Watches & Wonders 2020: Panerai
Panerai was one of the most active brands during this edition of Watches & Wonders. This is hardly surprising: Jean-Marc Pontroué wants to boost a dynamic and this must be seen. The year 2020 is placed under the sign of the 70th anniversary of Luminor, it is also logical that Panerai structures its main novelties around this theme.
In fact, when I think about it, I believe that it should not be easy to develop new products at Panerai. You always have to find the narrow path that allows you to arouse surprise and interest while respecting rigid aesthetic codes. Panerai's strength is also its weak point. Hundreds of brands would dream of having such a recognizable design, among the most characteristic of the industry, many times copied and never equaled. But on the other hand, it offers few degrees of freedom and it is often a headache to manage to bring an aesthetic renewal. Panerai succeeded in a certain way with the Luminor Due which enabled it at the same time to broaden its customer base but the new ways to explore are not numerous.
This year, it is the materials which create novelty and which constitute the main differentiating factors. The 3 Luminor Marina celebrating the 70th anniversary of Luminor illustrate this perfectly: they combine contemporary materials (Titanium, Carbotech and Fibratech) and optimal luminescence obtained through the use of an intense Super Luminova distributed far beyond the limits of the dial. In fact, these 3 watches stand out day and night. Daylight highlights the textures of the cases and particularly that of the Carbotech case. Fibratech also seems to have very good aesthetic potential but I have not yet seen it in the real life. The darkness reveals the play of luminescence obtained thanks to unexpected locations of Super Luminova: on the flange, on the crown protector and on the topstitching of the strap.
The Luminor 70th anniversary collection:
Panerai distracts the Super Luminova from its main purpose in a way. It always respects its primary role which consists in giving the possibility of reading the time in the dark. But here it plays a more aesthetic score by emphasizing the characteristic elements of the brand design. The 3 watches have an identical diameter (44mm) and the case thickness varies between 14.5 and 15.65mm. They are characterized by their lightness and the resistance of their materials. They are all 3 powered by the automatic P9010 caliber with a frequency of 4 Hz and a power reserve of 3 days. Their dials have a date window at 3 o'clock and a small second at 9 o'clock. Finally, as it is required by the celebration of the anniversary, these 3 models released in a limited series of 270 pieces each offer a 70-year warranty ... in other words, an unlimited warranty for the first owners of these watches.
The particular effects of luminescence. Are they really essential?
Panerai also presented a Luminor Marina Fibratech which joins the permanent collection (still in 44mm, always with the caliber P9010) as well as a Luminor Marina Goldtech with the same characteristics. The Luminor Marina Fibratech is my favorite novelty. I like its color which works well with the Fibratech rendering. The luminescence is traditional, sober and welcome. Two Luminor Marina Carbotech and Titanium with Carbotech bezel, with grayer chromatic atmospheres also constitute new references of the permanent collection. The partnership with Luna Rossa is growing thanks to the Luminor Luna Rossa GMT. Finally, the highlight of this Watches & Wonders 2020 collection is undoubtedly the Submersible EcoPangaea Tourbillon Edition Mike Horn, an impressive piece which comes with a diameter of 50mm and which stages the fast Panerai tourbillon (the cage performs two revolutions by minute).
My favorite novelty, the Luminor Marina Fibratech. It takes advantage of the new material with a pretty blue color while remaining sober:
The Luminor Marina Goldtech also offers a convincing color combination:
The Luminor Luna Rossa GMT:
Both Luminor Marina Carbotech and Titanium with Carbotech bezel:
So what should be our point of view about these new features? I must admit that I have a mixed feeling. I feel the influence of Jean-Marc Pontroué in this technical, contemporary livery. I also understand that these watches, because of their lightness will be very comfortable to wear. But I also perceive that little by little Panerai speaks less to its traditional customer base. The watches are automatic, they have date windows, they have a more elaborate appearance and above all their prices are much higher: most of the new products are in the range 15-20,000 euros.
From a strategic point of view, I understand the aim: the traditional customer base (and in particular European) surely offers less growth potential and the interest for Panerai is to find new development relays while increasing the average price of the sold watches . In this, the 2020 collection ticks the boxes and I am sure it will work. For my part, I regret the absence of a manual winding watch, without date (unless it comes later in the year) in order to keep a link with the more traditional Panerai. This is the whole issue of the brand: it must succeed in renewing itself without permanently cutting off contact with its traditional customer base which plays a much more important role than that of pure contributor to the sales figures: it is a vector of communication, it is prescriptive and must not be forgotten. And in this respect, this collection sends a negative signal. I also found that there were too many new references and I had difficulty understanding the articulation between the pieces in limited series and those which join the permanent collection. The former have luminescence effects and the extended warranty. In both cases, this can appear more like gimmicks than a real improvement of the watchmaking content.
It is a bit an odd alliance but I find that the whole works well. I appreciate this Submersible EcoPangaea Tourbillon Mike Horn:
However, there are also positive points. I find that the choice of colors is wise and the materials fit perfectly into the design. I also feel a qualitative execution (also corresponding to the rise in prices) and a care given to wearing comfort which will be confirmed during the tests. The Luminor Marina Fibratech is the best compromise for me. Finally, I enjoyed the Submersible Tourbillon Mike Horn. I like its colors (I find this gray and blue combination very refined) and the whole works well even if it was not so obvious: putting a tourbillon in a Submersible context is not a very natural exercise.
This collection seems to me to be very important for Panerai because it amplifies trends within the brand. These trends are logical and understandable in the context of its strategy, I just hope that certain segments of the customer base will not end up being forgotten.