Panerai watches: 1936 marks the launch of the Panerai Radiomir watch prototype and the maiden voyage of Eilean

Kristian Haagen reports from Portosole in San Remo, Italy, about how destiny has rescued and reunited the Scottish ketch, Eilean, and a Panerai watch.

A sailor's best mate, the Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic watch, includes a handy tachymeter scale to gauge the speed of your wake in nautical knots.

"23 days". This was the short and very precise answer I was given when I asked Andrew Cully, skipper of the ketch, Eilean, how long it takes him to sail her from Mallorca to Martinique. This is a big voyage, no matter what kind of boat you are sailing. But Cully is an experienced sailor and has been the man behind the helm since this proud vessel was fully restored in 2009.

Built in 1936 by legendary Scottish yacht builder William Fife III, Eilean, the 70ft ketch, was found in very poor condition in Antigua in November 2006. It was in fact during the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta - the first leg of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, a race reserved for classic and vintage sails - that Panerai's CEO Angelo Bonati spotted the yacht languishing in the mangroves.

It takes a very dedicated sailor to see the potential beauty of a boat in Eilean's sorry state. But it takes an even more visionary man to see the future of the wooden vessel that was leaking everywhere; a hull with seams so wide that daylight could be seen from the inside. The only thing holding it together was the teak planking in the hull as the metallic structure had been weakened by rust.

But Bonati is just this man. In all her faded glory he had Eilean transported from Antigua to the Francesco Del Carlo shipyard in Viareggio, Italy. There, she underwent two years of restoration work. Under the supervision of Bonati, who came to inspect progress every single week, she was ready to set sail again in October 2009, almost three years after she was originally discovered.

In addition to satisfying his passion for all things nautical, Bonati realised there was a symbolic date connecting the launch of Eilean and the introduction of the landmark Panerai Radiomir watch, which was designed for the underwater commandos of the Royal Italian Navy in 1936.

Since her restoration, Andrew Cully has steered Eilean safely through troubled as well as calm waters, occasionally leaving the helm to Angelo Bonati. And on Cully's wrist is a 47mm Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic, a watch dedicated to the life that Cully, his crew and Bonati live at sea. 

The Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic watch in brushed titanium offers an automatic flyback chronograph movement and a programmable regatta countdown indicator. It also includes a very handy tachymeter scale to gauge the speed of your wake in nautical knots.

Limited to 700 pieces and a showstopper when presented during the SIHH watch show in January 2013, this Panerai Luminor watch - reference PAM526 - is as hard to hunt down on dry land as it is at sea. Unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to be a crew member on the Eilean and happen to ask the skipper the time. 

And one final, little-known fact about Eilean. Simon Le Bon sat in her stern when Duran Duran shot the music video of "Rio" from 1982. Le Bon recently revisited Eilean while attending the Panerai British Classic Week in Cowes, Isle of Wright, two weeks prior to my visit. He wrote these words in the guest book: "I sat here in 1982, stoned and dethroned on English harbours, blue sky and tea. Now, in 2014, I have the great pleasure to return, to hear the soft slap of water on the hull. William Fife's Eilean - God bless her and all who sail in her." See the video here.

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