There was a time not too long ago when, if you wanted a Panerai watch — pretty much any Panerai model — you simply would not have been able to get one. That was how much demand outstripped supply. You would have had to bribe, cajole, arm twist and emotionally blackmail your way onto the waiting list and sit patiently by the phone like a teenager waiting for an invitation to the prom. Those of us who truly love Panerai, as I do, recall those times with infinite fondness and ceaseless affection for the man who provoked from us utterly outrageous acts just for the possibility of buying his watches: the magnificent Angelo Bonati.
Yes, Sylvester Stallone prompted Johann Rupert to purchase the brand. And yes, Franco Cologni was key to the marketing strategy for the “Watch of Heroes,” and Giampiero Bodino designed the fundamental aesthetic blueprint for Panerai. But there is only one man who is the brand’s beating heart and ineffable soul, and that is Bonati. Want just one act of legendary repute? He found a box of old Rolex movements at Panerai, put them in platinum Radiomir cases and, with the PAM 21, made back the total purchase price of Panerai. Boom!
Just like that, Bonati was off to an incredible start: first transforming what was once a military tool into the hottest luxury watch brand on the planet; and then subsequently transforming that same luxury brand into a manufacture capable of producing movements that range from the most basic to complications such as tourbillons and minute repeaters. People forget that it was Bonati who was the very first luxury watch CEO to embrace the Internet – in particular, the at times raucous, at times educational and always entertaining chat forum known as Paneristi. Not only did Bonati occasionally drop knowledge through his impromptu posts, but he also created a watch to commemorate the community’s 10th anniversary.
I remember during an event in Florence, held to announce the creation of his in-house movements: while everyone was drinking champagne, I went back to the Hotel Excelsior and pounded out the story emphasizing its historical significance. The next morning, he summoned me through the brand’s head of Asia, my friend Alexandra Zoller, and invited me to have breakfast with him. He asked me: “Do you know why you are here?” I shook my head and he said: “Because of all the people I invited, instead of enjoying yourself, you did your work first and you wrote exactly the correct thing about our transformation into a manufacture.”
And that was the start of a friendship that has endured for a decade and a half, and that culminated in his creation of the PAM 599, a special-edition watch for the 10th anniversary of this magazine. For all he’s done: for taking a military tool and transforming it into a luxury watch, and for the creation of a manufacture and a legacy that is extraordinary, I salute my dear friend Angelo Bonati and it is my pleasure to award him Revolution’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.