Many watch collectors cherish the opportunity to wear a timepiece that few others have owned or even seen, or even one for which only a single piece was ever sold. But rare indeed is the opportunity to strap on a watch that is not only unique but has never even been made available to the public.”Panerai: The Prototypes,” hosted by Sotheby’s from November 12 – 19, is an exclusive online auction of three unique pieces, all prototypes, from Officine Panerai, coinciding with the first anniversary of the brand’s flagship store on Bond Street in London. Here is the lowdown on all three timepieces.
Lot #1 is the prototype for the yet-to-be-commercially-released Panerai Lab-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days edition, unveiled at SIHH 2017 and packed with high-tech horological innovations, including the use of the carbon fiber-based composite material Carbotech for its 49-mm case, light-absorbing nanotubes on its black sandwich-style dial, and the skeletonized, lubricant-free movement, Caliber P.3001.c. (For my detailed report on the Lab-ID from SIHH 2017, click here.) The prototype available here is the only piece that has been made available before the model’s worldwide release. Estimate: £40,000 – £60,000.
The original Mare Nostrum, one of the rarest vintage Panerai models out there, was developed as an officers’ chronograph for the Italian Navy in the 1940s but never made it into serial production. In the modern era, Panerai has resurrected the Mare Nostrum as a series of limited editions. Mare Nostrum models have sported blue, black, and brown dials; this prototype for the model released in 2010, however (Ref. PAM00300, Lot #2), is the only piece to feature the same olive green dial and matching fabric strap of the original. Its titanium case measures 52 mm in diameter and contains Panerai’s Caliber OP XXV, a modified version of a hand-wound Minerva chronograph movement. Estimate: £20,000 – £30,000.
In 2016, Panerai paid homage to the artistic history of Florence, the Italian city of its origins, with the Radiomir Firenze 3 Days Acciaio. That watch, Ref. PAM00672, was rare, limited to just 99 pieces (more detail on it here). The one-of-a-kind prototype on the (virtual) block at Sotheby’s is even rarer, differentiated from the final retail models by its use of a “California” dial that uses a combination of Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, and shaped indexes to mark its hour positions. The third and final lot of the online auction — containing a Caliber P.3000/F movement inside a 47-mm case in brushed stainless steel and sporting intricate hand engraving — is estimated to sell for between £20,000 and £30,000.
The auction, which represents the very first time that Panerai prototypes have ever gone under then auction hammer, is open for bidding at sothebys.com, and via the Sotheby’s app on iOs and Android, until 10:00 AM EST on November 19.
“We are thrilled to offer these unique pieces in auction,” says Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Panerai. “Our R&D team works relentlessly to design and create new models that encompass the history of our brand with a determined look towards the future. With this special auction we are aiming to satisfy clients who look to differentiate themselves and value the utmost exclusivity.”
Laurence Nicolas, Global Managing Director of Sotheby’s Jewelry & Watches Divisions, added, “Watch prototypes… not only tell the story of a brand but also shed light on the history of horology. Never before has Panerai allowed collectors to acquire prototypes and we are thrilled to partner with them again this year in this innovative online auction format.”