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There are very few Panerai watches that could be described as "petite." The majority of the collection (with the arguable exception of the Luminor Due models) is designed to grab attention while weathering anything the world can throw at it. But when it comes to all-out action, there is no family better suited to the task than the hulking Panerai Submersible.
The Panerai Submersible's origins are firmly rooted in the company's past, but it didn't become a range in its own right until relatively recently. As such, its very existence has been known to divide opinion amongst hardcore Paneristi (the dedicated followers of the Panerai brand) for messing with a winning formula after arriving so late to the party.
But the Submersible was born out of Panerai's intention to improve the functionality of their watches. Considering Panerai timepieces were always intended to be used by professional watermen, the absence of a rotating timing bezel on the Radiomir and Luminor models seems a glaring oversight by modern standards. But those models were created in a time before such stringent criteria had been established and were designed to be used by Navy personnel that expected to be in and around water, but not always under it, nor using SCUBA apparatus (that would not be created until 1942, many years after the foundation of Panerai in 1860).
The Egiziano - an indirect precursor to the Submersible - emerged in the mid-fifties, adding a rotating bezel to the design of the recently released Luminor (as well as several millimeters in diameter). But it would take more than 50 years for that design to truly establish itself in the catalog due, in part, to Panerai's fluctuating fortunes over the interim years.
In 2011, the Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo put the new collection on the map. At the time, using bronze in a luxury watch of such value was still a risky play, but the company pulled it off with style. Since those days, almost ten years ago, bronze has gone on to become the material de jour, while the brand has further established itself as one of the world's most sought after brands and desirable products.
As the brand continues to forge ahead into the next decade, new movements, new materials, and the dedication of further research and development resources seem to ensure a strong and exciting future for the brand and the Submersible range. So if this often oversized wrist giant is the Panerai that speaks to you loudest, read on to discover exactly what wonders this ever-expanding collection has in store.
Panerai watches are not known to be cheap, but a couple of the families (the long-standing Radiomir and Luminor ranges) do at least offer pared-back entry-level models for those who dig the identifiable aesthetic but don't want to empty their life savings to get it on their wrists.
This isn't really the case for the Submersible family, which has a relatively high entry-point. That's for the Panerai Submersible PAM00973, a 42mm dive watch with a central hour and minute register, a 9 o'clock luminous seconds hand, and a white-on-black date wheel at 3 o'clock. A chunky rubber strap and iconic crown guard mark this as a proud member of the Panerai family, but its smaller size does detract from the visual impact one might expect from the brand. Nonetheless, it is, thanks to that diminutive diameter, an incredibly wearable timepiece and far more versatile than some of the gargantuan options further up the food chain. For a neophyte Paneristi looking for a luxury watch that can be worn with more casual and smart clothes, there are worse choices than PAM00973.
If you want to tap into the upper echelons of the Submersible line, however, prices go through the roof. Prices in the standard collection have a range of different prices with reference PAM00974, a 42mm "Goldtech" case being at the higher end (a proprietary precious metals exclusive to Panerai). It is a handsome watch, but a bit of an outlier for its fancy exterior. Far better to save a few dollars and pick up reference PAM00979, a 47mm Marina Militare in achingly cool Carbotech. The blacked-out colorway of this model is exactly the stealthy look Panerai's of the future would do well to harvest. And at the current price point it is considerably cheaper than the top of the standard range.
The crème de la crème, however, can be found in the special edition line-up. Both references PAM00961 and PAM00985 come in a shade under 40 thousand, and while that may seem very expensive for two pieces, however attractive, that offer very little in terms of functional or aesthetic extras, there is a lifestyle boost attached to the purchase of both these pieces that is hard to beat.
Both models come with a "Panerai experience." If you purchase the Panerai Submersible Mike Horn Edition reference PAM00985, you don’t just get the watch, but also the chance to train with Mike among the ice floes of the Arctic. By purchasing the Panerai Marina Militare Carbotech special edition, reference PAM00961, you get to take part in a (totally brutal) training session with the COMSUBIN (read on to find out exactly who these guys are and to get an idea of what kind of torture you might be letting yourself in for). This is a true luxury concept - offering clients experiences that money could not previously buy. In this sales model, the watch becomes a ticket, a trinket, a causal reminder of a day well spent. And if you’ve got the money and the constitution for that kind of physical punishment and luxurious reward, then why not treat yourself?
For many years, Panerai offered a simple and straightforward product line: The Radiomir or the Luminor. There were few variations, with both models evolving in terms of quality but with very few tweaks to their original styles. What we regard as a modern Panerai Submersible first appeared as part of the Luminor range (itself designed in 1949 and unveiled in 1950), in the form of the 1956 Egiziano made for the Egyptian Navy. At 60mm in diameter, this horological heavyweight was the first Panerai to feature the rotating timing bezel (used by divers for calculating their time of submersion) that has gone on to become the most distinctive external element of the Panerai Submersible watch collection.
As far as icons go, it doesn't get much bigger or better than the Egiziano, but finding one of these pieces is far from easy. Better, perhaps, to focus on the more recent (and incredibly popular) Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo released in 2011 as the first Panerai to be made from this increasingly popular case material. With an olive green dial and brown leather strap, the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo looked every bit the marine instrument it was designed to be. It couldn't be a better ambassador for a collection that has since gone down a materially experimental route tailored towards real-world performance. The Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo remains a luxury diver's watch that will age gracefully over time as it accompanies its wearer on adventures above and beneath the surface of the world's oceans.
The Submersible calls the wrist of several extremely hardcore Panerai ambassadors home. As the perfect Panerai for action men extraordinaire, many special editions have been created alongside some of the brand's longest-term ambassadors.
Mike Horn's life history reads like a brand philosophy. An adventurer and explorer, always willing to push himself further and take on the next almighty challenge, Horn has been on the team for more than 15 years and during that time he's undertaking expeditions to both poles and on each of the seven continents. Accompanying him on his adventures has always been a wristwatch by the brand, with many limited editions created to mark his achievements. Watches such as the Aktos PAM00092, the North Pole PAM00252, and the Submersible Mike Horn Edition PAM00985 have joined him on his fearless missions.
Luxury watchmaking has something of an obsession with free-diving and the men and women able to dive down to unbelievable depths on a single breath. Perhaps there is a spiritual congruence between the preciousness of the time these watches track and the peaceful, reflective way in which it can be spent deep beneath the water's surface. Brands like Ulysse Nardin and ZRC 1904 have linked-up with apnoea divers too, so it made perfect sense for Panerai to bring on-board Guillaume Néry to promote the Submersible through his sporting endeavors.
Have you ever heard of the COMSUBIN? A special forces branch of the Italian Navy, the COMSUBIN (which stands for Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei ed Incursori) is a team of crack troops trained to complete impossible missions. With training regimes that look more like a forgotten action sequence from Rambo, the COMSUBIN unit stands tall amongst the giants of military maneuvers. Equipped with their Submersibles, this secretive unit of 33 highly-drilled individuals is ready for anything.
The Submersible's roots exist in the distant past (with many attributing the style of the modern iteration to a 1950s model - the Egiziano - designed and made for the Egyptian Navy). Picking up one of these precursors would set you back a pretty penny, so it's probably best to start your collection with a more recent model - the style made popular by famous Paneristis such as Sly Stallone.
The film Daylight (released in 2000) brought the Submersible to a new audience and kicked off a career in the limelight it has rarely shied from since. Early models from this era have a nice backstory and are relatively affordable on the pre-loved market, but the real meat on this bone is found way up the food chain in the five and six-figure regions.
The Submersible, given its undeniable modernity, is the perfect canvas upon which the mad material scientists at Panerai are wont to experiment. Some of the most avant-garde pieces from the Richemont Group-owned brand can be found in the Submersible collection, where novel materials like Carbotech, Ceramica, and BMG-Tech have been deployed to great effect.
This is where the Submersible collection comes alive and offers something entirely distinct from rival brands' portfolios. If your cash can stretch this far, this is where to look. Whether pieces made from such unusual, avant-garde materials will age or appreciate as well as their humbler steel or titanium counterparts remains to be seen, but assuming you are buying a luxury watch as an emotional investment, rather than a financial one (which is never a good idea) you will experience the daily joy of knowing that very few people in the world - an exclusive sect of high-end Panerai owners - can enjoy the benefits of these forward-thinking, space-age products.