Vintage Panerai’s are already exciting, big, bold, unique and rare. Amongst them the Mare Nostrum is perhaps the most mystical, since it was Panerai’s only vintage chronograph. Although the re-make is not as big as the original one, the one offered for auction by Christie’s can for sure be called exciting, bold, unique and rare.
In 1943 Panerai developed the Mare Nostrum for deck officers and it was their first chronograph. Allegedly only a couple prototypes had been made before the Allied invasion (in Italy) prevented full scale production. Like all the other Panerais, the Mare Nostrum has become a timeless classic. So it was not strange that Panerai made a re-issue of this iconic watch.
In 1993 the Mare Nostrum was introduced for public sale. Panerai did make some alterations to the design. A 42mm case made the watch much more wearable than the 52mm case of the original prototype. The two layer dial of the prototype was replaced by a normal (one layer) dial and the smooth bezel was now engraved with a km/h scale and later with a tachymeter.
Panerai opted for a ETA 2801-2 with Dubois Depraz chronograph module to power the watch. Between 1993 and 1996 492 of these Mare Nostrums where produced plus an additional 100 equally divided between 2 editions that where specially made for Sylvester Stallone. One was identical to the regular Mare Nostrum with only the name “Slytech” added to the dial. The other one had also “Slytech” on the dial, but also had a smooth bezel, just like the original prototypes.
In March 1997 the Vendôme Luxury Group (now known as Richemont) purchased Panerai and did some slight retouches on the Mare Nostrums design. They re-worked the dial where they put the minute track on the outside of the hour markers instead of on the inside and the bezel got a polished inner ring with stripes marking the according speed indicated on the satin finished outer ring. It was available with 3 dial colors; reference PAM006 with a blue dial, PAM007 with a white dial (as offered by Christie’s in the upcoming auction) and PAM008 with a black dial (below is an early pre-Vendôme model with a km/h scale on the bezel).
In 2005 Panerai purchased an original Mare Nostrum prototype at Christie’s for 85.000,- euro’s. This watch is not only on display in the Panerai museum, but also gave Panerai the opportunity to examine the watch and bring out an almost identical limited edition. This limited edition, designated PAM300 (see photo below) was introduced at the 2010 SIHH, and nearly identical to the original prototypes. 99 where made and the only difference with the original one is the movement. Where the original housed an Angelus 215 manual wind chronograph movement, the modern limited edition PAM300 is powered by Panerai’s OP XXV movement, which is based on a Minerva movement with the same functions as the Angelus.
With 398 pieces in total, the Vendôme-serie was actually smaller in production numbers than the pre-Vendôme version of the Mare Nostrum. Its 1997 sales price of around 1.500 Euros, or back then approximately $ 1,365, was actually quite a bargain, especially considering the brand’s current rock star status it would have been a wise investment. Christie’s estimates the hammer price of this Mare Nostrum between $ 8,000 and $ 12,000. If a further price increase for this model is still unknown, but this auction does give collectors an option to add a relatively rare and early Panerai to their collection that stands out, not only by its case design, but also its mythical place in Panerai history. This Panerai Mare Nostrum with a white dial and tachymeter scale on the bezel (reference PAM007) is lot 19 in Christies New York auction held at Rockefeller Plaza on June 15th.
Photo credits of the last to photos go to Martin Wilmsen, who runs a blog called Wrist Watch Photo, with his splendid photos of mainly Panerai watches.
This article is written by Martin Green, contributing writer for Monochrome Watches.