Panerai Introduces the Self-Illuminating Submersible Elux PAM01800

Putting the "lume" in Luminor.

Panerai’s origins lie in highly luminous dive watches for the Italy’s Marina Militare – and its signature models are named after luminescence – and the brand’s latest continues that tradition. Equipped with a miniature lighting system, the Submersible Elux LAB-ID PAM01800 is the fourth of Panerai’s LAB-ID “concept” watches. The PAM01800 is powered by a movement with twin mainsprings, and the lighting module having four mainsprings of its own for 30 minutes of illumination.

Initial thoughts

Amongst Panerai’s recent launches, the PAM01800 is the most interesting both in terms of technology and relevance to the brand’s history. Though such lighting systems have been done before by Van Cleef & Arpels and De Bethune, the one inside the PAM01800 is more advanced, being brighter as well as having a longer power reserve, up to 30 minutes of illumination in fact.

And it is a fitting nod to vintage Panerai watches that were generously lumed pocket watches modified for the wrist. At 49 mm, the PAM01800 is slightly ridiculous in size, and almost the same size as the Rolex Deepsea Challenge, but not far from the dimensions of historical Panerai watches.

However, the PAM01800 is expensive at CHF92,800. Despite the interesting technology, the price feels ambitious, particularly since Panerai never really had durable success with its highest end offerings.

Motor-driven lume

A project that took some eight years to complete according to the brand, the PAM01800 was developed by Laboratorio di Idee, Italian for “laboratory of ideas”. LAB-ID for short, it’s the brand’s in-house research and development department.

Inspiration for the lighting system came from the Elux Panerai, a luminous panel technology patented in 1966 by G. Panerai & Figli, the predecessor of today’s Panerai. Variable in size and powered by electricity, these panels were used in a variety of applications by the Italian military, ranging from illuminating instrument panels to helicopter landing pads on ships.

An Elux Panerai flashlight

The PAM01800 reproduces the functionality of Elux Panerai inside the watch case, with the addition of a clever mechanism for illuminating the rotating bezel, which has to be physically separated from the movement for water resistance.

Activating the “power light” is straightforward: unlocking a safety lever and then depressing the pusher at eight o’clock. This illuminates the dial as well as the luminous marker on the bezel.

The light comes primarily from LEDs under the dial (bringing new meaning to “sandwich” dial) and bezel. These tiny LEDs are powered by a tiny generator measuring just 8 mm by 2.3 mm, which in turn is driven by energy from four mainsprings. But both the dial and hour hand also feature Super-Luminova X2, a luminous compound that glows brighter than most Super-Luminova formulations.

Illuminating the bezel marker was a challenge because the bezel has to rotate while the case is sealed and water resistant. According to Panerai, the LAB-ID team developed a patent-pending system. Under the bezel is a fixed array of 60 LEDs, but the system only transmits electricity to the 15 LEDs positioned below the bezel marker, lighting up just that section and conserving energy since the rest of the LED array is not illuminated.

Impressively, the lighting system lasts for a total of 30 minutes on full wind. The power reserve of the lighting system is indicated in a window above six o’clock, indicating on the linear scale that’s a Panerai trademark.

Equally notable is the fact that the lighting system is self-contained with its own set of four barrels so it doesn’t draw power from the timekeeping portion of the movement. In other words, using the lighting system doesn’t affect the power reserve or amplitude of the base movement.

The P.9010/EL inside is essentially a conventional P.9010 movement with an added “power light” module. Identical to that found in other Panerai models, the base movement is automatic and has a three-day power reserve thanks to two barrels.

Although the overall design has been tweaked slightly for a more modern look, the overall look remains easily recognisable as Panerai. The case is classic Luminor style with a crown locking mechanism contained in a semicircular bridge.

Rated to 500 m, the case is in Ti-Ceramitech, which is ceramised titanium. It’s created by subjecting titanium to a chemical process known as Plasma Electrolytic Oxidation, which creates a hard ceramic coating on the metal’s surface.

Key facts and prices

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB-ID
Ref. PAM01800

Diameter: 49 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Blue Ti-Ceramitech
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 500 m

Movement: P.9010/EL
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, power light function, and linear power reserve indicator for light
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: Three days

Strap: Rubber strap with titanium pin buckle

Limited edition: 150 pieces with 50 pieces produced per year
Availability: At Panerai boutiques and retailers
Price: CHF92,800; or 142,700 Singapore dollars

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