Come on, Eilean!

Face Value: Panerai Navigation Instruments

Style By Photo by Panerai

If you’ve yet to install navigational instruments on your restored 1930s luxe sailboat, Officine Panerai has you covered. Inspired by the Eilean, a beautiful restored 22-meter Bermudian ketch owned by Panerai, the watch brand has developed a set of sleek, robust and beautiful navigation instruments that includes a clock, thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer. It’s everything you need to pretend you know how to sail.

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1936 saw both the building of the Eilean and the introduction of Panerai’s first dive watch, the Radiomir, to the Italian Navy; Panerai purchased the boat to commemorate the watch. As part of Eilean’s restoration, Panerai developed one-off instruments to be used for navigation, which served as the design inspiration for the newly released set. It may not make total sense — a former Italian company, currently making “Swiss Made” watches, buying and restoring a Scottish boat to commemorate their time supplying a WWII Axis power. But the boat and the instruments are certainly nice to look at and might even be useful.

The wall clock ($5,100) oozes classic Panerai looks; think the Radiomir but beefier, and without a strap. Like the rest of the instruments, the clock features a black dial with off-white hands and markers, casting a vintage feel. Because an accurate clock reading is necessary for navigating the high seas (being off, even by 30 seconds or so, can be disastrous when navigating by a sextant reading), it’s odd that Panerai chose not to include a second hand. Nevertheless, aesthetically this is a clock worthy of any nautical enthusiast’s desk or mantle.

If you want to go beyond simply telling time onboard your yacht, or in your office, you can collect the whole set of instruments. A barometer ($5,200), thermometer ($4,400), and hygrometer ($4,400) have been navigational staples for centuries. You presumably know what a thermometer is, and that a barometer reads atmospheric pressure to help forecast approaching weather. So what’s a hygrometer? Originally used by wool merchants, the hygrometer reads the air’s humidity level, which has a major effect on the weight, and therefore, the price, of wool. Since then, sailors have used hygrometers to help determine the likelihood of rain or fog, obvious enemies of accurate navigation and smooth sailing. How you use it (“how heavy is my sweater?” versus “from how far away will people be able to see my sweater?” could be a stumper) is up to you.

Mechanical navigation instruments have more or less become a thing of the past, but it’s refreshing when watch companies are willing to revive some semblance of Old World craftsmanship and utility. With the whole set of Panerai instruments clocking in at just under $20,000, these instruments are not for the faint of wallet. But as they say, a boat is like a hole in the ocean into which you throw money, so these instruments are just another drop in the bucket.