PANERAI EVOLVES FROM LUXURY BRAND TO LEGITIMATE MANUFACTURE WITH ITS THREE NEW IN-HOUSE CALIBERS
In ten short years, Panerai has gone from being a military secret to a luxury brand and now, with its three new incredible in-house calibers, to a legitimate manufacture.
There are moments in your life when you know you are witnessing history. And so it was that the gathered journalists realized that what they were seeing was something unprecedented and historical. Because in just ten years, Panerai’s CEO, Angelo Bonati, has taken his brand from military tool, to luxury brand, to legitimate manufacture.
The story of Panerai is now something of a legend. While on vacation, Richemont Group owner, Johann Rupert, saw a vintage Panerai military watch and commanded his group executive director, Franco Cologni, to purchase the brand. Cologni then invited designer Giampiero Bodino to create the basic aesthetic blueprint for the brand, and CEO Angelo Bonati to lead the brand’s transition from military tool to luxury icon. Such was the commercial magic of Panerai that with the very first series of watches issued, the Richemont Group recouped all of its initial investment. In the ten years since the brand’s launch in 1997, it has captured the hearts of a myriad of fans the world over, with Bonati carefully shepherding the brand from strength to strength.
So on March 9th 2007, over 100 journalists gathered to see what form the 10th anniversary celebrations of Panerai would take. What we received was a triple barreled forced induction blast of technical merit that heralded a new era for Panerai and was the culmination of a dream for Angelo Bonati – the transformation of his brand into a true manufacture with technically distinctive and exclusive movements.
There’s something innate to its mythology: the watch of Italian naval commandos, it takes on luxury, and combines it with the rich drama of boyhood dreams. But one recurring criticism of Panerai was its lack of in-house movements that would forever relegate it to the second-class status of “brand” as opposed to “manufacture.” But two years ago, Panerai launched their first in-house caliber – the P.2002. This caliber featured three coupled barrels – two were stacked and on top of the third barrel, the differential mechanism for the power reserve was placed. The movement was capable of essentially displaying three time zones. You use the central mounted hands for local time and the small hand located inside the seconds sundial for home time. The movement also featured a central mounted GMT indicator (for third time zone display) and a zero reset for the small seconds. The date was synchronized with local time and could be set to go forward or backwards. The movement beat at four hertz, had a free-sprung balance and featured a unique linear power reserve. This movement was a revelation. But in 2006, when Panerai didn’t unveil any new movement, many people regarded the P.2002 as something of a fluke, a one-off to elevate the positioning of the brand.
In 2007, the entirety and immense breadth of the plan for Panerai was unveiled with the introduction of three new calibers, including the most originally designed tourbillon of the past few years. Collectively, Panerai’s four in-house calibers and the watches they will be housed in represent the elevation of Panerai to a new level of watchmaking. Legendary independent watchmaker, Franck Muller, was quick to remark that, “A milieu de gamme brand cannot be elevated to haut de gamme status.” However, in this instance, we would have to disagree. Because what Muller doesn’t take into account is the emotional magic of Panerai to help us tap into the boyhood idealism that heroism exists in us all.
THREE MOVEMENTS In each instance, all of Panerai’s in-house movements will continue to feature the small seconds zero reset, GMT, three barrels, linear power reserve indicator and free-sprung balance of the initial watches. The three movements unveiled by Panerai were:
CALIBER ONE: THE P.2003 AUTOMATIC MOVEMENT WITH TEN DAYS POWER RESERVE The P.2003 is an automatic movement with bi-directional winding system. Says Eric Klein, the head of Richemont movements and the man in charge of developing the three calibers for Panerai, “The problem with uni-directional winding movements is that when the rotor spins in the direction that doesn’t wind, it does so very fast. This is actually not ideal as it causes quite a bit of wear on parts. So, this is why it was important to all of us to create a bi-directional winding movement.”
As a collector, what is extremely exciting about the in-house Panerai is that, according to Klein, the mainsprings used were made by JLC, while the hairsprings were made by A. Lange and Söhne. Thus, these movements feature some of the most exclusive elements in high watchmaking.
CALIBER TWO: P.2004 MANUAL-WIND COLUMN WHEEL MONOPUSHER CHRONOGRAPH WITH OFFSET VERTICAL CLUTCH AND EIGHT DAYS POWER RESERVE The P.2004 is a vertical clutch activated, column wheel, manual-wind monopusher chronograph. When asked why he decided to go with an offset vertical clutch, Klein explained, “I have created other calibers using a central vertical clutch. But in this case, because the movement configurations for the future may have hands that are mounted at different heights, the best solution was to have an offset clutch. In the centralized configuration, every time you change the height of the chrono hand, you have to redesign the clutch. With the offset clutch, you don’t have to keep redesigning the clutch.” Reading between the lines, does this mean that Panerai has even further plans for this chronograph, such as a split seconds or perpetual chronograph? We’ll just have to wait and see!
The chronograph movement is of the monopusher chronograph variety and watches that use it will feature a very discreet pusher tucked neatly away at 7:30 on the watch case.
CALIBER THREE: P.2005 TOURBILLON WITH VERTICAL ROTATING AXIS This movement keeps the three-barrel configuration to create an extensive six days power reserve despite powering a vertically rotating tourbillon. The creation of a regulator that is poised on a bridge that rotates 360 degrees on a vertical axis underscores Panerai’s commitment to creating only chronometric timepieces rooted in their performance-oriented past. Traditional tourbillons were created to average out errors caused by gravity’s effect on the hairspring and balance in the vertical position (pocket watches spend the majority of their life in this position). However, the majority of watches spend their life in many different positions. To help the balance wheel adopt a greater number of positions, the balance is mounted on a slender bridge that rotates at 90 degrees to the movement. Says Klein, “Imagine a chicken on a rotisserie spit. This is precisely the same way the tourbillon rotates.
There are two axes here: the axes of oscillation of the balance and the axis of rotation of the bridge, which are at 90 degrees to each another.” The distinction here is that there is no traditional cage for this tourbillon as the rotating bridge takes on the job of propelling the balance and hairspring through space at the extra-fast rate of two rotations per minute. When asked why he arrived at this speed, Klein explained, “Actually, it was out of necessity. We couldn’t increase the dimensions of the wheel driving this mechanism enough to have it rotate at one minute, and still have the movement relatively flat.” However, as Greubel Forsey has shown, tourbillons rotating faster than one minute can have a positive effect on accuracy, and this is in line with creating a truly chronometric tourbillon. H
This image perfectly captures Panerai’s evolution. From top center, we see the first Panerai military prototype – the California Dial Radiomir circa 1936; on the right, is the Luminor Marina watch that has become one of the most iconic luxury timepieces of the modern era; and on the left, is a 1950 case watch featuring Panerai’s in-house three-barrel movement, which represents the elevation of Panerai’s status to that of a true manufacture
The ten days automatic movement caliber P.2003 is found in the references PAM 235 and 273 – respectively, the white and rose gold Radiomir case watches