In conversation with Anthony Serpry, Research & Development Director, Panerai, on the evolution of the brand’s latest novelties

The latest releases at Panerai highlight material innovation, and deeper ties with the brand’s partner, the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team
Panerai’s latest models in its Submersible line – read about all them here in detail  highlight the synergies that the brand shares with the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team (which Panerai first associated with in 2019), while at the time bringing to the forefront material development. We spoke to Anthony Serpry, Research & Development Director, Panerai, on the idea, development, and the challenges faced in the creation of the novelties.

Anthony Serpry, Research & Development Director, Panerai

WatchTime India: Ti-CeramitechTM has been introduced this year in the two Submersible QuarantaQuattro Luna Rossa Ti-CeramitechTM models  what led to its development?
Anthony Serpry: We were targeting a material with a distinctive look, especially adding a bit of colour into our collection. We have played with materials in the past but the look has been close to steel or black ceramic or CarbotechTM. So we wanted a bit of diversity, but wanted to do it in a way that does not compromise the image of Panerai - of toughness and shock resistance. So we looked at a material that could bring a bit of colour while having very high mechanical properties. We looked at a wide range of options and ended up choosing Ti-CeramitechTM

Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro Luna Rossa Ti-CeramiTechTM

At the beginning it is a titanium alloy, though not the traditional composition of a titanium alloy, and on top of this material we do a ceramization process. To illustrate, we take different parts of the case and put them through plasma electrolytic oxidation – we send very high pulse of currents on the parts and on its surface, and create plasma where the titanium transforms into an oxide. This titanium oxide is basically the ceramic. And the specific composition of the initial titanium alloy is what gives it its colour the small additive that we put in the titanium alloy at the end gives this very particular light blue. Its interesting property is that if you compare it with ceramic, which is a go-to material in watchmaking today if you want colour, you don’t have the brittleness of ceramic, but instead the toughness of titanium. If you drop your watch from 10 metres, it will not break – it has a hardness on the surface due to the ceramic layer. 

WTI: Can new colours be developed for in Ti-CeramitechTM, and will we see it in upcoming offerings from Panerai?
AS: Ti-CeramitechTM is a bit more complex because you don’t just add a pigment in it  you really need to change the underlying titanium composition. We have been playing with other titanium compositions, so we have other colours in development. The one that we have selected, we are still working on industrialising it so that it reaches the same level of performance, aesthetics, and mechanics as we have on the blue version. It’s something that has high chances of being launched in the next year.

Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro Luna Rossa Ti-CeramiTechTM caseback

WTI: How easy or hard is it to maintain Ti-CeramitechTM’s appearance, its scratchproofness? What about the maintenance of the timepiece?
AS: We have two main ways to test each material, especially materials that are composite. The first is that we take the watch, add a weight of 5 kgs, and drop it one metre on a bed of ceramic fragments. We do this test five times. And the other test is that we take the watch and put it in a bubble with sand and bolts and nuts – and the goal is that at the end there are small scratches, not big ones. We have very clear guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not. When we did this test on the Ti-CeramitechTM and found that it performed better than titanium DLC which is quite common in watchmaking. It is fair to say that in terms of scratch-resistance, Ti-CeramitechTM is pretty good.

Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro Luna Rossa Ti-CeramiTech

WTI: Who did Panerai work with to develop the new material?
AS: For all such material development, we often work with third parties because to do this type of material requires very specific equipment, especially in the research phase, where you need to test a wide range of options to decide on the best one. So we work a lot with academics, universities, and other industries, and co-developed it with external partners. This particular partner is very specialised in this type of process, working for motorsports.

WTI: What were the challenges in developing it?
AS: There are two important phases when you develop such materials. First is where you are searching for the right combination. In Ti-CeramitechTM, it is a combination of the titanium alloy composition and key parameters of the ceramization process. It took us four years where we tested tens of titanium compositions with different sets of parametres for the ceramization. At the end of these four years, you have an option that stands out. Then you have a very long time, which is a bit of a frustrating phase, where you make sure that you can repeat this condition over and over with the same result – industrialisation, which is moving from a very nice prototype to something that you can produce at scale. These are two different challenges, but the two are quite tough. 

WTI: How did the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team become the focus of the Watches & Wonders 2024 novelties? 

The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team

AS: For me, the link was obvious because we have this partnership running for quite a few years now. The two companies share a lot of similarities based on what we are developing even if it is not the same target – the philosophy behind them is that you want performance – and both companies have an Italian heritage, sharing this world of the sea. And since there is the finals of the America’s Cup later this summer, it was a big topic for us.

Panerai has consistently created watches specifically for, or inspired by, the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team

WTI: The timepieces are inspired by the race and the team - how were the ideas developed?
AS: We focussed on the Submersible because for us  it is the most sporty, dive-oriented line at Panerai. Secondly, we also focus on high-end materials in novelties. The two big pieces are the Ti-CeramitechTM, and you can link its blue with the sea, and there is also the 44mm Carbotech Tourbillon, an Experience Edition watch linked with the experience of the finals of the America's Cup. The watch is also made from carbon fibre composite, which the hull of the boat is made from. So we are trying to play on these similarities. 

WTI: This is the first time that a tourbillon has featured in a 45mm Submersible. Can you elaborate on the technical development of the piece?

Panerai Submersible Tourbillon GMT Luna Rossa Experience Edition

AS: We have quite an original tourbillon at Panerai for about 15 years now. Until now you could only find it in large cases because the movement itself was quite big, appearing on watches that were 47mm and above. We had a lot of demand for this tourbillon in a smaller sized watch, so we took the challenge up and redeveloped our original tourbillon and scaled down the movement. Our tourbillon rotates on a horizontal axis so it requires a bit more space than a traditional tourbillon that rotates on a vertical axis. So we gained 2mm in diameter, and now it works very well in a 45mm case. It still maintains a good 4-day power reserve, and is a robust movement because all the bridges are made in titanium. When you combine that with Carbotech you have a very, very light product that is also very tough. 

WTI: Can you elaborate on what went into the development of the new Super-LumiNova in the Submersible GMT Luna Rossa Titanio?

Panerai Submersible GMT Luna Rossa Titanio PAM01507 featuring SLN X2

AS: The first big technological development of Panerai back in 1916 was the patent for Radiomir, at the time a radium-based luminescent paste. Now, of course, we have removed all radioactive elements and use SLN instead, and have worked a lot with one particular SLN supplier in Switzerland. We have very deep relations with them and their R&D team, and have been working for some time now to improve what they are offering. This year, we are very happy to introduce a new grade of SLN, called SLN X2 (the previous was X1) in the Submersible GMT Luna Rossa Titanio. This version is 10-30 percent more luminous than the previous one. It is part of our quest to keep improving our product’s key features, like the luminescence and water resistance (this year we are progressively moving our Submersible line from 300 mts water resistance to 500).

WTI: How are the Experience Edition watches performing? 

The Submersible Tourbillon GMT Luna Rossa Experience Edition

AS: During the last couple of years, we have been doing between three-four Experience Edition watches a year. Two-three of these are very sporty ones, and one is more ‘cultural’. The idea is to continue that because there is a very strong appreciation for them. The goal is really to keep this pace because we don’t want to do too many – you lose a bit of traction then. Their performance has been strong.

Images: Courtesy Panerai


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