Panerai Mare Nostrum Watches
A true watchmaking oddity, Panerai Mare Nostrum watches were essential in kick-starting the brand’s rise to stardom. They have a truly remarkable backstory that really captures the imagination and are beloved by military watch aficionados the world over.
The History of Panerai Mare Nostrum Watches
Panerai Mare Nostrum watches have a rather unique backstory, which we will cover later on. It was first released to the public in 2010 and based on a timepiece that never actually made production in its original form. Indeed, it took a full 67 years for the wristwatches to find their way from prototype status right through to full production – via a chance encounter in a Geneva auction house.
The first issue of Mare Nostrum watches were limited to just 99 pieces, with the design closely matching the original prototypes, with a Minerva movement instead of the Angelus. Given the Reference PAM 300, the timepieces retailed for around $25,000 and almost instantly achieved collectable status.
It was this collectability that led Panerai to revisit the Mare Nostrum five years later. The company had also listened to feedback from enthusiasts, who said the 52mm casing was far too big. While Panerai did not reduce the size in these new versions, they did make them a lot lighter. Designated the PAM 603 Titanio, this iteration was the sensation of the manufacturer’s 2015 offering and quickly sold out of its 150 models.
Just two years later, the newest iteration of Panerai Mare Nostrum was released – the PAM 00716 Acciaco. Boasting a 42mm case, these variants are almost identical to the more-wearable 1993-1996 versions – with a chronograph minute counter at 9 o’clock and a small seconds dial at 3 o’clock.
The Origins of “Our Sea”
Panerai Mare Nostrum watches are a homage to the company’s torpedo timers it created for the Italian Navy, which formed a huge part of the business in the early years. The words “Mare Nostrum” translate as “Our Sea”, and date back to the successful conquests of Spain and Egypt by the Roman Empire. It refers to the Mediterranean waters that the Italian navy also operated in during the Second World War.
According to legend, Panerai was approached by the Italian Navy in 1942 to manufacture a chronograph wristwatch for their deck officers. The following year, the watchmaker produced an unknown quantity of prototypes that boasted a 52mm case and housed an Angelus Calibre 215 column wheel chronograph movement. It featured a slightly unusual seaweed-green dial, Arabic dials and were coated in Panerai’s signature Radiomir paste to provide luminosity.
Examples of this prototype are very rarely found on the market, with one notable exception in November 2005 when a piece appeared for auction at Christie’s in Geneva. It was bought back by Panerai itself for CHF 132,000 ($100,955) and took pride of place as an important exhibit in the company’s museum. It was also used as a template for the re-issue of the Mare Nostrum in 2010.
From Prototype to Crowdpleaser
The story of Panerai Mare Nostrum watches is nothing short of remarkable. The timepieces went from nothing more than a prototype that was at one stage unlikely to see the light of day, all the way to a collection that is beloved by many for its unique style. Not only that, but alongside the Radiomir and Luminor, the collection also helped revive the fortunes of a brand that went largely unnoticed.
Perhaps the key to its success is Panerai’s decision to capitalise on its military past and resist the temptation to stray away from the unique features that make the brand stand out from the competition. Their products are made and marketed from a largely historical perspective, despite the fact that the firm’s watchmaking history only really spans from 1936 to the late 1950s.
Indeed, Panerai Mare Nostrum watches are oddities in themselves that are really set apart against the company’s other collections. These timepieces are beloved amongst the Paneristi faithful and general watch enthusiasts alike, making them a perfect addition to your collection.