Angelo Bonati, CEO of Officine Panerai, the lure of mechanical watches rises above any political or economic uncertainties. “The market for high-end watchmaking is unusual in the context of luxury and has elements which are irrational and unique,” he says.
“From time to time, technical developments pose a threat to this market, leading to real revolutions. But high-quality mechanical watchmaking has always managed to resist this and to relaunch itself again after each crisis. The fascination of a mechanical watch has a unique added value, and from an enthusiast’s point of view it is irreplaceable.” Bonati does not feel the brand is threatened by innovations such as smart watches. “I believe that the only point in common between luxury watchmaking and the Apple Watch is the wrist. Mechanical watches are filled with passion, emotion, history and tradition – a world of values which technology cannot replace.”
Other innovations in technology and materials, however, are embraced for their capability to add value to prestige watches. Panerai’s famous Luminor Submersible 1950, for example, uses a new material called Carbotech. The brand, a unique blend of Swiss precision and Italian style, promises to bring excitement to Watches&Wonders 2015. “We are presenting many innovations of a strategic nature. The focus is mainly on the Radiomir 1940 collection, with its sober ’40s-style design of exemplary simplicity, but we also are presenting more recent additions from our manufacture,” Bonati says. The Radiomir 1940 has been described as a “classic of modernity”, and the brand salutes its history in its new designs with the introduction of the Luminor 1950 case, distinguished by a unique crown-protecting device.
Like all Panerai models, it melds form with function, eliminating superfluous decoration.
“History has always been and will always be the foundation of the Panerai identity,” Bonati says. “It is an enormous source of inspiration for new collections.” The Radiomir 1940 3 Days, in steel or red gold, is powered by Calibre P.1000, a new hand-wound movement developed at the brand’s manufacture in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
A large brush-finished bridge covers the major part of the wheelwork, and a bridge with two supports firmly holds the balance. The three-day power reserve comes from two spring barrels connected in series. In another innovative feature, when the winding crown is pulled out, the balance wheel stops, and the seconds hand, rotating in the subsidiary dial at 9 o’clock, is moved back to zero so that the watch can be synchronised with the reference time signal.
The 42mm case is water-resistant to 100 metres in the polished stainless steel version and to 50 metres in Panerai’s gold alloy. The movement is visible through the back. The black dial has large bar markers and figures, created in a “sandwich” technique in which the luminous markers shine through a disc superimposed on another disc. The manually wound Calibre P.1000 is a worthy addition to Panerai’s range of movements. It is just 26.8mm in diameter and 3.85mm thick. A completely new movement, P.2003/10, with a skeletonised oscillating weight, allows a power reserve of 10 days and can be found in the Radiomir 10 Days GMT Automatic.
Panerai is presenting two special editions of this 45mm watch, combining it with the P.2003/10 movement for the first time in this skeletonised form to provide date and GMT functions, and a lengthy power reserve, made possible by the three spring barrels. In addition to hours, minutes and small seconds, the functions include the date and a linear indication of the power reserve. The local time is adjusted forward and backward in one-hour increments, automatically adjusting the date. The second time zone is indicated by a central arrow hand, with the am/pm indication at 9 o’clock.
Technically, the skeletonisation is very accomplished as the rotor is engraved. It is inscribed with “Officine Panerai”, and the skeletonised bridges and barrels can be seen underneath, also highly finished and polished. The 45mm case is in red gold, and the dial has a satiné soleil finish and Panerai’s “sandwich” construction, giving maximum visibility even in very low lighting. There are two versions, one with a black dial and one with a brown dial.
Officine Panerai has always had a connection with the great genius Galileo Galilei, because of the brand’s Florentine origins as well as Galileo’s fundamental contributions to time measurement.
The Lo Scienziato (The Scientist) collection pays tribute to him. The Lo Scienziato Radiomir 1940 Tourbillon GMT Oro Rosso is a 48mm model just added to the range – the first time the model has been made in red gold. A creation of the brand’s Laboratorio di Idee, the timepiece features a hand-wound skeletonised movement, P.2005/S, with a tourbillon regulator. A single rotation is completed in 30 seconds – instead of the traditional 60 – and the tourbillon rotates on a perpendicular axis, instead of parallel to the balance wheel. It has a six-day power reserve.
To showcase the skeletonised design, the small seconds dial is placed at 9 o’clock, with its indicator dot rotating simultaneously with the tourbillon cage, and the counter at 3 o’clock, with the am/pm indication integrated into the movement. The linear hour markers and numbers are fixed to the black flange, on which “Lo Scienziato” is engraved. The watch is limited to 30 pieces.