In 2015, Panerai ushered a new, high-tech material into the watchmaking world with the launch of the Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech. At this year’s SIHH, the brand goes even more boldly experimental with the Panerai LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days – 49mm, which combines a Carbotech case with a deep black, light-absorbing dial and a lubrication-free mechanical movement.
The Panerai LAB-ID, which is limited to just 50 pieces, is the latest product from Panerai’s Laboratorio di Idee division, which is devoted to finding horological inspiration in the world of high technology. The watch’s 49-mm Luminor 1950 case — including its hallmark bridge device and locking lever to protect the crown — is made of carbotech, a composite material based on carbon fiber with an uneven, matte black appearance which varies according to the cutting of the material, making each case essentially a unique piece. Carbotech’s structure is designed to enhance both its aesthetics and performance. To form the plates that give the material its distinctive look, thin sheets of carbon fibers are compressed at a controlled temperature under high pressure together with a high-end polymer, PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone), which binds the composite material, making it even stronger and more durable. The carbon fibers used are very long, to ensure aesthetic uniformity, and the sheets 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 boasts mechanical properties much higher than those of similar materials used in watchmaking, such as ceramics and titanium. Carbotech, according to Panerai, is lighter than both and more resistant to corrosion as well as being hypoallergenic.
The dial — in Panerai’s familiar “sandwich” style — features blue-colored Super-LumiNova shining through the cut-out hour markers and indices; the luminous substance also appears on the hands and on the small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. Its deep matte-black appearance comes from a coating of carbon nanotubes, used here for the first time on a watch dial, which has been specially developed to absorb light, reducing reflection to a minimum. Because it is not possible to print or stamp any elements onto the coated dial, Panerai’s watchmakers had to form the figures of the Panerai logo and LAB-ID text directly onto the dial’s sapphire crystal, to which a double anti-reflective treatment has been applied.
Inside the watch is Panerai’s manual-winding Caliber P.3001/C, which stores a power reserve of three days. This new version of the movement has been partially skeletonized, functions without the need for additional lubrication, and includes only four jewels. Panerai devised a wide range of solutions, associated with the unique properties of carbon, to overhaul individual parts of the movement, including the plates, bridges, barrels, escapement and anti-shock device, all of which use self-lubricating and dry lubricating materials.
The main bridges and plate are made of a completely new material — a low-friction composite that integrates a Tantalum-based ceramic. This composite is notable for its high percentage of carbon, which minimizes pivot friction, making jewels and their related lubrication unnecessary. Panerai also eliminated the need to lubricate the escapement by making its main components from silicon and applying a special coating of DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) to the wheelwork.
Two years of testing was needed to identified the best type of carbon-based coating with which to treat the components of the movement’s two spring barrels, which require no conventional lubrication. The solution was a series of layers and sub-layers of coating, with the surface coating treated with DLC. Another surface coating of DLC was applied to the four jewels, eliminating the need to further lubricate the Incabloc anti-shock device. So confident is Panerai of the movement’s lubrication-free properties, it guarantees that the LAB-ID will require no added lubrication for 50 years.
The movement — whose rear side hosts the watch’s power reserve indicator — is visible through the large sapphire window in the caseback. In addition to its skeletonized bridges and barrels with their meticulous technical finishing, Caliber P.3001/C’s distinctive features include a large (13.2 mm diameter) balance wheel, fixed by a bridge with twin supports and oscillating at a frequency of 3 Hz. It also features a hacking seconds device, which stops the balance and returns the seconds hand to zero when setting the time, so that the watch can be perfectly synchronized with a reference signal.
The Panerai LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days – 49mm (PAM00700) is mounted on a black leather strap, with contrasting stitching in the same blue color as the dial’s luminous areas. It is priced at 65,000 euros. Scroll down for a few live photos of the watch that we snapped at SIHH 2017.