Mare Nostrum, “Our Sea” in latin. It’s a term that invariably brings to mind a rare and exclusive model for Panerai collectors. Indeed, back in the early days of the Florentine manufacture, a chronograph was created, one that is so rare it has become a legend. Based on this concept and on the few pieces of documentation available from that time, Panerai made a first re-edition of this Mare Nostrum chronograph in 1993 (Ref. 5218-301), the year the first collection of Panerai watches were made for civilian use – a watch that has become iconic. For 2017, this model returns in a faithful (but again rare) tribute version, the Panerai Mare Nostrum 42mm PAM00716.
History of the Panerai Mare Nostrum Collection, from 1943 to 2017
The 1943 Prototype – Back in 1943, Officine Panerai created a few prototypes of a chronograph made for deck officers of the Royal Italian Navy. However, these watches never went into production and remained an idea only, a concept and they were thought to have been all destroyed or lost. The watch was an impressive piece of stainless steel measuring 52mm in diameter, and contained an Angelus Calibre 215 column-wheel chronograph movement. The dial was an unusual seaweed-green color and the hands, in brass, were of course coated with Panerai’s patented “Radiomir” paint to provide luminosity. Panerai itself bought one of these prototypes from Christie’s, at the Geneva November 2005 auction, for CHF 132,000. The watch is not only now on display at the Panerai Museum but its close examination has given birth to further limited edition watches – see below.
The first re-edition, the 1993 Pre-Vendome Panerai Mare Nostrum 5218-301 – Long before Panerai acquired the 1943 prototype, just as the brand was being revived in 1993, a re-edition of the Mare Nostrum Chronograph was created – not an extremely faithful one though, as only limited documentation survived the flood in Florence in 1966 and the 1943 model was not yet in the hands of the manufacture. The Mare Nostrum 5218-301 however quickly became an icon, due to a limited production of less than 500 pieces (said to be 492 pieces). This 42mm steel watch featured a blue dial, an engraved bezel with tachymeter scale and an ETA 2801 (manual-wind) movement with Dubois-Depraz module.
The Stallone connection, the Panerai Mare Nostrum Slytech 5218-304 – The popularity of Panerai, a brand mainly intended to be distributed on the Italian market at first, is certainly due (partially) to Sylvester Stallone, an avid wearer of these watches. Right after the first 42mm Mare Nostrum, and prior to the Richemont takeover, Panerai created a “Slytech” version of the Mare Nostrum Chronograph, this time with a flat bezel though. “Originally intended to be made in a limited edition of 500 watches, scholarship states that eventually only 50 watches of reference 5218-304 were ever finished. In fact, it appears that Officine Panerai sold 31 watches of this series and Vendome distributed the remaining 19 examples.” (source: Phillips Auction). The below example here was auctioned in 2015 and reached CHF 45,000.
The Vendome Era, the Panerai Mare Nostrum PAM00006 – 00007 – 00008 – In March 1997, the Vendôme Luxury Group (now known as Richemont) purchased Panerai and made some slight retouches to the Mare Nostrums design. They re-worked the dial, putting the minute track on the outside of the hour markers instead of on the inside and the bezel received 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 PAM00006 with a blue dial, PAM00007 with a white dial and PAM00008 with a black dial.
The first “faithful” re-edition, the 2010 Panerai Mare Nostrum 52mm PAM00300 – 5 years after Panerai acquired the 1943 prototype, the brand launched a re-edition of the Mare Nostrum – an extremely faithful one negating the inaccuracy of the 1993 model. Indeed, it features the same massive 52mm steel case, with flat satin-finish bezel, and the same stepped dial. This was a quickly sold-out limited edition of 99 pieces, with a superb Minerva / OP XXV movement, visible through a sapphire crystal. A collector’s items for sure.
The beast part-2, the lightweight 2015 Panerai Mare Nostrum 52mm PAM00603 – 5 years later, while listening to the concerns of collectors who found the PAM00300 way too heavy (even if it was faithful to the original), Panerai re-created the Mare Nostrum in 52mm but this time in titanium. This PAM603 Titanio was made in 150 examples, again featuring a Minerva-based column-wheel chronograph movement (this time hidden behind a plain caseback). A beast, practically impossible to wear (see our hands-on here). However, this one, despite the change of material, might be the most faithful edition, with its brownish dial and brass-like hands.
The 2017 Panerai Mare Nostrum 42mm PAM00716
This might sound stupid, but wearability is a primary concern of collectors – stupid?… maybe not. The new Panerai Mare Nostrum PAM00716 is almost small (by Panerai’s standards) and is an almost identical reissue of the 1993 edition – thus not faithful to the original 1943 model, however the 1993 version has become something of an icon in its own right. Thus, we see a return of the 42mm Acciaio case (stainless steel), with the same shape, the same finishes (polished sides, circular brushed flat surfaces), the same screws on the lugs and, importantly, the same bezel with engraved tachymeter scale, in kilometers, from 280km/h to 55km/h. Crown and pushers are also the same.
Once again, for the dial, finding distinctions between the 2017 Panerai Mare Nostrum 42mm PAM00716 and its ancestor, the 1993 Pre-Vendome Panerai Mare Nostrum 5218-301, is a “game of spot the difference”. Indeed, same dark blue hue for the dial, with grainy surface, same blued hands, with slightly beige paint, same indexes at 12 and 6, same tracks for the minutes and the hours, same sub-counters, with equivalent markings and finally, same inscriptions. Concession to modernity and luxury: the strap is now a deep blue alligator leather band.
The resemblance doesn’t stop here. The caseback are also almost identical and this new Panerai Mare Nostrum 42mm PAM00716 even shares the exact same movement as the 1993 model, meaning the OP XXXIII calibre, created and personalised by Panerai on the ETA 2801-2 base with a Dubois-Dépraz chronograph module. It is a hand-wound movement with 42h power reserve and it is a chronometer certified by COSC. Even the box is a tribute to the 1993 model, as this Special Edition also comes with a little model of the Luigi Durand De La Penne, the Italian Navy destroyer launched in 1993, as in the pre-Vendôme period.
The 2017 Panerai Mare Nostrum 42mm PAM00716 is a limited edition of 1,000 pieces, which retails for EUR 9,900. Available at retailers and boutiques in September or October 2017. More on www.panerai.com.
Technical Specifications – Panerai Mare Nostrum 42mm PAM00716
- Case: 42mm diameter – brushed 316L stainless steel – sapphire crystal on the dial side, plain caseback – 50m water resistant
- Movement: OP XXXIII calibre, exclusive to Panerai, Based on ETA 2801-2 with Dubois-Dépraz module – COSC Certified – hand-wound – 42h power reserve – 4Hz frequency – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph
- Strap: dark blue alligator strap with steel pin-buckle
- Reference: PAM00716
- Availability: September or October 2017
- Price: EUR 9,900