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Panerai’s quiet revolution
New Models

Panerai’s quiet revolution

Thursday, 19 January 2017
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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4 min read

Living up to its reputation as a “laboratory of ideas”, Panerai came to SIHH 2017 with BMG-TECH™, a metallic glass new to watchmaking, and the LAB-ID™ Luminor 1950 Carbotech™ 3 Days – 49mm which requires no lubrication and is guaranteed for 50 years. How do they compare to other innovations?

The difficulty facing the Florentine firm, if it is to avoid the wrath of its fan club of Paneristi, is how to bring in the new and hold on to the old. And so like Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain who speaks in prose without knowing it, the Florentine firm wraps groundbreaking developments in familiar clothing. When introducing one of its 2017 models, it even refers to an “invisible but revolutionary innovation” resulting from research into new materials, namely the metallic glass used to make the case of the new Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-TECHTM 3 Days Automatic – 47mm. Its secret “lies not so much in its appearance – which is similar to that of titanium but darker grey in colour – as in its atomic structure.” Lighter than steel and twice as strong, this zirconium-copper-aluminium-titanium-nickel alloy is exceptionally resistant to shocks, scratching and corrosion, and immune to magnetic fields.

SIHH 2017 Panerai LA-ID™ Luminor Carbotech™ 3 Days – 49mm
Panerai LA-ID™ Luminor Carbotech™ 3 Days – 49mm
Into space

Metallic glass is not entirely unknown to Omega, which has experimented with one variation in the form of the Liquidmetal® used for the graduations on certain of its dive watch bezels. Panerai, however, has taken it to a whole new level: BMG-TECH™ – obtained through high-pressure injection at high temperature to prevent crystallisation – makes up the case, bezel, crown and crown-guard. The brand is calling this the material of the future, earmarked to replace silicon for certain movement parts. Even NASA is looking into applications for its exceptional properties. Back at Panerai, this increased resistance, strength and lightness are already being put to good use in this professional dive watch that is water-resistant to 300 metres and driven by the automatic P.9010 calibre.

Panerai is calling metallic glass the material of the future, earmarked to replace silicon for certain movement parts.

Nor is this the only “idea” to come out of the Panerai lab. The brand has also announced a “brilliant development tapping into the infinite potential of carbon”, materialised by the Panerai LAB-ID™ Luminor Carbotech™ 3 Days – 49mm. The standout feature of this watch, slated as a limited edition of 50, is the complete absence of lubrication which translates into a 50-year warranty on the movement. Once again at Panerai, the strength comes from within, leaving the design of this Luminor perfectly intact. One difference does, however, catch the eye, and that is the dense black of the dial. It has the classic sandwich structure invented by Panerai, and a not-so-classic coating of carbon nanotubes, which absorb a maximum amount of light. This produces the extreme blackness that forms a spectacular contrast with the markers and hands. Currently, only MCT’s Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack can withstand comparison. The “blackest manmade substance ever”, Vantablack also comprises carbon nanotubes one millionth of a millimetre thick. MCT used it for the dial; Panerai preferred to look elsewhere, for greater shock-resistance.

SIHH 2017 Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-TECH™ 3 Days Automatic – 47mm
Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-TECH™ 3 Days Automatic – 47mm
Crazy for carbon

The answer lay with carbotech, a carbon-fibre composite that was introduced to watchmaking by Panerai and is used here for the case. As the brand explains, “as well as ensuring exceptional technical performance, carbotech has a dense, uneven blackness which varies with the cut of the material, making each individual example different from all the rest, and unrepeatable.” So far, only Richard Mille has come up with an equivalent material, showcased in its RM 50-03 which, at 40 grams including the strap, is the lightest chronograph ever made. The engineers at Richard Mille worked with Manchester University and the McLaren research centre to develop this lightweight alloy of Carbon TPT injected with graphene, a revolutionary nanomaterial that is six times lighter but 200 times stronger than steel.

SIHH 2017 MCT Sequential One – S110 Evo Vantablack by Anish Kapoor
MCT Sequential One – S110 Evo Vantablack by Anish Kapoor

Which leaves the movement: Panerai has implemented a range of solutions, again based on the mechanical properties of carbon composites, to develop a calibre whose plates, bridges, barrels, escapement and anti-shock device require no further lubrication. Thanks to this, the brand can confidently provide a 50-year warranty on the movement. Who said watchmaking was about generations… Among the other brands exhibiting at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2017, Roger Dubuis, like Panerai, was lured by carbon for its Excalibur Spider Carbon. The titanium and carbon case houses a high-tech calibre whose plate, bridges and flying tourbillon upper cage are all in carbon. The result, says the brand, is “a mainplate and case forming a ‘chassis’ that is rendered even lighter by this choice of material.” Indeed, the movement of this Excalibur weighs in at barely 7.5 grams and the watch head just under 40 grams. Such a trim figure also means significant energy gains, passed on as a 50% increase in power reserve to 70 hours.

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