Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, MN

Diving In

With their Submersible collection, Panerai bolsters its tradition of epic exploits in the depths of the sea.

Within the luxury watch space, Panerai timepieces are undoubtably some of the most recognizable out there. For over a century, the watchmaking brand has stuck to a set of fundamental design cues that it applies to most of its models. These include large cushion-shaped cases, stark dials with oversized and luminous markers, and for at least half of the collection, an exaggerated bridge-style crown guard. If a watch’s silhouette is so central to a brand’s design language that it is essentially untouchable, how do you create fresh new models? One way is to introduce novel materials, which is precisely what Panerai did when it presented the Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech.

What is Carbotech?

Carbotech is Panerai’s name for a carbon fiber composite, which up until the release of the Submersible PAM616, had never been used in watchmaking before. To produce Carbotech, long thin carbon fiber sheets are layered and bound at high pressure with a special polymer called polyether ether ketone (PEEK). Large blocks of Cartobtech can then be cut and shaped as needed to make watch components. 

The resulting material is one that is not only tough and durable, but also one that features an intriguing grain that gives the watches a distinct finish. Due to the organic way the pattern forms, no two cases fashioned from Carbotech will ever be the same. Aesthetics aside, Carbotech is also ultra-light, hypoallergenic, and corrosion-resistant—all good traits to have in a professional dive watch. In fact, Panerai asserts that Carbotech is lighter and stronger than ceramic and titanium.

A true tool watch in the world of luxury, the Submersible is made to withstand whatever life throws at it. While the Submersible collection retains similar aesthetics and a consistent charm, the collection showcases models in a diverse range of sizes, materials and functions.

The Origins of Officine Panerai

In 1860, Giovanni Panerai opened a watch shop and watchmaking school in Florence, Italy. By the turn of the twentieth century, Giovanni Panerai’s grandson, Guido, was at the helm of the family business and Panerai became a supplier of precision instruments and technical gear to the Regia Marina—the Royal Italian Navy.

Panerai filed a patent in 1916 for a self-luminous radium-based substance called “Radiomir,” which would later become an integral part of Panerai’s military diving wristwatches. Two decades later, in 1936, Panerai built prototype dive watches for the combat divers of the Italian Navy. Crafted for life underwater, these watches featured massive cushion-shaped cases in stainless steel, oversized winding crowns that could be manipulated with gloves on, luminescent markings on the dial for legibility in the dark, and long water-resistant straps to accommodate dive suits. This particular design would later be known as the Radiomir watch model, named after the patented luminescence.

In 1949, Panerai files another patent for a self-luminous paste called “Luminor.” Rather than highly dangerous radium, this time Panerai opts for lower-radiation tritium as the base for the glowing paint. The following year, the company presents a new watch design, characterized by a large lever-controlled mechanism that not only protects the winding crown but also pushes it into the case for improved waterproofness. This watch design would later be known as the Luminor watch model.

The Panerai Submersible

The majority of Panerai’s watches today are based either on the Radiomir or the Luminor designs from the first half of the twentieth century. While Radiomir and Luminor watches were classified as dive watches during their eras, many are not considered divers by today’s standards.

However, Panerai does indeed offer dedicated modern dive watches in the form of the Submersible collection. As modern dive watches, all of Panerai’s Submersible models have qualities that make them suitable for scuba diving. At a minimum, they feature a 300-meter water resistance rating, plenty of lume on the dial for readability in low light, a unidirectional timing bezel to track immersion times, and rugged waterproof straps.

Panerai offers Submersible watches in a range of sizes, materials, and colorways. Furthermore, there are also Submersible models fitted with additional complications such as chronographs or GMT functions.

The Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech PAM616

The Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech (PAM616) introduced the innovative Carbotech reinforced carbon fiber material to the watchmaking world. The watch sports a large 47mm case and wears even larger due to the signature Luminor crown-guard mechanism. Yet, despite its size, the PAM616 is ultra-light and comfortable thanks to its Carbotech construction.

The dark matte, wavy striped finish of the case, crown guard, and bezel of the Submersible 1950 Carbotech add an attractive design touch to the tough underwater sports watch. In true Panerai fashion, the dial of the watch is black, punctuated with oversized numerals and round hour markers. Also on the dial is the date window at three o’clock, in addition to the running seconds indicator at nine o’clock. Of course, the dial of the dive watch comes alive in the dark with ample luminescent elements. The inclusion of vibrant blue details on the dial lends a pop of color to an otherwise monochromatic color scheme. What’s more, the black rubber strap includes the famed twin-arrow Officine Panerai logo in the same blue shade.

The back of the PAM616 is equipped with a screw-down caseback crafted from titanium. Beneath the caseback sits the P.9000 calibre, an automatic mechanical movement built in-house by Panerai at their manufacturing facilities in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

It offers a 72-hour power reserve, which means it can be left off the wrist for three days before running out of power. The movement is also fitted with a patented Incabloc anti-shock device to ensure the robust watch can withstand an active lifestyle.

Modern Dive Watches With Vintage Vibes

Looking at contemporary Submersible watches, whether the Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech or others, it is clear that their design inspirations stem from vintage models within the Panerai archives. Yet, by using innovative materials, contemporary style parameters, and state-of-the-art watchmaking techniques, the Panerai Submersible is a modern dive watch through and through. Swiss made, Italian designed, and globally recognized, Panerai’s range of top-tier professional diving watches are not to be missed.

See the full issue of The Wixon Experience 2019 | Volume 7

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