When you think about Panerai, you think about the Italian Navy and about bold, sporty and thick watches. Ideal for diving, leisure and casual events. But for wearing with a business shirt and suit at work or a fancy party; you probably turned to other brands when you needed a dress watch. In May 2016 Panerai had some good news for Panerai aficionados: thinner and more elegant. These new models were shown to the Dutch press and retailers last Wednesday, so we finally had some hands-on time with the new models.
The history of Panerai begins in Florence, where Giovanni Panerai opened the city’s first watchmaker’s shop in 1860. The company’s history is forever linked to the Italian Navy, when Panerai became a supplier of precision navigation and time instruments to the Italian Navy for many years. Who does not know the Luminor and Radiomir watches, amongst others used by the Italian Navy’s commando frogmen?
The company is part of the Richemont Group since 1997 and has since then expanded the offerings, developed and produced its own movements and has moved the manufacturing to Neuchâtel. Officine Panerai has always had a special place in the hearts of watch collectors and aficionados who appreciate high precision time instruments with a strong, distinctive, aesthetic and functional identity. Whenever you see a Panerai from further away and you can’t read the inscription, you immediately recognize the brand. And that is quite an achievement.
What the heck is a dress watch? When you browse the web you will find all kind of definitions and opinions. It is slim, features a mechanical movement without complications, the case is made of a precious metal, the watch has a leather strap that matches the color of your shoes and/or belt, the watch “complements” one’s dress code and does not “stick out”. All a matter of taste and opinion.
A dress watch is linked to tradition. When we think about a dress watch we think about a confident, handsome cosmopolitan gentleman, who is perfectly and elegantly dressed from early in the morning until late in the evening without ever being tired and grumpy. Occasionally he shows a glimpse of his wrist watch or pocket watch, not to show off but because he has to catch the Orient Express to Vienna or because he is lowering his arm to pick up his leather briefcase.
This gentleman did not wear a watch during important events or gatherings when he wanted to show that being with the other people was more important than time. Examples are funerals, anniversaries, and even dates and important meetings.
An example of a perfect dress watch: The A. Lange & Söhne 1815 (or Saxonia Boutique Edition)
However we live in the 21st century. Both men and women appreciate understatement, subtlety, and elegance in watches. Important gatherings also have deadlines. So what is a‘modern dress watch’? Is it an oxymoron or is it real?. After all, a dress watch is linked to tradition.
In our view, the modern dress watch is subtle, understated, and elegant. Its main function is to tell the time and while it should be possible to pair with business attire under a shirt & jacket, dinner outfit, and tuxedo, this is not a necessity. The modern man (or women) also likes to wear an elegant dress watch when he (or she) wears jeans and a shirt. A dress watch is a dress watch. It comes in various sizes, however typically with a thin(ner) case and with a diameter of less than 40mm – but does not need to be – and it’s made of precious metal. As the watch is about understatement and subtlety, complications are mostly hidden and dials are simple and quickly legible.
Panerai watches do not exactly meet the dress watch criteria. Especially the case thickness of most of their line-up, that easily exceeds 15/16mm, got in the way. Panerai owners had to turn to other brands when they “dressed up” for a special event, however the Luminor Due collection changes that. The new model, launched at the Florence event in May, has a redesigned case that has a thickness of 10,50mm as well as a redesigned dial. The new Luminor Due doesn’t loose Panerai’s DNA, like the classic crown protecting device with sealing lever, the typical Arabic numerals and the multi-layer dial. That is quite an achievement. The main challenge was to strike a balance between the thickness and the winding comfort of the crown. The design team definitely succeeded, and especially the Luminor Due Oro Rosso with its attractive anthracite dial qualifies as a dress watch, in our opinion.
The classic Panerai dial shows luminous Arabic numerals for 3, 6, and 12 and bar hour markers for other hours as well as a small seconds dial at 9 o’clock. The new Luminor Due comes in 2 materials, 316L steel and 18K 5N red gold (this is the reddest gold available), and in 2 sizes (42mm and 45mm.) We think the 42mm is the perfect size for the red gold version. Rather than a black dial, Panerai decided to use an anthracite dial for the Oro Rosso, which is a perfect match. The stainless steel version has a sun-brushed black dial.
While usually the case of Replica Panerai Luminor models features an alternating polished and brushed finishing, all four new Luminor Due versions (steel and gold, in both sizes) are entirely polished. Again something that underlines the “dress watch properties” of this new collection.
When you turn the watches over, you can see that both sizes are equipped with different movements. The 42mm Luminor Due Acciaio (acciaio means steel) host the P1000 movement, a manual movement with 3-day power reserve, while the 42mm Luminor Due Oro Rosso holds a skeletonised version of this movement, named the P1000/10. The large brushed finish bridge is skeletonised to show parts of the movement including the two mainspring barrels. The balance is fixed by a bridge rather than a cock. The oscillation rate is 28.800bph. Both movements feature the zero reset function.
The panerai 45mm Luminor Due Acciaio and Oro Rosso feature the new P4000 ( P4000/10) movement that is self-winding with an off-centered micro-rotor. Both models can be distinguished form the 42mm by the word “automatic” on the dial. The 45mm Luminor Due also feature the Arabic “9” on the dial, next to the small second sub dial, while the smaller 42mm models lack the “9”.
The 45mm models are a tad higher than the 42mm versions: 10,70mm instead of 10,50mm. The new P4000 movement is the thinnest automatic movement developed by Panerai, thanks to its embedded off-center micro rotor which rotates in both directions. The movement also has two mainspring barrels to facilitate the 3-day power reserve and a sturdy balance bridge. Again something that we applaud is that the P4000 movement also features the zero-reset function. In the red gold version, the bridges have a circular brushed finish and gilded engraving while the 22-carat gold oscillating weight features Clous de Paris decoration.
While we feel that the 45mm Panerai Luminor Due (ref. PAM00674 and PAM00675) might be a tad too large for a dress watch, the smaller 42mm versions (PAM00676 and PAM00677) are just fine playing the dress watch role. Although still on the large side for a dress watch, it sits just great under your cuff and with the polished case, and the sun-brushed dial finish, it just works. We would consider the 45mm version to be a thinner version of the usual Luminor line of watches, and not so much a very large dress watch.
The decreased water resistance of only 3ATM (or 30 meters) is not much for a Panerai, however as long as you treat this as a dress watch (meaning you won’t jump into the swimming pool or sea, with the Luminor Due on your wrist) no harm is done. However when wearing one of the Panerai Luminor Due watches you should be aware of this, especially when you’re very familiar with Panerai and tend to handle it in the same way as you’re used to.