These watches reiterate Panerai’s bond with the nautical world, and in particular its love for classic yachts.

Mention Panerai and its history with the seas inevitably comes up. As a watch workshop in Florence in the early 20th century, it cultivated a reputation as a producer of nautical instruments for the Royal Italian Navy. The strong ties would eventually lead to the development of dive watches, namely Radiomir and the Luminor, two of Panerai’s most distinguished models today.

Its passion for nautical adventures eventually extended to yachting, notably taking on the ambitious task of restoring Eilean, a 22m Bermudian ketch designed by famous yacht builder William Fife III in 1936. Before that, the ship had a brush with pop mania in 1982 when it appeared with Duran Duran in their music video for Rio. At that time, it was owned by architect John Shearer. 

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Shearer later sold Eilean to Panerai to be restored, an exercise that took years. The reinvigorated vessel finally made its debut in 2009 and participated in the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge (PCYC), a world-leading regatta for classic and vintage yachts, the following year. Eilean now serves as an ambassador for Panerai’s passion for sailing, in addition to the watches created in honour of PCYC.

Which brings us to this year’s Luminor Yachts Challenge, a flyback chronograph presented in three variations. The allusion to the world of sailing couldn't have been clearer, whether it is the blue accents, the “PCYC” letters on the dial, or the outline of a yacht on the caseback.

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Three different materials are used to make the 44mm case – titanium (PAM00764) for that unmistakable sporty appeal, ceramic (PAM00788) for those inclined towards high-tech stuff, and 5NPT gold (PAM01020) for dressier occasions. The titanium and ceramic come with rubber strap while the gold is paired with blue alligator strap.

And since it’s designed for sailing, the P.9100 automatic movement is endowed with the ability to calculate speed in knots via the tachymeter scale on the flange. The counter at ‘3’ displays the chronograph hours while the small seconds appear at ‘9’. The flyback complication is useful as it resets the chronograph without having to stop it first. In terms of water resistance, the titanium and ceramic models can reach up to a depth of 100m but the gold only until 50m.

 

I had the titanium model on the wrist for a week and I have to say it's a good-looking timepiece. Despite my small wrist, I love big watches and the Luminor Yachts Challenge's hefty size, coupled with the robust curves of the cushion-shaped case with the distinctive crown protector, appealed to me. The durable titanium only enhances its robust character. While it's unlikely I'll chalk up nautical miles anytime soon, I can imagine the watch to be a functional tool on board the Eilean at a regatta. That it also matches, aesthetically speaking, the gorgeous 1930s vessel is just a bonus. 

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