For a brand steeped in history, craftsmanship, and classic Italian design, Officine Panerai has not been shy about embracing a technology-enabled future. In recent years, the watchmaker has made a point of experimenting with materials, smashing expectations along the way.
Take, for example, the Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-Tech 3 Days Automatic (PAM 692) introduced at Geneva’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in 2017 and released to the market this season. The timepiece is the first mechanical watch to have a case—and a 47 mm one at that—made of BMG, or bulk metallic glass, a material prized for its durability, strength, and lightness. Panerai coyly describes the development as an “invisible but revolutionary innovation.”
A product of the Panerai Laboratorio di Idee, the watchmaker’s research and development division, the timepiece features BMG—an alloy consisting of zirconium, copper, aluminum, titanium, and nickel—on the case, bezel, winding crown, and associated protection device. What sets the high-tech material apart from other metallic alloys is its non-geometric structure.
Subjected to a high-pressure injection process at a high temperature, the alloy is cooled for only a few seconds, preventing its atoms from arranging themselves in an orderly structure, as normally happens during the crystallization process. Instead, they form a more chaotic structure, which is what lends the material so many other fetching attributes, including extreme corrosion resistance, robustness, and resistance to external shocks and to magnetic fields—all characteristics that help preserve the appearance of the watch over time.
The BMG-Tech runs on in-house Calibre P.9010, entirely developed and produced at the Panerai manufacture in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. With its 200 components, 31 jewels, three-day power reserve, and slender 6 mm profile, the movement allows for the display of hours, minutes, small seconds at 9 o’clock, and date. True to Panerai’s history as a maker of timing instruments for Italy’s elite frogmen, the BMG-Tech is a bona fide dive watch. It comes equipped with a unidirectional rotating bezel with a graduated scale for calculating the time of immersion, and water resistance to 300 meters.
Despite the hard-core materials science behind its manufacture, the BMG-Tech has a classic, almost minimal aesthetic. The richness of the polished blue dial is punctuated by applied luminous hour markers that make it legible day or night. On a black rubber strap, the elegant sports watch may not look like a rough and tough timepiece capable of taking a beating—but don’t be deceived. Not only can you subject the BMG-Tech to daily wear and tear, its metallic glass casing ensures the watch will retain its handsome good looks for years to come.
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-Tech 3 Days Automatic, $13,300; panerai.com
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(Photos: Courtesy Panerai)