This flyback chronograph is one of the three official watches that Panerai have launched for the 2017 America’s Cup. It was my intention to include this watch in a post about the best regatta countdown watches, in which Panerai already appears with the Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle team USA 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio PAM00726, made specifically for the regatta countdown function. On reflection, for a regatta, the ideal watch is a flyback chronograph with water resistance suitable for use on a yacht and clear chronograph minute and seconds indications. When the ten-minute signal goes, you start the chronograph, and by watching the minutes elapsed, you can be ready for the next signal, whether at 5 or 3 minutes before the start, and just restart the chronograph using the flyback function, eliminating any error caused by starting the chronograph late the first time. So you can once again restart the chronograph to perfection at the crucial one-minute signal before the start, and all you have to do is watch the seconds hand and count down the seconds as the chronograph seconds hand approaches zero. You can be sure that James Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, and team CEO Russell Coutts, won’t use a watch like this for the countdown, with all the electronic stuff they have. A mechanical watch will be used by gentleman sailors on their classic yachts.
Interrupted fractional seconds scale
But all this is purely theoretical, because Panerai have done something strange, to my eyes: the giant 12 and 6 numerals interrupt the scale indicating the minutes and fractional seconds. With all its sophisticated engineering, column wheel and vertical clutch, it’s never going to be precise for a countdown because the crucial last two seconds before the seconds hand reaches zero are bereft of a scale. The fractional seconds scale is also interrupted by the hour batons. So with a sigh I’ll have to deliver this piece to the “most illegible chronographs” page.
Tough ceramic case
Apart from that small gripe, this is a beautiful watch, with a light, strong 44mm case in zirconium oxide ceramic, with the classic Panerai crown protector made in the same material. Water resistance is 10 bar, 100 metres, though I don’t know whether the chronograph pushers can be used in the presence of water. The pushers are on the opposite side of the case with respect to the usual pattern, with chronograph start and stop at 10 o’clock, and flyback or reset at 8 o’clock. The caseback is in titanium, with a relief design of the boat used by Oracle Team USA for the 2017 America’s Cup. The watch has a strap in black untreated leather, with embossed America’s Cup logos and stitching in red and blue.
Functional tachymeter scale
A nice feature of the dial is that chronograph seconds and chronograph minutes are both shown by centrally-pivoted hands, seconds blue, minutes red. The chronograph minutes hand moves forwards in jumps at the end of each minute, a useful feature that makes it easier to read the number of minutes. The tachymeter scale on the inner bezel flange is fully functional, calibrated in nautical miles and used with the minute hand which is exactly the right length.
The P.9100 calibre is a chronograph movement of the most prestigious type, with column wheel and vertical clutch, providing smooth pusher operation and no change in timekeeping precision when the chronograph is activated. The two mainspring barrels provide 3 days’ power reserve (72 hours). The balance runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour, 4 Hertz. Other useful movement features include the stop-seconds function that stops the balance when you are setting the watch so that you can synchronize it to an external time signal, and an hour adjustment system so that the hour hand can be moved backwards or forwards in one-hour jumps without affecting the minutes, and while the watch continues running. This is useful when changing time zones.
Price and availability
The Panerai Luminor 1950 Oracle Team USA 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Ceramica 44 mm PAM00725 is a limited edition of 200 pieces. It costs €14,900 inclusive of VAT, $15,300 plus sales tax, £12,400 inclusive of VAT, 14,400 Swiss francs inclusive of sales tax. Available from February 2017. More information from the Panerai website.