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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Carbon Fibre at the Haute Horlogerie

  Panerai Luminor Submersible Carbotech (2)Panerai Watches, in front you see the grey Luminor Subversible 1950 Carbotech

The Italian watchmaker 'Officine Panerai' is also following the trend of using extraordinary materials like carbon fibre and presenting with the 'Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech' another example of the excellent craftsmanship of Haute Horlogerie.

Officine Panerai

Panerai was founded in Florence by Giovanni Panerai then a watchmaker's shop which was later renamed to 'Officine Panerai'. Dated from 1938 on, the brand produced exclusively diver's watches for the Italian navy on a secret mission, so that the both models 'Luminor' and the chronograph 'Mare Nostrum' were offered later in 1993 for sale on the free market. Due to the fact that recently the actor Sylvester Stallone wore the 'Luminor Logo' in the movie 'Daylight' (1996), the market demand for diver's watches with tall dials has increased rapidly. In 1997, they were taken over by the Richemont group.

The bold military divers of the Gruppo Gamma

The success of the Italian military 'Gruppo Gamma' divers was infamous and feared by their enemies. In 1941, while sitting on manned torpedo, they sank two British dreadnoughts in the harbour of Alexandria. Winston Churchill declared the success of the military diving division in this manner: "Six Italians in rather unusual diving suits and laughably little cost, have swung the military balance of power in the Mediterranean in favour of the Axis". Customized for the extraordinary conditions of the military division 'Gruppo Gamma' and their operation methods, Panerai developed sophisticated diver's watch masterpieces, designs and patents. Many of them appear in various new models nowadays as an inspiration basis.
Grey watch backside, engraved torpedo, Panerai Carbotech watch
Every watch has engraved backside in memory of the bold military divers of the 'Gruppo Gamma', a torpedo.

Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech

Watch models of Panerai cover real history and proven functionality. The case of the Luminor 1950 (47 mm) was already successful in use at the end of the 1940s. The 'Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech' number PAM 00616 contains a bezel which is only rotating counterclockwise, essential for sport activities underwater up to 300 meters deep.
It has an automatic mechanical movement, P. 9000 calibre and is created entirely by Panerai. Additional details are a power reserve of 72h, calculation of immersion time, date at 3 o'clock and seconds at 9 o'clock.

Definition of Carbon Fibre

Carbon fibre are fibres which are factory-made from carbonic material and have a diameter of 5-6 micrometre. Just as yarn, they are spun on looms for further progressing, into woven fabrics, texture, mesh or something similar. Depending on the industry the fibres are blended together with specific polymers for producing carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic (CFRP). This particular plastic is extremely lightweight and is used in many areas such as aviation, space travel, mountain bikes, formula 1 racing cars, fishing rods and so on.

Manufacturing the material 'Carbotech'!

The Luminor 1950 case, the rotating bezel, and the crown protection bridge is made of carbotech, a composite material based on carbon fibre. To manufacture the 'carbotech' material, thin sheets of carbon fibre are pressed together at a high temperature and pressured with a specific polymer, PEEK (Polyether Ketone), which binds the composite material. The sheets are superimposed and pressed together in such a way that the fibres of each layer are set in a different angle to the ones above and below it. With this structure, the mechanical characteristics of 'carbotech' are much higher than other materials, like Titan or ceramics. It is lightweight, hypoallergenic and corrosion-free.
The  Carbotech model at a men's wrist.
Depending on the cutting direction of the woven carbon fibres mats, the uneven, matt black surface of carbotech is changing its appearance and so any watch is a unique piece of Art. The long carbon fibres ensure a flowing visual look and uniqueness.

High Tech at the Haute Horlogerie? 

I don't think that carbon fibre will revolutionize the watchmaker industry, because the production of the material is still lavish and expensive. But definitely, it is an insider's tip for enthusiastic watch collectors, who might be looking for something very special and rare. Also, for women like me which have very slim wrists, carbon watches in large dimensions would be a great alternative to the 'heavy' ones and look in any case more fashionable and extraordinary. Simple carbon watch models are already available to purchase by watch brands like TempestMagrette and Helson.

Survey at the Munichtime 2017?

For my next visit at the watch exhibition Munichtime, I'll try to convey a survey about the subject "High Tech at the Haute Horlogerie" and hopefully I'll return with some valuable statements by well-known watchmaker brands. Here are some photos of 2016:
Talking about the secrets of a watch of Girard-Perregaux!

Glashütte watch models. My favorite is the one with the blue dial

 a few Zenith Watch models

Photo Credits: Jul Krabetz, Panerai, Agentur White Communications, Bertrand Labasee

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