Well, the day finally came and even though I have to get up early to get ready for my flight, my preparation for this years SIHH started weeks ago.
Getting all the photo equipment together and making sure it was in working order, and polishing off my photo skills.
Unfortunately, we were not able to attend the SIHH when it began monday 7th April to be first with the news directly from the show but I hope that this report will enlighten many of you and show you that the press photos that were shown here do not even come close to doing the new watches from Panerai justice.
After arriving in Geneva at around 11am local time my driver took me to my hotel and waited for me while I checked in. I had brought tripods, studio flashes, reflectors, wires, lightbox, camera and accessories with me and just left the few things I didn't need at the hotel and drove back to the SIHH.
Arriving I went through registration and security and walked straight to the Panerai exhibit where I was greeted by my host Louise Van Loo of the Panerai Benelux/Scandinavia office. I was joined by my good friend Asi (Later on we bumped into "oldtimers" Yves and Milan), who was also at the SIHH, invited by JLC. We smalltalked and had a brief conversation with Sig. Bonati whom I presented with a true replica of the first Barometer ever made to be carried aboard ships.
We then had a quick runthrough and presentation of the new collection before we were off to lunch and some well deserved wine. The photosession was to be set up at around 6pm. The whole setup would and took me around half an hour to finish and then I was ready to do my best to show you the true beauty of this year collection.
(Not pictured: PAM276)
Once again, fine watchmaking continues to amaze me.
Alot of you are complaining about the direction which Panerai is taking, affraid that the days of the historical connection will fade away, bashing the tourbillons and in-house movements for not being Panerai. I think you are wrong. The tourbillons may be priced at a level where most of us cant't follow, but then again they are not for everybody.
But when you see them in real life you come to realize that they are very much in line with what Panerai is all about.
Granted, history wise they may be off, movement-wise but the case design and materials are very much Panerai. And the fact that the only giveaway on the very classic dial that the case houses a tourbillon is the little blue dot which rotates twice a minute underneath the small seconds.
These watches a re extremely simple and historic in design, except for the movement that they house.
In the 1930's and 1940's Panerai was very innovative and a leader in the manufacture of military divers watches. With the tourbillon and inhouse movements they are trying to continue to be so while staying true to its roots. Of course the tourbillon is a step into higher watchmaking, a way for Panerai to show that they belong and they are not for everyone and are very special indeed.
In my opinion they are and will continue to do an excellent job in this persuit.
Trust me , if you get the chance to see these watches in the flesh you will understand what I am talking about.
Again, they may not be everyone's cup of tea but you will not be able to deny the excellence of these watches.
All tourbillons are regular production in steel, titanium and platinum. The radiomir being a wopping 48mm.
Regarding the PAM26 SE re-issue the suttle changes to the watch in comparison to the original PAM 26 will make this an instant collectors item, while not influencing the collectability of the original 26 in a negative way. The dial of the new PAM 26 is a sandwich dial compared to the painted dial on the original. The new dial is quite nice, especially if you look at the way the numbers are done. These are done in a way which resembles Pre Vs.
Also the black DLC coating is the same as the coating done on the collectors edition PAM 195. The original PAM 26 had a PVD coating.
The DLC coating should be more scratch resistant and easier to get a more consistant colour when producing.
PAM 292 Ceramic Radiomir
The regular production Radomir 292 has one small, but very important change compared to the 292 of last year and thats the removal of the small "pig" torpedo on the dial.
In my opinion this cleans up the dial and improves the look of the watch.
By doing this they instantainiously made the previous 292 into a 1000 pieces special edition. Get 'em while you can!!
Funny how, when the 292 was first introduced, nobody seemed to like it and now within the last few months, everyone seems to want one!!
PAM 317 Ceramic 8 Days Chrono Monopulsante GMT
Another great surprise was the PAM317 Ceramic GMT monopulsante Luminor. It is a wonderful watch and one of my favorite watches of this years collection.
The case has been thoroughly tested as to its durability in regards to the Luminor case which was a real problem for Panerai to solve. Well , problem solved.
If you look closely, all the edges are slightly rounded in comparison to the steel/titanium Luminor cases.
The result of doing this is a reduction in the direct pressure on the ceramic case if banged against something while wearing, hereby reducing the risk of cracking or damaging the case or lugs.
A stroke of genious with this watch is that Panerai did not just put in their in-house movement as is but they blackened the bridges, creating a black movement, thereby delievering a continuity of the new design throughout the watch.
It looks absolutely amazing and should be an instant success with many.
The dial may seem a bit busy but believe me its a fantastic watch.
The watch is quite heavy considering that everything is ceramic. Case, bezel, crown guard lever device, crown. The only flaw that this watch has is that the winding crown, in my opinion is too narrow and makes the winding/setting of the watch not as fluent as should be.
The strap that comes with this watch is the best looking/feeling strap that Panerai has ever made. The strap alone is bound to be a seller.
Hopefully they will make it in vintage brown as well.
PAM 309 & PAM 322
Now to my absolute favorites of everything that Panerai has brought to the table this year.
The 2 titanium 47mm Radiomirs with Minerva movements. Pure and simple!! (Richmont group has bought Minerva)
Produced in 150 pieces, 100 with black dial and 50 pieces with brown dial, these watches epitimize what Panerai is all about. No historics this year?!?! These two watchs are very much historic. And what most of you do not know is that there actually is a historic connection between Minerva and Panerai.
When the Panerai family business owned the Orologeria Svizzera in Firenze they produced watches, albeit pocket watches, and the movements in these watches were produces and supplied by.......Minerva. Reciept from the 1920's confirm this.
So the connection is there. A connection to the history and the roots of Panerai?? You decide. But I think so.
Also the detail of the gold ring surrounding the dials in both watches is a fantastic one and underlines the historic authenticity of these watches, although the ring was brass in the original Radiomirs that had this. Even at a hefty retail price of €18000,- these are probalbly all spoken for by now.
My favorite of the two is the one with the brown dial. What a looker!!!.
These are true masterpieces
Again pictures do not do these two watches justice!! If you have the chance to see them in real life it will be an experience!!
PAM 307 Luminor 1950 Pangaea Submersible Depth Gauge 47mm divers instrument SE
Also back in the lineup but in a slightly different version is the PAM Luminor 1950 Pangaea Submersible Depth Gauge 47mm Mike Horn special editon. (what Pangaea is all about will be posted at a later date.)
It has a blue dial and inscription on the caseback similar to what you have seen on earlier Mike Horn SEs.
It is a very impressive watch and not for the small boned. It wears very, very big on the wrist.
When first introduced I bashed it a bit for having a mechanical movement and a electronic depth gauge. But actually there's logic behind the madness.Because of the instrument that it is, it is actually a good idea. It makes the instrument much more reliable and with professional diving instruments that equals safety.
PAM 297 Luminor GMT & PAM 299 Luminor Automatic w/ new bracelet
When I saw the first picture of the new bracelet I was very disappointed. It looked like a step back from the bracelet that we know. But I have to say that I have changed my mind.
Seeing the new bracelet models is something else than looking at a picture of them.
The bracelet is actually wonderfully constructed and very much in line with the details and construction of the case of the watch. It moves focus away from the bracelet and to the case. The way the bracelet fits into the case is very clean and well designed .
I am sure that the fans of the Panerai Contemporary bracelet models will like them very much.
And not to worry. The old style bracelet will still be availiable.
PAM 308 Luminor Regatta
Again, as always, there is a Regatta edition. There is really nothing much or new to say about this model other than that the dial is very nicely executed.
And on the caseback there is the recognisable Regatta logo.
PAM 310 Luminor Chronograph 40 mm
Again, compared to the rest of the lineup, there's not much new here.
PAM 311 Luminor 1950 Titanium 8 Days Chrono Monopulsante GMT
Along with the Ceramic and steel versions this is the third model in the Monopulsante in-house movement lineup.
This watch is actually much better looking than the steel version.
The combination of titanium and brown dial really does it for me.
A change with these models compared to last year is that on the titanium and ceramic versions the rotating Night/Day indicator "dot" has been replaced by an AM/PM indicator.
I rather liked the dot indicator and the jump to AM/PM indicator makes the busy dial look somewhat more busy.
A Ferrari Special edition
I am not, and never will be a big fan of the Ferrari collection, but I must admit that this Special Edition in gold housing a very, very rare Minerva movement from the 1940's really is an eye-catcher.
The dial on this watch is inspired by the instrumentation of 1930's - 1940's Ferrari sportscars and is alot more simplistic than those seen on most of the watches in the Ferrari collection.
Priced at around €38000,- this is, according to collectors, a find considering the movement it contains.
Well, at this price, you might as well drop by you local Ferrari dealer and pick up one of those red beasts.
The upcoming SIHH in January 2009
With the 2009 SIHH being move up to the beginning of January and is only 9 months away, I am sure that Panerai is working hard to bring you some interesting new stuff and hopefully they'll have a few surprises up their sleeves.
I, for one, would not be surprise if they have kept a few things out of the lineup this year because of the fact that the next SIHH is already so close. Who can blame them if this is true?
To design and produce these types of watches is a painstakingly slow process and really takes time.
As you can see the collection was not as numerous as previous years, with, again, extra weight on the in-house movements and complications along with the interesting birth of the Minerva/Panerai combination.
There where other models in the collection but they are the same as the ones introduced last year.
Also the Ferrari line contains a few new pieces but I chose to show you what I think to be the most interesting piece from that collection.
Alot of the talk of this years Panerai collection has been that is was not very historic . Well, after seeing the lineup I have to disagree.
Sure Panerai is moving into producing in-house movements with complications but don't have any worries in regards to Panerai moving away from its heritage and history. This is my opnion but it wasn't so before this years SIHH. And I know that a lot of you out there will disagree with me. But I also think that a lot of you will have a change of heart once you get to see these watches in real life.
The move to produce in-house movements is in my opinion a logical and natural road for Panerai if it is to maintain its exclusitivity.
But even with taking this road, rest assured that Panerai will NEVER and I repeat, NEVER forget what has brought them here and this far.
Out of a personal, egotistical ( not meant in a bad but good way) point of view, we think it sucks that the special and even regular production pieces are commanding a higher and higher prices and we are affraid that we in the future won't be able to afford any Panerai.
The truth is, that, as with any quality product that becomes very desirable and has increasingly larger demand, prices will go up. This is business and Panerai is not alone in this aspect. Just look at any high end watch brand.
But I believe that there will always be entry level Panerais. This is what started the brand and this is what will bring even more people to enjoy the wonderfull watches of Panerai.
With these final words, I hope that my write-up of the SIHH 2008 has shed some light on the new collection and that my pictures will turn a few to see that the 2008 line-up from Panerai actually is a fantastic one.
I also hope that this post will be the origin of many interesting discussions in the near future.
I will continue to try and bring you the latest while at the same time refreshing and bringing you interesting historical stories and facts about the brand that we all love and are so passionate about.
I am, and will remain, your humble servant.
Best regards to all and thanks for reading.
Your man at Large