Panerai has staked a claim in the luxury watch world as a top-tier innovator in applying high-tech materials and industrial processes from outside the world of watchmaking to develop timepieces that are distinctly avant-garde yet still classically Panerai. With the Luminor Marina DMLS – 44 MM, which I had the opportunity to wear and review earlier this year, the Florence-founded Swiss watchmaker has rolled out a watch with an undeniably austere aesthetic — its monochrome gray colorway moved Panerai to initially nickname it “Tutto Grigio,” Italian for “all gray” — that belies the high-tech complexity of its interior and of its origins.
At least two of the cutting-edge materials that emerged from Panerai’s R&D workshop (called, again in Italian, Laborotorio di Idee) are on display in this handsome 44-mm timepiece. One of these is Direct Metal Laser Sintering (or DMLS), a technology that uses a 3D printing process to shape the titanium for the case, which in its final stage is incredibly lightweight on the wrist and boasts an appealingly sleek matte finish. A high-powered optic laser accomplishes the sintering of the titanium powder, creating a solid shape that grows 30 microns at a time and has a hollow cavity within it.
The other ultramodern material applied to the model is Carbotech, which is used for the dark gray, tapering bezel. Introduced to watchmaking by Panerai in 2015, the material results from compressing thin sheets of carbon fibers at a controlled temperature under high pressure together with a high-end polymer called PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone) which binds the composite material, making it even stronger and more durable. The sheets of carbon fibers, which are very long to ensure aesthetic uniformity, are superimposed and pressed together in such a way that the fibers of each layer are set at a different angle to the ones above and below it. The resulting material is lighter and more corrosion-resistant than even titanium and ceramic, and just as hypoallergenic.
The classical cushion-shaped Luminor case in titanium DLS imparts both an eye-catching wrist presence and a high degree of wrist comfort. Its curves are sharply faceted and its right side is dominated by the patented feature that differentiates Panerai’s Luminor models from their historical predecessor, the Radiomir: the safety-lock crown protection device that enables the wearer to press the two-position crown into the case, both to ensure water resistance and to prevent inadvertent movement of the hands or date display. The lever of this device, like the sloped-edge bezel, is forged from Carbotech. The telltale, textural Carbotech swirls, however, are very subtle on the bezel and do not distract from the wide expanse of the dial.
The dial is constructed in the sandwich style with which most Paneristi are familiar, combining a top plate with cutout stenciled hour markers and numerals and a lower plate covered in Super-LumiNova. The result is a dial with an uncommon 3D effect, albeit a subtle one — especially in this particular watch, as the medium-gray dial color does not provide quite as much contrast with the markers, numerals and hands as does the more traditional black used for Panerai dials.
“Understated” is not a word commonly applied to watches from Panerai, but it’s fair to use it in this instance. As stated, the design is much more monochromatic than high-contrast. In the daylight, the only elements that stand out on the dial are the thin, stick hour and minute hands and teardrop-shaped seconds hand traversing the non-bordered subdial at 9 o’clock that clues in the wearer at a glance that the watch is running. The curvy, stencil-style numerals at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock are rather inconspicuous when they’re not glowing bright green in the dark (of course, they’ll need to soak up some sun during the daylight to even do that). In short, this is a watch that is almost painfully shy during the day but unabashedly bold at night.
The dodecagonal (12-sided) caseback is subtly convex and has a sober, no-nonsense matte-black finish. Other than the tone-on-tone “Panerai Luminor” etchings, there are no eye-catching engravings; the real complexity lies underneath the caseback, namely Panerai’s P.9010 caliber, made entirely in the brand’s manufacture in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Comprising 200 components and impressively thin in profile at just 6 mm, it is self-winding by means of a bidirectional rotor, and stores a power reserve of 72 hours, or three days, in two barrels. Like other Panerai in-house movements, it is fitted with a device for stopping the balance wheel to more precisely synchronize the watch while setting it, as well as a system for quickly adjusting the hour hand forward or backward without interfering with the running of the seconds hand — a useful feature when changing time zones or in the event one needs to quickly adjust the date. It’s also quite an attractive caliber, so the fact that it’s hidden behind the solid back may give some aficionados pause, despite the fact that Panerai’s decision to do so is perfectly in keeping with the Luminor’s utilitarian history as a timepiece for naval divers.
Panerai can nearly always be counted on to provide a strap that offers impressive sturdiness as well as instant comfort, and the thick “Sportech” strap on the PAM01662 is no exception. Its got a textile surface and a rubberized interior, woven together by light gray contrast stitching. Held fast to the wrist by Panerai’s trapezoidal buckle, made of black DLC-coated titanium, whose wide tongue hooks snugly into the rectangular perforations, it completes this watch’s bulletproof look. If you’ve ever lamented the lack of a Panerai model that could seamlessly transition from a grey-flannel-suited business meeting atmosphere to a meetup with friends in a casual ensemble of jeans or khakis with a leather jacket, this might be gray-toned sport-luxury compromise you’ve been seeking.
|Manufacturer:||Officine Panerai, Rue de la Balance 4, CH-2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland|
|Functions:||Hours, minutes, small seconds, date|
|Movement:||Panerai Caliber P.9010, automatic, 200 components, 31 jewels, frequency = 28,800 vph, power reserve of three days stored in two barrels, Incabloc shock protector|
|Case:||Sandblasted DMLS titanium case; Carbotech bezel, crown, and lever; patented safety-lock crown protection device, sapphire crystal from corundum, screwed dodecagonal caseback in titanium with black DLC coating, water resistant to 300 meters|
|Bracelet and clasp:||Panerai Sportech strap, black with anthracite stitching, trapezoidal pin buckle in black DLC-coated titanium; additional black rubber strap included|
|Dimensions:||Diameter = 44 mm, height = 14.2 mm|