Unless this is the first time you’ve encountered the Panerai brand, you’ve probably heard about the Florence-founded maker’s long relationship with the Italian military. First established by Guido Panerai (1873–1934), grandson of founder Giovanni, Panerai’s official status as a supplier to the Regia Marina (the Royal Italian Navy) continued until 1993, at which point, Panerai watches were made available to the general public.
A few years later in 1997, the brand was acquired by what would become the Richemont Group and very quickly became the darling of the nascent watch-collecting community. In the early part of the 21st century, the coolest club of which to be a member was the “Paneristi” — the dedicated followers of the Florentine phenomenon. While the brand does not enjoy the same level of near-hysterical cachet as it once did, sensible themed releases like this updated capsule collection continue to keep Panerai relevant to a new generation of collectors.
The most striking entrants in this collection are undoubtedly the three references that boast PVD-treated cases. Ranging in sizes from 44 mm up to 47 mm, these typically hulking housings are individually hand-finished to look beaten and battered. The effect is not only convincing but also attractive. For some people “fake patina” of this nature is unforgivable and should never be used to decorate a watch, but when it is so skillfully and tastefully applied, I personally find it hard to fault. With so many watches to choose from and so many artful finishes available to their creators, it would be a shame for watch lovers to be denied the option of purchasing a “box fresh” watch or one that looks like it has labored for years to make it to their wrist.
While the artificially aged cases look great on the two Luminor models, it is on the almost comically over-designed PAM01402 Submersible that it really comes to life.
This reference, with its military green bezel and strap, crosshair-style sub-dials, and technical-looking orange accents looks like the perfect prop to accompany Arnie or Stallone on their next explosive adventure. While some will surely moan about its more cartoonish elements, the watch itself is no joke. Within the massive case beats a Panerai P.9100/R caliber, a flyback chronograph that also features a countdown timing hand, which, on this model, can be operated by the screw-down pusher at four o’clock.
In fact, if you fancy imitating Sly or Schwarzenegger, and playing the role of the action man for one day, then PAM01402 is the model for you. Known as the “Experience Edition”, purchasers will be invited to participate in an “immersive thematic Special Operations Experience”, which sounds like it could be fun until you read that you “will be put through a series of tactical exercises, all designed to challenge participants physically and mentally, encouraging them to push themselves to their limits and beyond.” However, as punishing as these drills promise to be, I am sure having this 47 mm wrist canon on your person will give you the boost you need to make it to the end in one piece.
The other model in the Submersible family is the much less extravagant and, as a result, perhaps the most wearable PAM01323 first released last November. The 44 mm brushed stainless steel case is the least ambitious of the bunch, but it is also the most versatile. When paired with the fumé gray dial, matching gray hour indices, and an incredible handset that sees the hour and minute hand cutouts lined in orange (matched by an orange-on-black date wheel), this watch goes from dull to dashing immediately. Also, the three-day power reserve and GMT functionality of the P.900/GMT caliber is never a bad thing to have in your back pocket.
Two of the three Luminor models feature the burnished case treatment. The time and date PAM01412 pairs a 44mm “brushed Brunito steel” case with a military gray dial with green details. Somehow, the combination of the green and gray comes off a little limp, with the most exciting aspect of the design the much-underused flash of orange on the seconds hand and the rubberized green crown, protected by the Luminor’s iconic locking system.
For me, this special edition collection makes enough sense to justify its existence, and I personally think three of the five models are real triumphs. I’m not so much a fan of Carbotech cases because they just don’t feel as rugged as I want a Panerai to feel, and the overall design of the time and date Luminor PAM01412 simply falls a bit flat for me. However, the Brunito steel Luminor Chronograph, the “quiet assassin” that is the stainless steel PAM01323 Submersible, and the action-hero-ready PAM01402 are all supremely satisfying releases.
Regarding limitation numbers, different amounts of these special Navy SEALs watches will be made available throughout Panerai’s global retailer network. The time and date only Luminor Marina Navy SEALs PAM01412 is limited to 862 examples, the Luminor Chrono Navy SEALS PAM01409 is limited to 562 pieces, the Carbotech PAM01419 will be made 462 times, and the truly eccentric PAM01402 Experience Edition’s run is restricted to just 50 units.
The PAM01323 GMT has been in the catalog for some time and does not appear to be limited. The only change in that model’s availability is that it will now be distributed internationally as opposed to being restricted to US market sales.
MORE STORIES ABOUT PANERAI
FROM THE SHOP
|Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-301; 42-hour power reserve
|Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date
|41mm; CuAI7Si2 bronze; water resistant to 100m
|Sunray brushed with applied, gold-plated indices
|Black calfskin; satin polished bronze folding clasp
|Limited edition of 50 pieces