The Luminor 1950 case was developed by Panerai in the late 1940s to be worn by commandos of the Italian Navy and is inspired by a model created in 1956 for the Egyptian Navy. From that came the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 47 mm, a professional 300-meter divers watch, which until this year was only available in titanium. For 2015, Panerai introduced the same model in a new high-tech material called Carbotech. I recently had the chance to review this distinctive-looking watch. Read on for the results.
The new Carbotech material is designed to enhance both the aesthetics and performance of the case. According to Panerai, it is both lighter and stronger than ceramic or titanium, as well as being hypoallergenic. No two cases are the same due to each layer being compressed in a non-uniform pattern, so in addition to performance benefits, each piece is visually unique to its respective owner.
A black dial with a matte finish perfectly harmonizes with the surfaces of the Carbotech case, which are also completely matte. Large, applied luminous dots mark the hours, with the exception of printed luminous Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock. Oversized, black, luminous, skeletonized hour and minute hands indicate the time, along with the subsidiary small seconds display at 9 o’clock. A blue hand with filled with luminous material continuously circles the small seconds subdial — with blue dots, and luminous indexes marking 15-second graduations — every 60 seconds. A rectangular aperture at 3 o’clock displays the date. Protecting the dial is a slightly convex sapphire crystal.
The dial is uncluttered and features big, bold markers and hands, so it is, of course, easy to read — even in low light, thanks to the generous application of luminous material. Any good watch should be easy to read, but when it is a professional dive watch, good legibility becomes a prerequisite. In fact, the ISO 6425 dive watch standard explicitly requires this, which is especially important underwater.
Carbotech is used on the case middle, bezel and the lever bridge that protects the winding crown. As I mentioned above, the unique structure is both lightweight and strong, even more so than titanium or ceramic. To make the material, thin sheets of carbon fibers are compressed at controlled temperatures under high pressure with a high-end polymer (Polyether Ether Ketone), which binds to the composite material, resulting in superior durability. Further, to ensure aesthetic uniformity, the carbon fibers used are very long, and the sheets are superimposed and pressed together in such a way that the fibers of each layer are set at a different angle from the ones above and below it. The result is a material that is actually lighter and stronger than titanium or ceramic, not to mention resistant to external forces. It is also hypoallergenic and anti-corrosive.
All of these are benefits; plus, because of the inherent nature of the manufacturing process, each piece has a distinctive look of its own.
The ridged bezel, made from the same Carbotech material as the case, is unidirectional and can track submersion time with a large, luminous dot at zero (12 o’clock position), as well as luminous graduations from zero to 15, with studs marking every five minutes and numerals at 15, 30 and 45. The bezel rotates only counterclockwise and enables the time of immersion to be calculated: a very useful function on a professional underwater instrument that is tested for water-resistance up to 30 bar (about 300 meters).
The caseback is in solid titanium and features the engraved text, “Florence 1860” — the city and year of Panerai watchmaking’s birth — and the image of a Slow Speed Torpedo (SLC), the notorious “pig” on which, in the 1940s, the commandos of the Italian Navy sailed through the depths of the sea on their missions while wearing instruments made by Panerai.
Unlike with most dive watches, especially those with more than 300 meters of water resistance, the crown is not of the screw-down variety. Instead the crown is surrounded by what Panerai calls a crown bridge (or crown protector). Functionally, this consists of a lever pressing up against the crown when in the closed position and essentially performing the same function as a screw-in crown. This is also the feature that gives many Panerais their distinctive, military look.
With strap attached, the watch weighs 135.5 grams. This is by no means ultra-light. However, considering the size of the case — 47 mm in diameter by 16.8 mm thick by 57.5 mm in length — the total weight is relatively low.