Panerai is an official partner of the 35th America’s Cup, and it has launched a series of watches made in collaboration with the event, and with the two teams Oracle Team USA and Softbank Team Japan. The most complex of these special edition watches is the Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle Team USA 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio 47 mm (PAM00726), a large piece with a chronograph movement that has been adapted and given another pusher to add the regatta-start timing function. The watch has the colours of the Oracle Team USA: black, red, white and blue. As is appropriate for a sailing watch, it has a good water resistance rating, 10 atmospheres (100 metres). The strap is in black untreated leather, personalized with the America’s Cup logo heat-embossed on both sides, with contrasting stitching in red and blue thread.
A compromise layout
The watch is powered by the P.9100/R self-winding movement, a development of the existing P.9100 with the addition of the mechanism that moves the red chronograph minutes hand back, one minute at a time. The dial is very much a compromise, because a quarter of the fractional seconds scale has been removed to provide space for the minutes countdown. You can’t use the chronograph for readings accurate to a quarter of a second if the reading ends up in the 45-60 seconds sector of the dial. Evidently Panerai didn’t consider this an important problem, but there is a contradiction between the refined chronograph movement with column wheel and vertical clutch, and a dial layout that prevents accurate readings 25% of the time.
The countdown function is easy to use. By pressing the red push-piece at 4 o’clock, you can move the central red chronograph minute hand back in one-minute jumps, until it is set to the correct countdown position. When the start signal is given – a visual signal of flags on the jury boat, accompanied by a sound on a siren or a gun – you start the chronograph using the conventional start/stop pusher at 10 o’clock. The blue chronograph seconds hand and the red chronograph minutes hand start to move, indicating minutes and seconds before the start. At the start, they continue as normal to show the elapsed time, in seconds and minutes, with hours shown on the subdial at 3 o-clock. The colour-coding makes the functions obvious. To take a time during the regatta, you press the start/stop pusher. The pusher at 8 o’clock returns all the chronograph hands to zero or, if it is pressed when the hands are already moving, it operates the flyback function, returning the hands to zero and instantaneously restarting them, enabling a new time interval to be measured.
No on-the-fly adjustment
The only problem with this layout is that there is no practical way of adjusting the accuracy of the countdown. You have to start the reverse chronograph at exactly the right moment at the number of minutes specified in the regatta instructions before the start, say five minutes. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II is more practical because it enables you to adjust the countdown setting so that after the five or ten-minute start, you have the opportunity to reset the countdown seconds hand more accurately at the next signal, still prior to the actual start of the regatta. With this Panerai watch, all you can do is use the flyback function to restart the chronograph accurately at the one-minute signal so that you can see how much time you have left until the start, and then again at the start of the regatta so you can take a total time for the race.
High-legibility hour markers
The black dial of the Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle Team USA 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic has the classic Panerai features, with sandwich structure dial providing high luminosity for the large hour markers and numerals in low light conditions, and a flange that presents both the countdown scale with a maximum of 15 minutes, and a tachymeter scale in knots that enables you to display the speed of the yacht over a measured distance. You would use the red chronograph minutes hand over a measured distance of one nautical mile. The Luminor 1950 case is 47 m cm in diameter, made of brushed titanium, with the Panerai lever device to protect the crown. The solid caseback has an engraving of Oracle Team USA.
P.9100/R self-winding movement
The P.9100/R chronograph movement is a sophisticated calibre with column wheel control and a vertical clutch. The balance runs at 28,800 vibrations an hour, and power reserve is 72 hours, three days, the minimum standard for Panerai in-house movements.
Price and availability
The Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle Team USA 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio 47 mm PAM00726 costs €17,400, £14,450, and it is available in boutiques from February 2017. It is a limited edition of 200 units, in a special presentation box that includes a rubber strap and a strap-changing tool. More information from the Panerai website.