It feels like the paint is still drying on Panerai‘s brand new Hudson Yards boutique in New York City, but the retail space has wasted little time ensuring it is fully stocked with all the latest 2020 novelties – including the Luminor Marina Carbotech ref. PAM 1661, which was just announced a little over a month ago.
This particular release is reportedly just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, in what’s expected to be a big year for the brand’s best-selling Luminor collection. And if you haven’t been following along, Panerai has – since the appointing of new CEO Jean Marc Pontroue, been streamlining its offerings into three distinct collections: Submersible, which is a proper dive watch with a proper rotating bezel, the Radiomir, which has a smooth bezel and no crown guard (available in both wire and more angular 1940-style lugs), and the emblematic Luminor, which also has a smooth bezel, but is fitted with Panerai’s distinctive crown guard locking system. 2019 saw the simplification of these three collections, and the introduction of a slew of new Submersible watches. For 2020, Panerai plans to further pare back the overall breadth of the spectrum, while introducing new variations of its most popular models to keep things interesting. And for this year, that first example is the 1661, which offers a far more wearable and attainable twist on the wild 49mm Luminor Lab ID watch from 2017, of which only 50 were made, each costing nearly fifty thousand dollars. This particular reference is still big and still expensive, but is still a fraction of the cost at just over $12,000, and it’s a far more manageable 44mm wide – essentially Panerai’s “medium” sized case offering. It also wears much lighter and less top-heavy than many stainless steel Luminor offerings, thanks to the lightweight Carbotech case, which is comparable to titanium in terms of its physical weight and warmth on the wrist. It’s an excellent option for those who love Panerai’s classic minimalist dial aesthetic, but have perhaps been turned off by the weight and wrist presence of the brand’s more traditional steel offerings. Better still, is that this is the only Luminor outside the Lab ID that offers this cool Tron-like aesthetic in the blue lume. Absent the luminous perimeter around the subsidiary seconds, skeletonized handset, and the visually striking movement architecture, this Carbotech is otherwise very similar to the Lab ID at a glance. In keeping step with Panerai’s new strategy, it appears that the black-on-blue look is now reserved for the Carbotech watches, giving the subset of high-tech offerings their own striking visual identifier. As mentioned, the P.9010 is a far cry from the ultra-sophisticated P.3001/C movement in the Lab-ID, which required no oil and was guaranteed for 50 years. PAM 1661 bears a slightly more standard set of chronometric expectations – hidden behind the titanium caseback is an automatic calibre with a three day power reserve, hacking seconds, and a quick-adjust hour hand, making this a great watch for anyone who regularly hops between time zones. I’ve personally always really loved the look of forged carbon fiber watches, with their mottled, multi-layered striations that take on a distinctly geologic look in many instances. However, Panerai’s Carbotech cases have a much more directional, uniform layered look – which suggests that these cases aren’t forged carbon fiber in the traditional sense (where individual ‘loose’ carbon fibers are mixed with resin and subjected to intense pressure to form singular shapes which are then machined into the watch cases), but rather individual sheets of carbon fiber layered with resin and heated to produce a solid block, which is again machined into the case that’s now draped over my wrist. It’s a distinctive look, albeit one that I still really enjoy – especially given the light weight and easy wearability. I will be the first to admit that black-cased watches aren’t for everyone, but there’s still plenty of 2020 remaining, and plenty more Luminor watches in the pipeline, so die-hard traditionalist ‘Rristi should stay tuned as those stories develop. Once again, the price of the Panerai Luminor Carbotech PAM 1661 is $12,800. panerai.com.