Angelo Bonati speaks about one of Panerai's greatest innovations yetBy Sumit Nag
REVOLUTION founder, Wei Koh, sits down with Angelo Bonati and Officine Panerai’s R&D Director Frédéric Dreyer-Gonzales to better UNDERSTAND the innovation that is Panerai’s new Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio and what it represents for watchmaking.
Wei: You look great, as usual.
Mr. Bonati: Yes, of course, as usual.
So, I was really impressed by this tourbillon – with the titanium case on it.
Because, when you pick it up – you imagine that it will weigh something – and it completely defies your expectations. It’s so light. And then I learned that you are using this very innovative technique for creating the case, using a three dimensional printing method. Can you explain to me how this idea came about?
Bonati: Now the idea, I cannot reveal it to you. You are asking me to reveal one of my secrets [the room bursts into laughter]. But I can tell you a little about the process through which we came to have this watch – it was mostly the work of this magician here [Mr. Bonati points to Officine Panerai’s R&D Director Frédéric Dreyer-Gonzales]. Sometimes he goes out to find new things – he’s like a sabujo [scent hound] – he smells out new things. He will explain to you this new construction method. Please, tell us.
Dreyer-Gonzales: I sometimes tell Mr. Bonati, that we have to challenge all the technology and innovation that is presently available to us. It is with that thought in mind that we developed this movement – the P.2005 in titanium – and ended up with a movement that is really light.
So the decision was to make the movement in titanium first?
Yes, and I told him that we needed to correlate the watch’s case with the same light sensation. With that, we set out to prospect all the technology that is available to us. In the end, we had to resort to a technology from another industry – from aeronautics and biomedical, called direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) . We had to work with some specialists in the technology to acquire their know-how and integrate all of it towards creating the case for this watch.
The idea was to have a lighter case. But we also needed to ensure its reliability. We performed many simulations inside of our manufacture in order to have the final case specifics. Thereafter, we approached the experts and we said, “okay we want this, and your technology will fit every demand of our case.” Basically, from the existing technology, what we have done is that we’ve reoriented it to solve a problem we have.
And, what problem was that, Mr. Bonati?
The problem really was the weight. I wanted something better, better than the solutions that we already had on hand.
So about the quality of the material – we use grade 5 titanium. Normally we use two kinds of titanium, the grade 2 and grade 5. Grade 1 is not really good in terms of quality, but two is nice. Grade 5 is better, because of its corrosion resistance properties.
And you can polish it too, right?
Yes, we can polish the material to achieve very beautiful final results. So the first goal, was really to get the good quality raw material, because in order to achieve our desired quality for the case, we had to source for very good quality titanium powder – it needed to be really good in terms of its composition and it must have uniformity in particle size.
Once the raw material has been obtained, we use an optical laser that lays down the material by sintering – layer by layer, in order to produce the final three dimensional form of the case.
So what happens? You create the design and then you lay down a layer of this titanium powder?
Yes, we essentially have stacks that we build up, layer by layer, 20 microns at a time and then have that sintered – and you eventually end up with the raw case.
Which is already super light and in fact, this raw finish of the case too, is great. How about in terms of surface hardness, durability and strength?
Equivalent. Equivalent to grade 5 in our more regular executions, even.
After that we perform a tremble treatment, that helps us detect any microporosity present in the case. So we are able to make sure that all of the material has been sintered together – a hundred per cent of all elements in the construction process is controlled internally at Panerai. We have very specific machines and resources dedicated to this production process.
So these machines are in the manufacture?
The machines for the control and refinement are in the manufacture, but not the actual sintering machine. All of the processes required, once the sintering has been done, are done at Neuchatel and a hundred per cent controlled at the manufacture.
Does Panerai have exclusive use of this technology?
Because we are the first, we can say that we are the first in the watchmaking market to use such technology – with titanium.
That’s probably one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen here in terms of case construction.
We prefer to be a leader, not a follower.
Now that, I’ve heard before.
So after the tremble treatment, we have a second machine processing – to remove the surface of the raw case.
Well, it’s kinda cool though – even this brutal finish? A Panerai with this finish, would be really cool.
After the second machine processing and the polishing, the final case is done. To better understand what we’ve achieved, we’ve cut the case in this instance in order to see the cavity inside.
You can see the cavity now, clearly inside.
Oh wow! Now I understand why this case is so light! That’s incredible. [alas, we were not allowed to photograph this]
The challenge was for us to design the case in 3D and ensure that all the mechanical requirements of the case were maintained – it must be equivalent or better than the standard one. The inside of the case is hollow, and still we have a very strong case for shock resistance, pressure resistance – we’ve already addressed corrosion resistance due to the grade 5 titanium. The water resistance is 100 per cent ensured – because of the special machine we use to check against micro pores – using helium leak detection.
The crown bridge is made traditionally then?
Because you know you could save a few more grams if you applied the same construction approach to the crown bridge.
Well you know when we first presented the watch to Mr. Bonati, he asked for better coherence between the watch and even its buckle. And so you see how we have skeletonized even the buckle – for a better, lighter watch.
it’s really wonderful, because when Mr. Bonati created the P.2005, I remember we had this discussion – that it’s really a tourbillon, which is really a sporting watch tourbillon. Because at 30 seconds, and also the rotation – so that the balance wheel is in more positions. Now that you’ve created a titanium version of that, it really demonstrates to people that a tourbillon can be a robust sports watch. Was that important to you, Mr. Bonati?
Will you be wearing one?
Not yet. Because these guys don’t want to give me one [the room again bursts out in laughter]. I have to cry, please give me one.
That’s amazing. That’s really extraordinary.
So the final weight of the watch, is less than 100 grams.
Incredible. Mr. Bonati, will we see more light titanium watches from Panerai, using this construction method? It’s one of the most innovative techniques we’ve seen Panerai achieve, because many people have tried to play with titanium, but they are limited – because what they end up with is a solid mass.
We have not yet tested in-depth other materials, because it is important to understand where we can lead this knowledge – we will focus just on titanium for now, but I think it has potential to work on steel as well. However, it’s a long process of understanding and developing this new know-how.
It makes sense to use titanium, because you have this benefit of the lightness. This is probably the most beautiful watch I’ve seen so far at the fair, it’s incredible. And the idea that it has so much innovation represented within it – that’s incredible.
And that buckle also –
– Yes, I love that.
So really, the idea about innovation on this case, is that we needed to think outside of the box – it’s not a visible innovation, but when you touch it – you understand the magic.
Do you think it might be possible to eventually see this technology in normal titanium case watches or the titanium submersible? Just to have ultra-light watches?
Perhaps. Our idea is to go deeper –
– To build a family around this technology? Ah, I see. And what are the other materials you can use with this technology? Besides titanium, you mentioned steel; but to me, that’s not as interesting.
There is the possibility of gold –
[Mr. Bonati shushes Frédéric, causing the room to erupt in laughter] Say nothing, you tell him about it – then he’s going to write like a crazy person and our competition is going to come after us.
Can I ask you a little bit about the Petite Egiziano, the PAM 662, and the 663 also with this extraordinary dial along with the new movement also. Please tell me a little bit about this.
What do you want me to tell you? It’s the best watch that you have ever seen. Let me show you.
It’s fantastic. I love how you’ve taken the dials that have changed to this color –
We worked on the colour a lot, because it seems easy enough to obtain – but it’s not that easy. Because even with brown, there is a lot of different shades and options – it’s not easy, you try to reproduce what happens on the old watches as a result of natural ageing – that’s impossible to obtain. But the result we’ve managed is not bad at all.
The result is great. Will this be a new color for Panerai? Because I always think of Panerais as having tobacco dials and such.
Yes, we start always from the special editions and then we see how we can extend this to other watches. Some colors are specific to certain watches – if you apply it to another watch, it might not look as good.
And this is beautiful, this movement with the full bridge [pointing to the P.3000 visible through the caseback]. Can you tell me a little about this?
You know, sometimes you think that a study’s been conducted and what not, to obtain a particular result. But this result was just because I was not happy with the bridge that we initially had. It was too full, too full of metal – I didn’t want it to look so heavy, in terms of aesthetics. I wanted it lightened – and this is the result.
It’s actually one of the most beautiful movements I’ve seen you do, because with Panerai I always think about being logical and purposeful. The full bridge movement is great, because for a watchmaker, you can remove each bridge to access each wheel – it’s perfect for Panerai.
And then perhaps I can ask you a little bit about this wonderful pre-Vendome pair of watches, with the Daylight and then the Black Seal – but this time with the Black Seal Destro!
You know the original Destro was a mistake? Because when we put the watch’s description into our computer system, one of my employees entered in “Destro” – without thinking. I’ll never be able to take the name off now.
For the Paneristi, for the collectors – this is the Destro. Even if we didn’t advertise it as the Destro, to them this will still be the Destro. We can just call it a left handed watch –
– But all the collectors will call it the Destro. That’s one of the wonderful things about Panerai – there are very few brands where the community becomes part of its story. It’s very unique to Panerai.
Why did you do the Destro? Because the original Black Seal was on the left side?
There’s no why. We did the white one with the blue dial and we needed to do something for the left handed. People always try to put up a new reason for proposals – but sometimes this is not necessary.
Last year, you made one of our favorite watches – the first 1950 with a California dial. Will we see more California dial type watches in the Luminor 1950 family?
In the future? Never say never.
I like the way you think. Mr. Bonati, thank you so much, it’s always a pleasure. I say this again, honestly what you have achieved with this titanium tourbillon is the best watch of the fair so far.
Can you imagine what Alan [Alan “Hammer” Bloore] would say when he sees this?
I’m sure he’d go crazy for it.