For those of you less familiar with Panerai’s more recent history, there isn’t a name out there more synonymous with the success of modern Panerai than Angelo Bonati. Effectively the first employee of the brand once the Vendome Group (now Richemont) took ownership of Officine Panerai in 1997, Bontai started as Sales Director and soon worked his way into the CEO role. The man is single handedly responsible for turning a failing brand mostly responsible for Italian Navy instruments at the time, into a true powerhouse of the watch industry.
Mare Nostrum PAM300: The True O.G. Mare Revival
Though two Mare Nostrum re-editions hit the market before the PAM300—One in 1993 before their Vendome acquisition, and one in 1997 that Bonati updated from the first edition—but the real coup came in 2010. In 2005 the brand tracked down one of the three original Mare Nostrum Prototypes that were built by Panerai back in 1943, and set to crafting a 99-piece re-edition far more true-to-original than its predecessors.
Measuring a shockingly large 52mm in diameter, and powered by a beautifully finished Minerva-based handwinding chronograph caliber, these wrist-mounted wall clocks rose to immediate fame amongst Panerai enthusiasts and collectors. Most recently the brand also recreated the first production Mare Nostrum from 1993 as the new PAM716, another popular move by Bonati that pays a fitting tribute to the brand’s Pre-Vendome days in a much more wearable 42mm case size.
PAM 382: The Bronzo is Born
Hot on the heels of the Mare Nostrum, Bonati had another trick up his sleeve. Long before the Bronze craze that has taken over watchmaking in the last couple of years, 2011 saw the launch of the first real attention-grabbing bronze watch on the market; the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronze. Powered by Panerai’s in-house P.9000 self-winding caliber fitted into a hefty 47mm bronze case with a bronze unidirectional diving bezel and a very mil-spec olive drab dial, there was so much to love about the new Bronzo so long as you had sufficient wrist size to pull it off.
Much like other limited edition Panerai models, a modest 1000-piece supply and ever-growing demand for the brand saw the Bronzo skyrocket on the secondary market, and to this day tracking down a fair example will set you back somewhere in the range of $28,000 to $31,000 or more.
Not even a year into his role at Panerai in 1998, Bonati stumbled across an accidental halo project of sorts. When divvying up the inventory at Panerai HQ after the acquisition, they found 60 of the original Rolex movements—new old stock WWII-era Rolex 618 movements that Panerai had used in the past during the Panerai/Rolex partnership heyday—and Bonati knew just what to do.
After properly cleaning and preparing the calibers, they were to be fitted into a new and exclusive model. Bonati chose to replicate the early Panerai 3646, which was produced between 1940 and 1944. Rather than steel, platinum was chosen as the appropriate case material for such a momentous discovery, and it took no time at all for the 60 examples to find new homes through the brand’s then-limited retail network. Originally sold for 20,000 Euros, these rare birds now trade hands on the regular for somewhere north of $100,000, which is quite impressive growth for a 20-year old timepiece.
Enter Lab-ID: The Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3-Days
Arguably the crowning jewel of Bonati’s long reign at Panerai, the level of technical innovation that went into this groundbreaking watch is beyond impressive. By using a combination of carbon, tantalum-based ceramic, and an array of proprietary coatings, Panerai created the caliber P.3001/C as an unlubricated movement capable of running a guaranteed 50 years without servicing.
Thanks to these coatings and composites, Panerai’s movement engineers were also able to trim the number of jewels of the movement down to only four, theoretically further improving on wear and servicing needs. As with many things Panerai, the Lab-ID Carbotech is a large piece—49mm across to be precise. Regardless of this fact, it is another fascinating and exclusive release from the brand that was limited to only 50 pieces worldwide. Beyond a doubt, this is another home run from the brand that will go down in the annals as another monumental move by Bonati and the Panerai team.
Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio
We’ve effectively lost track of how many Panerai firsts Angelo Bonati was responsible for, though we suppose “all of them” is technically not a wrong answer when looking at the modern era. One very noteworthy first was no doubt the arrival of the brand’s first ever tourbillon that came to market in 2016. The Lo Scienziato was in a sense a precursor to the Lab-ID mentioned above, where rather than playing with new and innovative materials, Panerai looked at new manufacturing techniques to create something appropriately unique and innovative rather than “just another tourbillon”
Both the case and the P.2005/T caliber’s plates and bridges are made of titanium, and formed through a process called Direct Metal Laser Sintering. Most simply explained as the 3D printing of titanium in 0.02mm layers, this technique allows for a less dense and thus lighter variant of the metal. Combined with its skeletonization, the movement of the Lo Scienziato Luminor weighs only 23 grams. It’s also worth noting that the tourbillon of this piece is anything but ordinary. Its cage rotates perpendicularly to the balance, theoretically more effectively countering the forces of gravity on the tourbillon.
More surprisingly, the cage makes a complete rotation in 30 seconds, which is unusual compared to the countless tourbillons engineered around a 60 second rotation goal. All told, 150 examples of this edgy and boundary-pushing Panerai were produced, with an initial retail price of $143,000.