Panerai Innovations and New Luminor Submersible 1950 range
Panerai backs its new Luminor Submersible 1950 range with not just a strong hero-oriented origin story but real Panerai innovations like BMG-tech
One would think that a purchase decision was often made on the basis of: there are new Panerai Innovations and the new Luminor Submersible 1950 range has them; but they’re not, instead, you are more likely to get this:
The best watches in the world naturally earn their places on the wrists of the best people. Unsurprisingly, some of these folks are proper heroes. Now, wouldn’t you like to wear the watch of a proper hero? This is a concept in marketing timepieces that goes back decades, perhaps even centuries. In fact, the idea that objects can have an intrinsic value – independent of its origins, its makers or its purveyors – that one might add to oneself by simply possessing them is positively ancient.
Returning to watches, many brands are keen to position their offerings in a way that directly associates their brand with some notion of heroism. Very few can say that their watches were made for real men of action, and that these watches made a real difference to those who wore them. As far as we know, only one name in watchmaking can claim its origins in this way – a story cloaked for years in secrecy, with watches that were never made for the general public. Of course, if you are reading this article, then you already know that our subject is Officine Panerai.
Panerai Innovations and New Luminor Submersible 1950 range
So, why do we bother going about this preamble, especially given that we reliably cover Panerai, well, all the time. It is certainly not because we – or you, for that matter – need a reintroduction. Historically speaking, Panerai users were more likely to be elite commandos who worked under cover of darkness; thus, the Panerai story is simply incredible, and to hear it again reminds us how powerful a good origin story can be. Well, there is also a lot of pure marketing noise about the very values Panerai embodies, quite naturally, spread all across every level of watchmaking that one has to leaf through the real story again.
What Makes the Luminor Submersible
Few watches like the wet and cold as much as the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 range, as we discovered when Panerai let us dunk the Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-TECH 3 Days Automatic in water for our cover shoot. In fact, the brand was a little disappointed that we didn’t go all the way here and just submerge it. After all, the watch is called a Submersible – PAM692 to be specific – so why shouldn’t we get it wet?
In any case, there is something pretty important about this watch that we have to address immediately, leaving aside the functions and aesthetics – a real Panerai innovation in watchmaking. The BMG-TECH part of the name indicates that this is the first mechanical wristwatch in the world to use the radical bulk metallic glass material. We have to take a minute to appreciate that before we get to the nuts and bolts of the watch itself. The short version is this: it isn’t metal, it isn’t glass, and it is not both, except that it kind of is.
BMG stands for bulk metallic glass. Materially, it has a disordered atomic structure, obtained through a high-pressure injection process at a high temperature, followed by a cooling process lasting for only a few seconds, so that the atoms do not have enough time to become arranged in an ordered, regular structure. The disordered structure of BMG-TECH™ is the secret to its great robustness and extreme resistance to corrosion, external shocks and magnetic fields, and enables it to preserve its appearance over time.
Looking at PAM692, it is far from apparent what is happening here at the sub-atomic level. The case, bezel, winding crown, and trademarked crown protector look for all the world like some sort of titanium; the solid case back is in titanium and features the famous engraving of the SLC slow speed torpedo and the word Firenze 1860, both of which need no explanation because the action is elsewhere in this ticker. Indeed, the most striking bit about the watch is the delicious shade of blue worn by the dial. It was ridiculously difficult to capture this shade of blue – which looks like the shimmer of some unknown ocean – in our shoot and we commend our photographer for his superlative efforts.
The Panerai innovation BMG-TECH of the 47mm case is what makes PAM692 so strong and so light, with a texture that feels distinct from titanium. However, the case still feels like metal unlike the many polymer-cased wonders trotted out by watchmaking firms. This should appeal to purists but, on the other hand, some may indeed feel that the material is too close to titanium in terms of its feel.
Returning to PAM692, the watch achieves an admirable water resistance of 300m, which makes this a proper diving watch and adds to its tool-watch cool. It shares this water resistance rating with all other Submersibles this year, except the red gold version, which is rated to 100m. Of course, like any cool tool watch, PAM692 is equipped with an appropriately reliable in-house movement. This is the in-house automatic P.9010 calibre, which actually unites it with all the other Submersibles in this story. This calibre is itself an evolution of calibre P.9000, which powered the last range of Panerai Submersibles released in 2015.
This is brings us to PAM1389, the Panerai Luminor 1950 Submersible Amagnetic 3 Days Automatic Titanio. Panerai introduced its first Amagnetic model in 2015, the vaunted PAM389, and it caused quite a stir by shrugging off the effects of magnetic fields of less than 40,000 A/m (amperes per metre). The industry standard for anti-magnetic measures is a trifling 4,800 A/m and PAM389 easily beats this, meaning X-ray machines don’t threaten it, much less more mundane electronics – all electronic devices generate a magnetic field. The key to Panerai’s accomplishment here is the Faraday cage that surrounds the movement, in the form of a soft iron inner case. This sort of construction will be very familiar to collectors, of course, but PAM389 was actually the first Panerai watch to be so equipped. Take note though that MRI machines are still dangerous to this watch as these generate fields of up to 1,595,250 A/m.
For PAM1389, which replaces PAM389, Panerai tried to streamline matters. The case of the new model is more than 2mm thinner while the movement itself is almost 2mm thinner. In a novel move, the inner case is just below the dial, which is also in the same soft iron.
Next up is another evolution, this time the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo PAM671. The first version was PAM382, released at the SIHH in 2011 to audible gasps and general acclaim later that year as collectors got their hands on the actual watches. Well, there were just 1,000 pieces available, and of course, they are all spoken for today. Panerai capitalised on the success with another big bronze model, PAM507, in 2013. PAM671 features a blue dial where the previous bronze models had green dials. The copper-pure tin alloy used in previous models makes a return here, but of course, the movement is the new P.9010.
As expected, PAM671 is a special edition that is limited to 1,000 pieces so, if you are interested, best to get moving, if you haven’t already; PAM382 reportedly sold out within days, so you may already be too late here…
The last of the 47mm Submersibles this year is the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Titanio PAM1305. Alongside the smaller steel model, this watch presents the most classic choice in the range, as far as materials for proper diving watches go. Of course, it shares the same characteristics such as small seconds at nine o’clock and date at three o’clock as the other Submersibles.
Speaking of that smaller model, there are actually two being offered this year that seem perfectly innocuous at first glance. Both the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio PAM682 and the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Oro Rosso PAM684 are 42mm in diameter. This fact has already amazed some observers, and we can testify that it sits well on smaller wrists. In terms of features and such, these two share the same black dial as PAM1305, meaning that there are basically blue and black dials across the collection. The steel model is distinguished by the small seconds hand, which is in Panerai blue, while the red gold version sports a matt black ceramic disc.
Before closing off the story of the Panerai Submersibles this year, a note about Super-LumiNova on the hands and markers that distinguishes the 2017 collection from the 2015 one. Previously, everything glowed a vivid green, as illustrated by our 2015 story. Panerai decided that better legibility called for a mix of colours, so white and blue Super-LumiNova have taken over from green. The stud on the bezel at 12 o’clock glows blue, as does the minute hand. This makes the watch far more legible when it is most crucial, beneath the waves. After all, aesthetics is one thing, but the story of Panerai is defined by the performance of its offerings. Diving watches are such an important part of the Panerai story (see the illustrated chart, Line of Descent) that the Submersible range will only go from strength to strength. We are sure that we will be seeing far more innovations debuting in the range over the years, but perhaps we can finally say that this is the end of the beginning…