Panerai first introduced an equation of time complication to its Luminor family in 2015. Perhaps not the most useful complication on the market, the equation of time will certainly spark a conversation. Luckily, the watch does have other practical complications onboard its formidable 47mm titanium hull with GMT functionality, AM/PM indicator, date and month and the powerful luminescence and robust power reserve for which the brand has always been associated. For our hands-on session today we have this handsome greyish titanium and blue dial model, reference PAM00670, which stands out with its crisp, navy-like contrasts.
Panerai might only have surfaced as a civilian brand in 1998, but it has a fascinating history that was a top military secret for years. Panerai made a name for itself with its luminescent instruments for the Italian Navy and eventually for the divers of the X Flottiglia MAS, a specialized team of frogmen commandos who navigated astride submersible torpedoes (siluri) and wreaked havoc on enemy vessels. Panerai’s upper hand was luminescence and depth gauges, wrist compasses, detonators, sights and later wristwatches that glowed in the dark were specially developed for Italy’s Navy.
Luminescence was Panerai’s trump card and the two watches that form the core product of the brand today are named after (inspired by would be more correct) the luminescent materials used to make them glow: Radiomir (radium) and Luminor (tritium). The Radiomir, with its hulking 47mm steel cushion-shaped case, underwent modifications following requests by the divers and by 1940 it had assumed its hallmark physiognomy. The Luminor appeared ten years later with a similar shaped case but with a distinctive bridge protecting the crown to ensure its water-resistance, a design feature that would become the identity card of the Luminor from then on.
Equation of Time
In 2015, Panerai added an equation of time complication to both the Radiomir 1940 and Luminor 1950 models. An equation of time complication indicates the difference between solar (true) time and conventional mean time (aka civil or standard time). Mean time and solar time only coincide four times a year on equinoxes and solstices (15 April, 13 or 14 June, 1 September and 24 or 25 December). The reason between these discrepancies is that the Earth revolves on an inclined axis and the speed of rotation around the sun varies because of its elliptical path. Between these dates, the disparity fluctuates between minus 16 minutes 45 seconds on 3 November to plus 14 minutes 21 seconds on 11 February.
An equation of time complication displays how many minutes have to be added or deducted from mean time to get the actual solar time. On the Panerai PAM00670, the linear scale you can see above the 6 o’clock index goes from minus 15 minutes to plus 15 and is set automatically when the date and the month are adjusted on the watch. Not a lifesaving complication, but an extra gizmo that might spark a conversation. In addition to that, this unconventional linear display stays in line with the utilitarian look of Panerai watches – even though the complication itself isn’t really utilitarian.
Large and stylish
The 47mm case is large and will overwhelm a small wrist, no doubt about it. Luckily, the material chosen for the case is titanium making it extremely light to wear, and if you have an 18cm or more wrist, like Frank in the photos here, it makes a balanced and comfortable, though with presence, watch. The bezel is polished and the base is brushed and the slightly darker tone of titanium looks great with the striking blue dial. The greyish blue colour selected for the dial is extremely handsome and provides a solid contrast to the sandy coloured indices, hands and indications.
A hallmark trait of Panerai watches is the sandwich structure of the dial, invented by the brand in the late 1930s. Basically two discs stacked on top of one another, the lower disc is covered with a luminous substance and the top disc has holes cut out for the numerals. In this way, the long-lasting green lume appears from underneath the indices. Obviously, the hands have also been treated with lume along with the round indicator on the equation of time scale. The combination of this deep, sunray-brushed blue dial with the golden hands is striking and visually appealing.
The other complications onboard this formidable Luminor PAM00670 are a practical GMT function, a day-and-night indicator cleverly tucked into the running seconds at 9 o’clock, a month indicator at 3 o’clock and a small date aperture on the tip of the 4 o’clock index. The GMT is indicated with a central arrow-tipped hand but there is no 24-hour scale making the AM/PM fundamental to avoid waking up your loved ones in the middle of the night. The GMT function is adjusted by the crown, with the local time (main hour hand) moved in one-hour increments.
Regarding the display, I can understand the desire for symmetry resulting in a counter on the right side of the dial but wonder how useful a month indicator really is. Perhaps the day of the week would have been more useful in the case of a GMT watch?
Developed and produced in-house at Panerai’s spanking new manufacture (2014) on the outskirts of Neuchâtel, the calibre P.2002/E in this PAM00670 is a hand-wound movement. The P.2002 is the progenitor of the P.2000 series and gets its name from the year in which the project to supply Panerai watches with movement designed and developed at the manufacture took off. With 247 components, it has 21 jewels and a thickness of 6.6mm.
The power reserve (there is an indicator on the back with a small blue hand filled with lume) is extremely high offering over eight days of autonomy thanks to the three spring barrels in series ensuring a stable delivery of force. The balance wheel oscillates at 28,800 alternations per hour which is unusual in a watch with such a robust power reserve.
It also has a seconds reset device which resets the seconds hand to zero to synchronise the watch perfectly with a reference time signal. By pulling out the crown to the second position, a blade moves into contact with the balance wheel and stops it. Simultaneously a small hammer lever moves downwards and acts on a heart-shaped cam which instantly moves the seconds hand to the zero position. The decoration of the movement, like all Panerai’s in-house calibres, is voluntarily industrial-looking, fitting the whole concept. The way the bridges have been cut and arranged is pleasant and they feature large diamond-polished bevels.
The combination of titanium and blue, with gold accents, is crisp and handsome, like a uniform a naval officer might wear. Imposing but lightweight, the GMT and AM/PM complications and the beefy power reserve mean eight days of autonomy, a plus on a business trip. Ok, the equation of time might not be as useful as the GMT, but it will certainly provoke inquiries and conveys a certain poetry.
Straps and price
The model we had for our hands-on session, the Panerai Luminor Equation of Time 47mm Titanio PAM00670, comes with a navy blue alligator strap with beige stitching. If you live in California, this particular strap will no longer be an option because Panerai “will discontinue the sale or distribution of alligator and crocodile products in California, in adherence with the law”. However, there are countless strap and buckle options to accessorize the watch, which can be ordered online. The price of this Luminor Equation of Time PAM00670 is EUR 21,000 (incl. sales tax) – obviously not cheap, but also rather desirable.
More information at panerai.com.