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Breaking new ground
A 50-YEAR warranty? That's what Panerai is offering for a limited 50 pieces of a new model fresh from its R&D department, the Lab-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech.
The brand has broken new ground in material used in watchmaking, launching a timepiece powered by a movement which requires no lubrication to work smoothly. Thus the prolonged warranty.
The Lab-ID, reflecting the infinite potential of carbon, is part of Panerai's 2017 watch collection, perhaps its most impressive and biggest in years. Another new piece in it is the Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-Tech, which boasts an innovative metallic glass case.
The collection also includes for the first time a downsized Luminor Submersible 1950 model, a new Bronzo and an updated Mare Nostrum model, Panerai's first chronograph timepiece.
Of course, there are also nine new watches unveiled at the same time to mark this year's America's Cup sailboat race.
But the Lab-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech (S$72,100) remains the timepiece that stands out in Panerai's latest collection.
With the technological advancement in luxury watchmaking in recent years, especially in using silicon to make watch components, owners of new watches now don't have to send their watches as often as they did previously for oiling, tuning or replacement of worn parts.
While many models in the market still need servicing and maintenance roughly every five years, timepieces increasingly are made of stronger - and more flexible - stuff, making them more resistant to shocks and magnetic interference. Such watches can wait another five years before sending to the workshop to patch the wear and tear.
Big brands such as Rolex and Omega have already extended the warranty period for their watches from the standard 1-2 years to 4-5 years. Still, the extensions fall far short of the warranty Panerai is extending for the Lab-ID.
The 50-year warranty is the longest offered for watches. Yet, the guarantee may not be necessary. The new semi-skeletonised hand-wound movement in the Lab-ID is made of carbon composites. Key parts of the calibre - the plates, bridges, barrels, escapement and anti-shock device - "use self-lubricating and dry lubricating materials", according to Panerai.
The 49mm Luminor 1950 case - even larger than the usual 47mm Panerai case - is made of carbotech, a composite material derived from carbon fibre which the brand has pioneered in watchmaking.
Compared to similar materials used in high-quality watchmaking, such as ceramics or titanium, Panerai says carbotech is lighter and more resistant to external stresses - and it causes fewer allergic reactions and is not subject to corrosion.
The dial of the Lab-ID is coated with carbon nanotubes, used for the first time for the display dial. It reduces reflection to a minimum and gives the dial "a particularly deep black appearance, forming a spectacular contrast with the blue of the hour markers and hands, which follows the classic Panerai design".
The BMG-Tech (S$14,600), which has a 47mm case and is equipped with an automatic in-house movement, also scores a first in horology.
Though Omega introduced a similar liquid metal six years ago, it was only for the bezel on a model in its Seamaster Planet Ocean line. Panerai's BMG-Tech has the whole case made of bulk metallic glass (BMG), a glass-like alloy, which provides a range of very useful qualities for an underwater watch: extreme resistance to wear, high strength and great lightness.
The Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio (S$12,500) and Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Oso Rosso (S$38,100), the first in a stainless steel case and the second in a red gold case, are the first in Panerai's Submersible family to come with a smaller 42mm case. Both watches, powered by an automatic in-house movement, are water-resistant to a depth of 300 metres.
The Panerai's Bronzo makes a comeback minus the power reserve indicator, staying true to the original model which appeared in 2011. The second Bronzo launched in 2014 has a power reserve indicator added to the dial. But while the dial of the first two Bronzos was green in colour, the latest is in blue.
The new Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo (S$20,600) is also slightly lighter and thinner than the first two versions, thanks to a slimmer new movement. Like the earlier models, the new Bronzo also has a 47mm case, is water resistant up to 300 metres and is a limited edition of 300 watches.
The Mare Nostrum, whose first prototypes appeared in 1943, is not only Panerai's first chronograph and one of the brand's rarest models, it also has a round case - unlike the pillow-shaped cases of most Panerai timepieces. The first re-edition of the Mare Nostrum was made in 1993, when the first collection of Panerai watches produced for civilian use - and the start of the period known to Panerai fans as pre-Vendome (1993-97) - was launched.
The Mare Nostrum was first intended for deck officers of the Royal Italian Navy, but it never went into production. The new Mare Nostrum Acciaio (S$14,600), which has a 42mm case, small by Panerai's standards, is based on the 1993 model. It is equipped with the same movement as the pre-Vendome model. The stainless steel watch is water-resistant to a depth of 50 metres.