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An Italian Affair: Panerai’s Luna Rossa and the America’s Cup

An Italian Affair: Panerai’s Luna Rossa and the America’s Cup

Panerai Luna Rossa Collection

Sailing has played an important role for Panerai for a long time. In fact, involvement in the sport is pretty much in the brand’s DNA. Wind, salty sea air, a longing for the ocean – all sum up the Luminor. But what is currently taking place off the coast of New Zealand, and what Panerai has in common with the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team, is much more than a simple sponsorship commitment. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is a national project of the heart; Italy versus the rest of the sailing world.

Together with Prada and Pirelli – and alongside other promoters such as the Spumante Ferrari Trento winery and the Parmeggiano-Reggiano conglomerate – the goal was – and is – to bring the America’s Cup home to Italy at long last. After four unsuccessful attempts in over twenty years of the team’s history, Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli already had involvement in the famous sailing competition. In this sense, with Italian passion meeting Italian-Swiss precision and elegance, it is a harmonious partnership in many respects. There’s no doubt that the models in the Panerai Luna Rossa line are proof of this.

The Team

For a watch brand with strong maritime traditions, the America’s Cup is an ideal stage for Panerai’s audience. Across the decades, the event has developed from a once classic regatta to a high-tech competition. When it comes to the America’s Cup, one often hears the description “Formula 1 on water”. This is something that team managers are not fans of hearing, given that firstly, it gives the impression of an elitist sport with a budget somewhere in the millions, and secondly, because the event is completely unique and does not need any comparisons to motorsport. That said, it can’t be denied that there has been a kind of arms race in past competitions. People now spend as much time as possible hovering over the water on “foils”, with the time spent on land being as crucial to the outcome as the races happening at sea.

On dry land, engineers are designing and programming, skipper Max Sirena is training in a simulator, and the team readies itself in the gym for the energy-sapping time in and above water. Years before the preliminary round of the Prada Cup and the subsequent final against the defenders of Team Emirates New Zealand, the Luna Rossa sailors and their families had already moved into their training quarters in Cagliari, Sardinia. Last year they went to New Zealand, where they won against the Americans and the English. Now, it is up against New Zealand, competing for the most coveted trophy in the sailing world.

Panerai, Prada and Luna Rossa

For Panerai (then still holding an association with the U.S. Oracle team at the last America’s Cup in Bermuda back in 2017) the cooperation with the Luna Rossa team makes sense in two respects. For one thing, there’s the high-tech appeal of the sport itself, which fits well with the brand given its forward-looking, self-developed case materials such as BMG-Tech or also Platinumtech (from the current 70th anniversary of the Luminor line). Then, of course, there’s the Prada factor. When you hear ‘Luna Rossa’, you think Prada first and haute couture second. None of the other teams have anything even close to such prestige when it comes to elegance and design. The New Zealanders, long holding an association with OMEGA, may be the much more successful team, but they certainly don’t have more grandeur.

During a visit to the team, Luna Rossa sailor Shannon Falcone reports that most marine athletes give away their kits after competitions or stow them away in the cellar, but this is not the case for the Luna Rossa athletes. Thanks to Prada, they also get maximum pleasure from the outfits on land. The use of excellent quality materials means they can also wear them in their free time during sports. This high aesthetic standard fits perfectly with Panerai; it goes without saying that the sailors also wear their Panerai-meets-Luna Rossa watches with pride.

The Watches

Rolex has (among other things) the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Richard Mille is involved in Les Voiles de St. Barth, and Panerai has a strong presence in the America’s Cup as the official timekeeper of the Prada Cup and sponsor of the Luna Rossa team. The brand reflects this through a variety of special models.

The Luminor Luna Rossa GMT 42 mm (PAM01096)

With a 42 mm diameter, this GMT is the most petite of the America’s Cup special editions. At 10,800 euros, it is also the entry piece into the aesthetically pleasing, lively Luna Rossa world. Like its sister models, a black stealth look with white and red accents echoes the design of the sailing racer.

While the case uses satin-finished titanium, the bezel is Carbotech. This material is the company’s own carbon fibre composite, which is as light as it is robust. Visually striking, the structure of the carbon fibre gives the black a special and unique touch. Furthermore, it is different for each and every one of the watches, and is a limited edition of 250 pieces.

Above all, however, the PAM01096 boasts a special proximity to the Luna Rossa boat. The dial is made of “Scafotech”. The carbon fibre composite is taken from fibre remnants of the hull and wings of the AC75 yacht.

The Luminor, with its recognisable crown protection, is probably the most famous Panerai model ever. As mentioned, the line celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Powering the Luna Rossa GMT, which also of course displays a second time zone, is the automatic manufacture calibre P.9010/GMT.

The Luminor Luna Rossa GMT 44 mm (PAM01036)

Could it be a little more? Similar, but quite different? For fans of large watches – as we know, they make up the majority of Panerai’s clientele – and for larger wrists, there is also a 44 mm version of the Luna Rossa GMT. The two extra millimetres make the dial even clearer, and the watch extremely tidy and minimalist despite its tech appeal. Most importantly, the titanium case is completely matte black, thanks to DLC coating. The model’s dial has a special texture: dark grey Luna Rossa canvas.

Powered by the same movement as the 42 mm version, it has a power reserve of 72 hours. Like its sibling, this GMT is perfect for use at sea. With a water resistance of up to 30 bar, it can take pretty much any dive into the ocean. Also, of course, you can set New Zealand as a second time zone, making sure that you don’t miss any of the America’s Cup. Its price is 10,900 euros.

The Luminor Luna Rossa Chrono Flyback 44 mm (PAM01037)

Once again, we have black, but this time in a very unique form. The case and bezel of the Chrono Flyback are ceramic. This hardly gives the model a weight advantage over the titanium models, but it does give it a significantly different feel. In addition, the 17,500 euro watch somehow appears smaller in direct comparison to the 44 mm GMT. This is mainly due to the chronograph function plus the sub-indices and pushers it requires.

Like most of the models in the Luna Rossa line, this watch has a sailcloth dial, bearing the inscription “Luna Rossa Challenger 36th America’s Cup.” At nine o’clock lie the small seconds, and at three o’clock lies the hour counter of the chronograph. The minute and second counters of the flyback chrono are centrally located in white and red.

Inside the watch is the automatic manufacture movement P.9100 with 28,800 vibrations per hour. Additionally, this watch comes with a black calfskin strap with white stitching, plus it’s also worth taking a look at the rubber versions of the Panerai straps. For example, with a red or white strap the Luna Rossa models immediately exude a completely different, summery vibe.

The Luminor Luna Rossa Regatta 47 mm (PAM01038)

If the pre-competitions of the Prada Cup could prove one thing, it was this: winning at this level of sailing is all about the start. Whoever shoots across the starting line with pinpoint accuracy simply holds the better cards. This is something the Italians managed to do several times in its struggle against the British, hence why the former are now – deservedly – in the final.

Now, however, on board the AC75 yachts, every piece of information is recorded and processed digitally. Meanwhile, the sailors on board physically give it all they’ve got. Therefore, it would be romanticising to believe that skipper Max Sirena looks at this automatic regatta chrono from Neuchatel at the beginning and plans his start. But the watch is definitely equipped with the most useful complication possible for regatta sailors – the countdown to the start can be timed with the modified chronograph. The central minute and second counters can be set with the pusher at four o’clock. Each time the pusher is pressed, the minute hand moves back one minute. The chronograph function and countdown are then triggered with the pusher at ten o’clock.

For this complication, the chronograph calibre from the classic Chrono Flyback was expanded; with 328 parts, it has 26 more components and at 9.55 mm, is also somewhat thicker. Thus, the regatta chronograph is slightly larger with a diameter of 47 mm. This naturally doesn’t affect the readability in competition. The case for this model is made of Carbotech. Finally, the watch is water-resistant to ten bar and costs 23,500 euros.

The Submersible Luna Rossa 47 mm (PAM01039)

Even in the Luminor’s anniversary year, it’s important not to lose sight of the rest of the Panerai collection. The best example: this Submersible in the Luna Rossa colours. Also made of Carbotech and measuring 47 mm, putting it at the upper end of Panerai’s size scale, it is probably the sportiest-looking model in the line.

It is equipped with small seconds at nine o’clock, a GMT function, and above all, an impressive water resistance up to 30 bar. This is a watch that can be used at least as well under water as on board. Cost: 21,000 euros.

The Final

The Cup-winning project is nearing now its end. The Luna Rossa has made it to the final, together with Panerai. In a duel with the New Zealanders, the “Challenger of Records” will now decide who will take home the America’s Cup. The effort that Luna Rossa, Prada and Prada boss Patrizio Bertelli have put into this competition is outstanding. Italy is determined to make it off the coast of New Zealand. If it succeeds, the watches from the Luna Rossa series will have an incomparable commemorative value as one of the greatest feats of strength in sailing history.

But what if the New Zealanders get their way with OMEGA? Rumour has it in Italy that the Prada boss could find himself explaining to his wife, Miuccia, why so much money is repeatedly spent on sailing. Either way, the Panerai timepieces will outlast any competition. Furthermore, they will always stand for the power of enthusiasm – and the importance – of heartfelt projects, which cannot always be explained rationally. Sometimes, you know you simply have to go the extra mile. In this respect, regatta sport and passion for watches are really quite similar.