Panerai is a brand that in my mind lacks orientation. It is a brand with an interesting history and a clear design language that stands out and is easily recognizable. It is one of the few brands who you could recognize immediately even if you would just be shown a rough sketch of it. The brand established itself as the supplier of the Italian navy, and made some amazing watches in that time which in their minimalistic design were way ahead of their time and still serve as the inspiration for the watches they offer today.
Things changed in the 2000s. The once niche brand that was only really available in Italy experienced a big surge in popularity following their acquisition by what is today known as the Richemont Group. Perfectly aligned with the craze for oversized watches you could suddenly spot Panerai watches both on the wrists of Hollywood stars as well as in Boutiques all over the world.
Since then, the development of the brand has been rather stagnant. The only thing that has truly gotten bigger, though not necessarily better, is the pricing. And the same is true for the new collection we are presenting today. While on paper it is a super cool watch, with an awesome design and a unique twist to it, it is priced in a way that makes you want to shake your head.
The watches we are talking about are the Panerai Pam 1117, 1118, and 1119. They are all part of the ’70 Years Of Luminor’ collection that was released at this years Watches and Wonders expo. The case is similar to that on any other 44 mm Panerai Luminor Marina. Ticking inside is their in-house P.9010 automatic movement, vibrating at 4Hz with a 72-hour power reserve. So far, so boring.
Enough foreplay, let’s get down to business and what puts the lume in the Luminor. First of all, and arguably less noticeable, is the decision to use a brand-new type of Super-LumiNova that is called the X1 variant. That lume is supposed to be brighter, longer lasting, and most importantly tougher which allows for and leads us to the second point. Panerai decided to not just use the lume on the hands and markers, but further on the name branding, inner bezel, bridge, and bracelet stitching.
The result of all this is a watch that looks like it is a prop from the Tron movie. It has that unrealistically futuristic vibe in the same way a concept car does. The difference here is though that this over the top design made it beyond a late night product pitch and actually became a real products. With 44 mm in diameter and 15.6 mm thickness, this watch will stand out both in the day, and especially in the night.
The collection is offered in three case variants, those being in Carbotech for $16,000, and in Titanium or Fibratech for $19,000 each. These are all cool choices that go with the modern appeal of this watch, but those prices are for my taste way too steep, especially if you consider what that money gets you with the competition. There is however a silver lining here that helps make these prices feel less rough. The watch is offered with a 70-year guarantee. Let that sink in. With this kind of guarantee, a spoiled 20 year old who gets this watch will probably die before this service will run out.
Overall, I like this watch, not for what it is but for the discussions it will enable. On the one side I personally hope other manufacturers will decide to get a little creative with the lume application and play with it beyond the purely functional aspect. On the other side I would be happy to see a trend for longer guarantees. With prices being where they are, I think it would only be fair and matching with product identity if Rolex, for example, introduced a 10, 50, or even 100 year guarantee for watches. I think this would really help establish the narrative of luxury watches being made to last, possibly beyond the initial purchaser’s own life.
Only time will tell whether this watch will have a lasting impact, but even if it fails to do so it will be a watch to be recognized in the years to come.