Officine Panerai, founded in 1860, started life making precision instruments such as gauges and barometers over 150 years of ago. Rich in heritage, this year's watch offerings at the SIHH 2013 remained true to its roots, with the main surprise being slimmer and slightly smaller models of the Radiomir, one of the Panerai house staples.
Panerai did not start out life making stylish watches, however. At the outbreak of WWII, Panerai was called upon to create a diving watch for the Italian Navy's frogmen, who carried out underwater operations. The style of these early instruments continues in the unmistakable look of Panerai watches, though initially each and every element was designed to be functional. The large size and clear, luminous numbers were to aid visibility in the darkest depths of the sea, while the bulging locking mechanism around the crown on the later Luminor models ensured even greater water resistance.
Panerai's original prototype for the Radiomir was billed as the 'first professional underwater model in the history of watchmaking'. This wasn't just a watch that could keep water out of the mechanics should you drop it into the depths; this was a timepiece designed for people who worked underwater. The 1938 Radiomir included a depth gauge and compass, and the watch strap was specially designed to reduce the risk of it coming free during special operations and was big enough to be worn over a wetsuit.
This year's SIHH saw the Florentine brand, whose watches are all made in Switzerland, reveal the latest incarnations of the Radiomir, as well as the iconic Luminor and a new pocket watch tourbillon.
As always, Panerai's offerings focus on the iconic Radiomir and Luminor case shapes. The new Radiomir 1940 3 Days models are available in steel or red gold. Unusual for Panerai, who are known for their hulking case sizes, this year a slimmer 42mm version in steel or rose gold is available that looks petite compared to the normal 47mm cases. The 47mm models are fitted with the P.3000 calibre, a hand-wound mechanical movement, while the smaller 42mm models are powered by the P.999/1 hand-wound mechanical calibre.
With three new automatic models in the 1950 range, the Luminor is always immediately recognisable. The PAM 00526 has a regatta countdown function, the PAM00524 includes a flyback chronograph and the PAM00525 offers the same features in a rose gold case. The PAM00530 in titanium incorporates a rattrapante chronograph and a linear 8 day power reserve.
Special editions of the Luminor include the Submersible 1950 3 Days Power Reserve Automatic Bronzo (PAM 00507), which is a smaller version of the very large first bronze watch presented by Panerai in 2011. Again employing unusual materials, the automatic Titanio (PAM 00364) is resistant to 2,500m and the Automatic Ceramica (PAM00508) comes in a handsome matt-black finish. The ceramic model is limited to 1,000 watches, while only 500 of the Titanio and Bronzo will be produced.
Though the Luminor and Radiomir are a part of Panerai's Historic collection, its new Pocket Watch Tourbillon GMT Ceramica is the first of its kind for the brand. It takes the ethos of the Radiomir and turns it into Panerai's very first pocket watch, with a 59mm Radiomir case and a P.2005/S hand-wound movement with tourbillon regulator. With a skeletonised dial and 12 black rods linking the case to the movement, this limited-edition timepiece - limited to only 50 pieces - is one of the toughest-looking gentleman's watches around.
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