At SIHH in Geneva, in January 2014, Panerai presented its latest pieces, each of which incorporates the looks and functions that reflect over 150 years' passion for watches and the sea. For example, the Radiomir 1940 is a chronograph whose red gold version has the famously eccentric California dial, with Arabic numbers in the top half and Roman numerals below. The 1936 Radiomir prototype was made as part of a commission from the Italian Navy, and Panerai decided to present the admiral a choice of two possible dial designs, either Arabic or Roman. For the sake of easy comparison (and perhaps in order not to have to make two separate prototypes) they presented the two options on the same dial. The admiral responsible for the commission, perhaps thinking ahead to lunch, said absent-mindedly "Yes, that'll do," and so the hybrid received official approval and became the final design. The Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Oro Rosso is powered by the OP XXV calibre, developed from the 13-22 calibre by Minerva, a Swiss manufacturer that had links with Panerai from the 1920s. On the dial, there is a minute counter at 3 o'clock, seconds at 9 o'clock, central chronograph hand, and tachymeter scale around the edge of the dial.
The Luminor 1950 Left-Handed has an equally fascinating story. Many of Panerai's early watches were commissioned by the Italian Navy, whose commando divers had to wear a depth gauge and a compass as well as their watch. So the Panerai designers created a version in which the crown (and the classic crown protector, another of the brand's trademark features) was on the left side, so that it could be used when the watch was worn on the right wrist. The in-house P.3000 movement provides 3 days' power reserve, and drives the hour and minute functions. The crystal is in Plexiglas, another reference to Panerai's naval history. Each watch is supplied with a second interchangeable strap, and a replacement Plexiglas watchglass.
The Luminor Base 8 Days Titanio is the latest version in a long series of models originating in the early 1990s, when Officine Panerai presented three watches in which the military features of the brand's timepieces are distilled into simple, elegant and timeless designs, very practical with the sandwich dial structure in which the luminescent SuperLuminova is coated onto the layer below, and is revealed through the pierced markings on the top layer. The result is excellent night-time visibility. Another user-friendly feature is the 8-day power reserve, attained by means of two barrels in series. As well as the model in titanium, the Luminor Base 8 Days is also available in steel.
The Luminor 1950 Chrono Monopulsante Left-Handed 8 Days Titanio is another classic – but of course, all Panerai watches are classics! A large watch at 47 millimetres diameter, reflecting the years in which the brand's watches were made to be worn over a diving suit, the use of titanium keeps the weight of this piece to an acceptable value. The chronograph is operated by a single pusher at 2 o'clock, which starts, stops and resets the time measured by the central sweep seconds hand and the minute subdial at 9 o'clock. The stop-seconds feature enables the small seconds hand, on the subdial at 3 o'clock, to be stopped and zeroed by pulling out the crown. The hand starts moving once the crown is pushed into its original position, so that the watch can be synchronized to a time signal.
Another recent limited edition takes the form of two models dedicated to Istanbul, where Panerai opened their first boutique last year in Nisantasi. The caseback of the Istanbul special edition series of the Panerai Luminor Marina and the Panerai Radiomir has an engraving of one of the most famous buildings of the city, Hagia Sophia. These pieces will be auctioned later in summer in support of DenizTemiz, an association promoting clean seas and coasts in Turkey. As the brand expands around the globe, its watches' Italian design heritage, Swiss precision and inimitable looks help win it ever-more numerous supporters, rapidly transforming every piece into a collector's item.
Panerai boutique in Istanbul:
Abdi İpekçi Caddesi Altın Sokak No. 2/2
Tel: +90 212 291 5959
For other Panerai boutiques, see the luxos.com store locator