The Italian luxury watch maker Panerai and the high seas have been inseparable through much of the last 100 years. Way back in 1916 it created Radiomir, a radium-based powder that gives luminosity to the dials of sighting instruments and devices for the Royal Italian Navy, to which it had already been supplying high precision instruments. The substance’s high visibility and the paint’s excellent underwater adhesive qualities immediately make the radium paste a key element in Officine Panerai’s production.
The association took on an added dimension during World War II when Italian naval engineers first developed their version of the tiny two-man submarine that was used in that period to bomb enemy ships underwater. The naval commandos who drove these submarines, would wear heavy rubber suits (known as Belloni suits) with rubber masks along with breathing apparatuses and emergency respirators. They carried Panerai precision instruments and used specially made Panerai watches. Accurate time keeping was important for these divers, both from the point of view of the bomb detonation and their quick return journey.
Panerai’s association with the Italian navy continued into the 1970s resulting in variety of watches over the years. In 1956, came Radiomir Egiziano, exceptional for its robustness and unusually large size, as well as for its special rotating bezel that enabled the time of immersion to be calculated. This model inspired the Submersibles range, and today include some exemplary pieces like the Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech 3 Days Automatic (PAM00616) and the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Titanio (PAM 1305) and Luminor Submersible 1950 Amagnetic 3 Days Automatic Titanium (PAM 1389).
Though Panerai does not make watches for the Italian Navy anymore, its association with diving and the sea continue apace. Guillaume Néry, the French free-diving champion — who has broken four world records and won two Constant Weight World Free-Diving Championships — is, for example, a brand ambassador of Officine Panerai. Since he broke his first world record at the age of just 20, free-diving to a depth of 87 metres, Néry has raised the limits of this discipline several times. In 2015 he reached the incredible depth of 139 meters in a world record attempt, 10 metres deeper than expected, due to an error of measurement from the organizers. Unfortunately, Néry lost consciousness a few metres from the surface and the record couldn’t be validated. It remains the deepest dive in freediving competition history. He has since retired and these days devotes his time communicating his passion for the sea through meetings, training, expeditions and highly regarded photographs and videos.
Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge
Panerai has also been, for the last 14 years, the sponsor of the world’s largest international circuit of classic yacht regattas, known as the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge. The 2018 programme consists of two circuits: the Mediterranean Circuit, with regattas in Antibes (France), Porto Santo Stefano (Italy), Imperia (Italy) and Cannes (France), followed by the North American Circuit, with regattas in Marblehead, Newport, Nantucket and Bristol. The legendary Panerai British Classic Week in Cowes, Isle of Wight, completes the event’s calendar. The brand revealed a specially made new chronograph with regatta countdown function ,PAM Luminor 1950 PCYC Regatta 3 Days, to honour this year’s race.