Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio & Oro Rosso 42mm Watches Hands-On
Many years ago, when I wrote my first article about a watch, the watch I wrote about was a Panerai. Over the past decade, Panerai has grown and iterated but the root of my appreciation, that instantly recognizable Italian diver aesthetic, has remained as their calling card. Despite the fact that I did, and still do, love the Panerai look, they almost always prove to be too big for my wrist. Last week, as I scanned a collection of large and larger new Panerai watches at SIHH, I was thrilled to see this comparatively miniature marvel, the new 42mm Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic watch in both steel and gold.
This was the achievement of those stealth missions that, in 1935, the Italian Royal Navy requested Panerai to develop waterproof and luminous men’s watches. The specs that the watch have a large dial and be perfectly legible in even the most adverse conditions, such as muddy port waters. In 1936, 10 prototypes of those Panerai Radiomir watch were dispersed among the frogmen commandos, thus becoming the first professional submerged military watches in history. What’s especially interesting for watch fanatics is the fact that the movement and case were entrusted by Panerai into Rolex. Since the inventor of the world’s first civilian waterproof watch in 1926, put to the test Mercedes Gleitze’s epic cross-Channel swim in 1927, Rolex had the technological know-how. The very first Panerai Radiomir men’s watches quantified a hefty 47mm in diameter and were put at a cushion-shaped steel case with a screwed-down crown and caseback and soldered lugs. The dials featured a mixture of luminescent Arabic and Roman numerals along with the men’s watches came with a long, greased waterproof leather strap that could be worn over the tight diving suits. Modifications requested directly by the natives ensued over the subsequent years and, by 1940, the Panerai Radiomir assumed its authoritative physiognomy, which any Paneristi would recognise in a flash. Having a stronger case made from one block of steel for enhanced underwater resistance and strengthened lugs, the dial of this watch has been simplified with only four large Arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, and hour and minute hands.
Reference PAM00682, aka the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio 42mm, takes all of the burly appeal of the 47mm Submersible (such as the Bronzo PAM 671 we also recently saw at SIHH) and trims off a whopping 5mm. For me, and I think for many others who may be “benched” Panerai fans, that 5mm makes a world of difference. This is not the first 42mm Panerai, but it is the first 42mm Submersible, and it opens up the line to a wider (possibly underserved) audience. The Submersible is not Panerai’s bread and butter, but rather their more niche dive watch, making the choice to go 42mm even more interesting. Perhaps this is a test? A way of gauging the actual response for a smaller sporty Panerai?
Available in steel (the aforementioned PAM00682) or rose gold (the PAM00684), the steel version has a brushed steel bezel while the Oro Rosso features a black ceramic insert. The usual Panerai Luminor crown guard is in place, water resistance is 300m for the steel and 100m for the rose gold, and either model comes fitted to a 22mm black Caoutchouc rubber strap.
Safely housed inside its chunky case, we find Panerai’s P.9010 movement. This automatic 4Hz movement sports twin barrels to provide 72 hours of power reserve. Being a base Submersible, the P.9010 needs only offer hours, minutes, sub-seconds at nine, and a date display at three. The case back is of the display variety, allowing a view of the manufacture movement within.
On my seven-inch wrist, the 42mm Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic feels great. It’s fun, special, and a dead-on translation of the form into a smaller footprint. The rubber strap is excellent and legibility is, obviously, very good. I especially enjoy the small pop of blue provided by the sub-seconds hand on the steel Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic PAM682. If gold is more your thing, it’s hard to beat the contrast of the gold case alongside the combo of the black dial and ceramic bezel. The lugs are drilled and use screws to mount the strap, so leather or a NATO should be of little difficulty.
L’Egiziano still makes guest appearances from Panerai’s limited edition collections, such as this 2009 whopper in brushed titanium – a definite plus over the initial steel version as a result of its lightweight properties.By 1972, the last Panerai descendant, Giuseppe Panerai, died without offspring and the business was run for a short period by his widow before the brand was awarded an ultimatum. Either Dino Zei, a retired Navy Colonel who was in charge of procuring instruments and armament for the Navy’s top-secret surgeries, take over the firm, or the brand’s main customer – that the Navy – would close it down. Zei changed the name of the firm to Officine Panerai and continued to supply the Navy with wrist thickness gauges, compasses and underwater torches. In 1993, Zei introduced a collection of limited edition civilian watches inspired by historical models created for the World War II commandos, which were immediately caught up by collectors.In a minute of cinematic serendipity, a Panerai watch unknowingly made a display cameo on the wrist of American actor Sylvester Stallone in the 1996 film Daylight. According to legend, the actor saw the Panerai Luminor Marina Submersible at a store window while filming on location in Rome and was attracted to the imposing character of the army watch, which match perfectly with his onscreen persona. “Once I saw the watch, I instantly felt that it had star power,” commented the Hollywood muscle person that, like most civilians, had never heard of the brand. In return for the unsolicited exposure, a solid friendship has developed between Sly and the brand and there’s a assortment of Panerai Luminor Submersible Slytech versions in his honor.
A top army secret up until quite recently, Panerai watches have cemented the deepest corners of the sea beds, accompanying Italian Navy frogmen in their key underwater missions during World War II. The saga of the action-packed Italian thriller begins on a bridge across the River Arno of Florence, then takes us beneath the keels of British battleships at the port of Alexandria, and eventually resurfaces as a civilian brand with a powerful cult following.On 19 December 1941, Italian Navy divers of the X Flottiglia MAS perpetuated what has gone down into history as the Raid on Alexandria. Straddling their own seven-metre-long submersible torpedoes like submerged bike drivers, six Italian frogmen – two per torpedo – to-be placed British battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth, in addition to a neighboring Norwegian tanker Sagona, from action and almost changed the course of the war. Admiral Andrew Cunningham, Commander in Chief of Britain’s Mediterranean Fleet headquartered in Alexandria, summed up the prevailing mood: “Everybody has the jitters, seeing things swimming about at night, and hearing moves on ships’ bottoms. It has to stop! “The “objects swimming around at night” were actually members of the elite 10th Light Flottila, whose submerged missions wreak havoc at the port of Alexandria and other targets from the Mediterranean. The Italian Navy fleet, under the control of the Fascist Dictator Il Duce, could not fit the British fleet in size and recurred to the commando of both stealth divers.
As niche as the Panerai Luminor Submersible may be, I can’t decide if these 42mm models are more niche (as they may upset the already satiated Submersible crowd) or less niche (as they connect the Submersible to a new, wider audience). In considering both sides of that argument, I came to the conclusion that I don’t really care. I just know that I really love this little Sub.
In 1997, Officine Panerai was acquired by the Richemont Group (subsequently called the Vendôme Group) along with the whole military production branch of the company was closed. A year after, the first group of Panerai watches was first introduced to the public. Large, functional, military watches coupled with pristine Italian layout ignited an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response spawning a fan club of diehard Paneristi.American designer Ralph Lauren, with a massive collection of Panerai antique watches, put his finger on what makes this new so attractive to guys today: “The luxury of Panerai grew from its heritage and the purposefulness of every detail. Panerai watches weren’t about the newest fashion, they were developed to operate in specific conditions. Their shape and attractiveness were secondary to their function; they’re rugged, utilitarian and handsome. “The new strong association with the sea has taken a more recreational twist and, in 2006, ” Officine Panerai bought and restored Eilean, a 1936 Bermudan ketch sailing vessel constructed in Scotland. Three years of restoration ensued to deliver her back to her original splendour and she competes in classic yacht races around the world. The Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, which began this year with all the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and will culminate with the Cannes Regates Royales in September, has been going strong now for 10 decades and every edition of the race is celebrated with the launching of a Regatta watch. This season, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days watch, was published in a limited edition of 50 pieces to commemorate the 10th anniversary of this race.
Priced from US $8,700 in steel to $26,700 in rose gold, these prices will surprise no one familiar with modern Panerai. Panerai has priced the Submersible right alongside the steel Rolex Submariner, and it’s not hard to see why. Both are steel 300m dive watches with quality movements at an everyday size that should work for most wrists. I think ultimately this will come down to your general appreciation for the Panerai look. If you’re on board for the style but have always felt there wasn’t a Submersible for your wrist, this is the one. panerai.com
A top army secret up until very recently, Panerai watches have cemented the deepest corners of the sea beds, accompanying Italian Navy frogmen on their secret underwater missions during World War II. The saga of this action-packed Italian thriller starts on a bridge over the River Arno of Florence, then takes us beneath the keels of British battleships at the port of Alexandria, and eventually resurfaces as a civilian brand using a strong cult following.On 19 December 1941, Italian Navy divers of the X Flottiglia MAS perpetuated what’s gone down in history as the Raid on Alexandria. Straddling their own seven-metre-long submersible torpedoes like submerged motorcycle drivers, six Italian frogmen – 2 torpedo – to-be placed British battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth, as well as a nearby Norwegian tanker Sagona, from action and nearly changed the course of this war. Admiral Andrew Cunningham, Commander in Chief of Britain’s Mediterranean Fleet headquartered in Alexandria, summed up the prevailing mood: “Everyone has the jitters, seeing objects swimming around at night, and also hearing moves on ships’ bottoms. It has to stop! “The “objects swimming about at night” were actually members of the elite 10th Light Flottila, whose submerged missions wreak havoc at the port of Alexandria and other goals in the Mediterranean. The Italian Navy fleet, under the command of the Fascist Dictator Il Duce, couldn’t fit the British fleet in dimension and recurred to the commando of stealth divers.
And exactly as with other brands such as Omega, Rolex, TAG Heuer and Patek Philippe, it too has very insightful and loyal aficionados that are, arguably, un-matched by any other. Much of Panerai’s legacy derives from the close and historical role as the official supplier to the Royal Italian Navy (Regina Marina), in which its own marquee models — the Radiomir and Luminor — were designed especially for the Italian divers, due to their specific requirements. Panerai was founded in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai about the famed Ponte alle Grazie, Florence.In the early part of the 20th century, Panerai began to experiment with luminous substances in a bid to produce pure instrument dials, sights, and telescope apparatus that could be utilised in the dark. A substance was developed and given the title Radiomir. It had been perfected in the 1930s by Giuseppe Panerai, and a prototype Panerai Radiomir wristwatch was submitted to the First Submarine Group of the Royal Italian Navy for approval in 1936. This wristwatch received the acceptance, and by 1938 the prestigious Radiomir was being used by elite teams of Italian naval commandos from the field.After World War II, there was a restricted variety of Panerai Radiomirs in circulation, and of course this meant that they would also become highly sought after collectors’ items. In the early 1950s, the revered Radiomir that place Panerai on the map has been replaced by the Luminor, characterized with the legendary crown-protecting bridge, but the case and dial layout were kept.