About Time: Panerai’s True Dive Watch, The Submersible
It says a lot about the strength of Panerai’s two most famous watch designs – the Radiomir and Luminor – that it can be easy to forget the brand also makes watches in other flavours. No, we’re not talking about the lesser-spotted Mare Nostrum (a collectors’ item in every sense), but the Submersible, Panerai’s third major line of watches.
In fairness, the Submersible has only been “the Submersible” since 2019. Prior to that, and since 1998, Submersible models had existed as a subset of the famous Luminor range. Breaking it out into its own entity was a long-overdue recognition that here was something qualitatively different from its peers. For although all Submersibles do possess the Luminor’s iconic crown guard – that handle-shaped protrusion on the side of the case that houses a little spring-loaded lever, which snaps in and out of place to hold the crown firmly in, preventing water entering the watch – they also all have something other Luminors do not: a rotating dive watch bezel.
The bezel itself is a nod to Panerai’s early history, specifically a commission for the Egyptian navy, produced in 1956 and known as the “Egiziano Grosso” (it measured a colossal 60mm across). It introduced the bezel with four large dots at its cardinal points and smaller markers in between for the hours. Today, the Submersible usually adds gradations for the first 15 minutes and occasionally swaps out the dots for minute numerals, but is otherwise a clear descendent of that oversized military instrument.
The addition of the bezel is more than just a stylistic difference, it’s a fundamental quality needed for a watch to be officially designated a “dive watch” in accordance with international manufacturing standards. (Yes, despite Panerai’s history of supplying watches to naval forces from as far back as the 1940s, neither the Radiomir nor the Luminor qualify as official dive watches.) All Submersibles are also water-resistant to at least 300m, and the majority come on either rubber straps or metal bracelets for optimum performance underwater.
Today, the Submersible range numbers some 30 individual references. And in keeping with its place as Panerai’s toughest and most capable model, is outfitted with a whole host of cutting-edge materials – titanium, forged carbon and something called “bulk metallic glass”. In the form of the eLab-ID concept watch, it has also been the test bed for Panerai’s most forward-looking move into sustainable watchmaking.
In our video, we look at two more accessible Submersible references to explain the iconic appeal of the collection as a whole, covering its design, the movements within, and its place within the brand. This is our second Panerai film – if you missed the first, in which we dissected Panerai’s high-tech engineering, you can watch it here. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel for other watch videos, including films on IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin, Cartier and NOMOS Glashütte.