When one considers how the origins of Panerai – not counting the prototypes re-imagined a half-century after the end of WWII – can be found in a mere two models, the plethora of variants is nothing short of remarkable. Then again, there is no culture more inventive than that of Italy when it comes to design, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the cushion-shaped Radiomir and the locking-crown Marina Militare/Luminor family yielded everything from ceramic cases to numerals picked out in diamonds.
Dials, however, have been (in the main) black, blue, white or tobacco. The first, of course, is the colour found on all of the true military issue models, for the obvious reason that they were worn by sabotage teams not interested in being detected and betrayed by their watches. The last of the four colours pays homage to those early dials which have aged in the euphemistically named manner we now call “tropical”, Panerai cannily reissuing historically important models with a pre-aged look.
As for white and blue, the first dates back to the mid-1990s models, the pre-Richemont pieces that overlapped with both eras, both appearing on the original Mare Nostrums, while glossy white dials were also fitted to Luminors. Once the brand’s revival was fully under way, blue was also applied to the more macho variants, such as the big Luminor GMT, while the last couple of years have seen a plethora of blue-dialled models across the range.
Along with skeletonised Panerais, other oddities and specials have included models with green and matte charcoal grey dials, but now it’s time for a colour to be added to the regular catalogue which really shows how versatile the octogenarian design can be. Making its debut on the latest Panerai Luminor Marina is the new dial in brushed steel, and – once you get over the shock – it’s a stunner.
What it does, even more so than the stark white dials is to lighten the look. Colour aside, it’s pure Panerai, and a bare bones description doesn’t quite convey the transition that the new dial hue imparts to the watch. It’s offered in two sizes, with the AISI 316L stainless steel cases produced with diameters of 42mm (PAM00977) and 44mm (PAM00978). They’re water-resistant, respectively, to 10bar (100m) and 300bar (300m).
Both are powered by the P.9010 in-house automatic movement, with three-day power reserve, and come fitted with the company’s clever bracelet design, with links that echo the form of the signature crown-locking flip mechanism. Another fine detail is the mix of two finishes on the bracelet, brushed and polished, which both complement and contrast with the new dial.
Its simplicity is deceptive. At first, you react as one does when seeing what seems to be a monochromatic presence, but then the highlights emerge. The classic Panerai numeral font, with the “6” that looks like the curl on Bill Haley’s forehead and the wide “12” are applied, as are the remaining bar indices; these are treated with luminous material. There’s no “3” because that position is occupied by a small date window, while the 9 o’clock location contains the small seconds. Here the watch exhibits a dash of rakishness, as the seconds hand is the same bright blue as found on the gorgeous Luminor Due.
As for the main surface of the dial, the brushed finish consists of vertical stripes, with the Panerai logo and model name in black. Flip it over and the P.9010 movement can be seen through the sapphire glass “porthole”. Panerai has equipped the calibre with the device for stopping the balance wheel to aid in synchronising the watch, while it also features a mechanism for adjusting the hour hand in a manner which doesn’t affect the running of the minute hand, as found in GMTs and world times for setting the second time zone. As Panerai points out, this function, even in a watch that only shows one timezone, is useful for both setting the time or changing the time zone, and it also increases the ease and rapidity for date adjustment.
As the Rolling Stones once sang, “You got the silver.” Now the Paneristi can take it literally.