In 1985, following the success of wristwatches made for the Italian Military during the 1930s-50s, Officine Panerai began to develop a new diving watch specifically for the Italian Navy. With specifications that the watch must be antimagnetic, easy to read and water-resistant to great depths, two initial prototype designs were created.
The original, experimental prototypes were made by hand within the laboratories of Officine Panerai in Florence under the guidance of Alessandro Bettarini. Created in two versions within titanium and bronze cases, the bronze case featured a large circular design with movable shoulders and plain rotatable bezel. The titanium version was made with canted fixed shoulders and plain rotating bezel, both prototypes used Panerai’s patented locking crown system, plain black dial with luminous 12, 3, 6, 9 numerals and luminous baton hands, similarly both designs used an ETA automatic movement. The dial underwent several changes with two of the titanium versions featuring printed metal dials and Plexiglass dials, the final version using a thicker Plexiglas dial fitted with inset luminous Taser glow tubes replacing the baton markers, similarly the hands were fitted with glow tubes. Initial prototypes used Plexiglas crystals although this was replaced with a thick sapphire crystal in later editions. The final version was presented to the Italian Navy and despite successfully passing the rigorous tests it was subjected to, no orders were placed, however the initiative for re-launching the brand had been established.
The final version of the titanium prototype remains in the Panerai Museum with the previous three examples all lost from repeated transfers of department and believed to have been dismantled or destroyed. This is the first time one of the original titanium prototype examples, believed to be the 2nd version produced, is being offered for auction and as all of the four versions made underwent progressive changes, each can be considered unique.
For further information of this model see Ralf Ehlers and Volker Wiegman, Vintage Panerai, pp. 347-353 within the book ‘Vintage Panerai’. The reference book by Simon de Burton and Giampiero Negretti, Panerai, pp. 106-107.