Panerai’s latest collection isn’t just promising the spirit of high-seas adventure, it’s actually dropping you in the deep end.
Aspiration and high-end watches go hand in intricate hand. Indeed, what you wear on your wrist tells people not just who you are, but who you aspire to be. Wear a certain watch, and you’re a part of man’s first mission to the moon. Wear others, and you’ll conjure the savoir-faire of a British secret agent, the determination of history’s greatest diver, or the impossible cool of cinema’s finest pool shark. Companies have whipped up as many of these kind of promises as there are ways to tell time, yet rare is the watch that actually delivers on one.
Both promising and delivering is Panerai’s new Submersibles series: three watches inspired by the storied brand’s heritage and packaged with the real experiences and characters they evoke.
The Submersible Guillaume Néry, a limited edition of 15 pieces comes with an invitation to dive with the world champion of freediving in French Polynesia
For example, those who purchase Panerai’s new Marina Militare Carbotech won’t just get a dive watch designed in collaboration with the Italian Navy, they’ll get the real-life experience of training alongside COMSUBIN, the Italian Navy’s equivalent of the U.S. SEALs. As you might imagine, gathering more than three dozen willing and able customers who can afford the Marina Militare Carbotech’s roughly $40,500 price tag, and then flying them halfway around the world to train in the choppy waters off the Italian peninsula alongside real candidates for Italy’s most elite naval outfit is not without complications.
“Our head of retail is a little nervous,” says Panerai spokesperson Aileen Schiro. “It’s the first time COMSUBIN has let the public into their operations. That was the most difficult to coordinate, as I understand it. A big part of their work is sea rescues. People get stuck, it’s very very rough water. There’s pirates, it’s scary stuff. They helicopter in and drop in to do rescues. Skydiving. So the experience embodies all of that. It’s very authentic.”
Those unwilling or unable to experience that level of authenticity can still enjoy the timepiece itself, of course. Each watch in the collection comes in two versions: a special edition that comes with the experience and one without. For the COMSUBIN piece, there were 33 experience editions available, one for each of the gold medals of valor the unit has received in its history. Each one has a unique carbon fiber dial that’s both lighter than titanium and stronger than steel to help the watch withstand pressures up to 300 meters in depth. The design also incorporates a new luminescent aspect: The dial’s markers are made with blocks of lume that have been 3-D laser-cut. Finally, each case features the engraved image of either a frogman or a diver on the reverse. (As with the rest of the collection, these have sold out, though the success of this first edition might lead to more in the future.)
The purchase of the Submersible Marina Militare Carbotech allows for 33 owners the opportunity to train with the COMSUBIN, Commandos of the Italian Navy for a few days.
The collection’s other two watches take similar cues from the brand’s existing partnerships with intrepid characters. Staying with the naval exploration theme, the second piece is the Submersible Chrono Guillaume Néry Edition, which takes its name from the record-breaking free diver and photographer. Those who purchase one of the 15 available experiences—one for each world record Néry has broken—will be offered the chance to visit French Polynesia to dive with the man himself while staying at his house. (The Néry, similar to all experience-based pieces in the collection, retails for just shy of $41,000.)
The experience is timed so that divers will witness nearby whale migrations, with or without the guidance of an elite diver. “A big part of the area is an eco-preserve,” Schiro says. “Getting the visas to go in is very difficult.” As part of the purchase process, interested parties had to commit to be available on the trip’s predetermined date. (One presumes a certain level of physical fitness might be useful as well.)
The watch itself, designed with Néry’s input, is appropriately sporty, with white luminescent markers that remain visible even in the pitch blackness of a deep dive. There’s a unidirectional bezel for timing dives, and the back is engraved with the “126”—the record-breaking number of meters Néry dove underwater on a single breath. The experience edition also includes an etching of Néry himself, along with the island of Moorea, the site of the customer’s guided adventure.
The final piece is a collaboration with adventurer Mike Horn, the first person to explore both the North and South poles in the same year. The experience on offer here allows buyers to join him on his amphibious, glacier-climbing expeditionary sailing ship, The Pangaea, as he navigates the ice floes of the Arctic. (If the timing works out, guests will also witness the Northern Lights.)
Though the experience is limited to 19 people, all who opt for just the watch will get something rather unique. Horn’s timepiece reflects the explorer’s committed environmentalism: the straps are made with recycled plastic materials, as is the packaging, which is itself recyclable. The Submersible Mike Horn Edition is also the first chronometer be made with a form of aeronautical-grade recycled titanium. It’s also subject to extreme-weather robotics testing designed in part by Horn itself. The result is sporty, sleek, and durable—a suitable piece for no matter where your personal adventures take you.
Created by Panerai for explorer Mike Horn, the Submersible case is made from EcoTitanium, a world premiere new material introduced by the Panerai “Laboraatorio di Idee” with a strap made out of recycled plastic.