About Time: High-Tech Meets Tradition At Panerai

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About Time: High-Tech Meets Tradition At Panerai

Words by Mr Chris Hall

4 June 2021

If you were to take charge of an established luxury watch brand, one of the biggest and most pressing questions that would come across your spacious desk is this: how do I keep the idea of mechanical watchmaking, as expressed by my brand, current and interesting? Watchmakers deal in tradition above all else. But one cannot simply keep making the same watches year after year. As an industry with connections to the worlds of style and fashion, but also engineering and technology, there is an expectation of regular progress. Gotta keep it fresh, in other words.

The challenge is more acute at some brands than others: Panerai’s strongest quality is its designs. The Radiomir and Luminor shapes that stand out in any crowd; both are true icons of 20th century watchmaking. But they also constrain it. Panerai is these shapes, and is entirely synonymous with those two models. So, how do you continue to breathe new life into ideas that are nearing pensionable age?

The answer – as demonstrated in our latest video – is that Panerai has learned to lean into its background of material innovation. When they were new, the Radiomir and Luminor were groundbreaking, both for their luminous dials (that give both watches their names) and for their overall build quality and durability. That’s what made them ideal for WWII commando divers. Today, Panerai’s days as a military supplier are long behind it, but through its in-house team of scientists and engineers (the Laboratorio di Idee, as it is known) it has forged a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking when it comes to fusing material science with traditional horology.

So, the Luminor, as we are focusing on in this episode, is upgraded from stainless steel to 3D-printed titanium, or a proprietary type of forged carbon fibre Panerai calls Carbotech. And in doing so, Panerai gives the age-old silhouette and oh-so-familiar dial layout a new lease of life. The shadowy, menacing tones of these new pieces are as radical and stylish as their forebears, and thanks to advances in the science behind them, they’re better equipped to take on the world than ever – even if that’s more likely to be a black run than black ops. Check out the video above for a closer look at PAM01661 and PAM01662, two references that prove if your original design is good enough, it can evolve and evolve and evolve.

You can visit the MR PORTER YouTube channel to watch all previous episodes of About Time, including Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC and Vacheron Constantin.

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