Field Test

This Panerai Is the Oversized Dive Watch You’ve Been Lusting After


November 7, 2019 Reviews By Photo by Henry Phillips
Brand: Panerai
Product: Submersible Mike Horn Edition 47mm
Release Date: Announced Baselworld 2019
Price: $20,500
From: Panerai.com

Gear Patrol affords its staff unique opportunities to test watches — we’ve put tough timepieces through their paces underwater, in the military, high on mountaintops, and, of course, sitting with our butts planted firmly at our desks. Recently, however, we received a testing opportunity that was unique even by our standards.

We were invited down to Colombia with Waves for Water, an NGO that specializes in bringing clean water solutions into areas affected by drought, disaster and conflict (you can read our review of the water filter used by W4W here). The organization (herein “W4W”) features within it a group called the Clean Water Corps, staffed entirely by military veterans dedicated to bringing clean water to communities in need.

Panerai, a manufacturer primarily of dive watches and dive-inspired watches, is directly linked to the water through its products, and, given its origins with the Italian Navy, to the military. Thus the Richemont-owned brand decided to partner with Waves for Water and support their mission financially, and we were invited to tag along.

While on the mission, we took along the new Submersible Mike Horn Edition 47mm and put it through its paces in the city, in the mountains, and in transit. This is a large, 47mm-wide behemoth of a watch, but as you’ll see, dimensions can sometimes be misleading.

What We Like

The Mike Horn Edition (there are actually two SKUs, the BAM00984 and the BAM00985, one of which uses green lume, and other blue, and is limited to 19 pieces) is made of Panerai’s Eco-Titanium (read: recycled titanium), and, though lighter than a steel piece of the same diameter, has a surprising heft to it. As part of the Submersible line of professional diving watches, the MHE features Panerai’s proprietary crown-lock system, left over from the days of crafting military watches for the Italian Navy. It’s a true Panerai professional dive watch, through and through.

The MHE’s sandwich dial makes use of highly visible green or blue lume. A sub-seconds dial at 9 o’clock and date wheel at 3 o’clock provide some welcome asymmetry, and other than branding, very little else distracts from the timekeeping — dot indices and sword hands should make this a highly visible dial underwater.

Another notable feature is the bezel, which is done in titanium relief. The aesthetic is difficult to describe, but it gives the watch a homogenous, retro-futuristic feel, as if it’s difficult to tell if you’re looking at some kind of steampunk instrument or a watch from the future. In either case, it’s a cool look, and the bezel action itself is tight and provides solid grip. As I haven’t dived with the MHE, I have some reservations as to the legibility of the Arabic numerals underwater, but you do get a lumed 12 o’clock pip, so this should theoretically help a diver keep track of his bottom or decompression time, should he be one of those merry few who still uses a mechanical dive watch for its intended purpose.

The Mike Horn Edition features a titanium unidirectional bezel.

The look of brushed titanium is something that I personally find very attractive on certain watches, and less aesthetically pleasing on others. On the MHE, I think it works well, especially considering the interesting geometry of the relatively squat Submersible case. Short lugs and the patented Panerai Luminor crown-protection device, in combination with a titanium case and bezel, make the MHE smack of something that might’ve been recovered from the Nostromo long after Ripley had abandoned ship. A handsome case back engraving featuring the aquatic world and Mike Horn’s signature let you know that the piece is a special edition.

Powering the MHE is the P.9010, an in-house, automatic caliber beating at 4Hz and featuring 31 jewels and 72 hours of power reserve. Some companies quote extravagant power reserves, the accuracy of which is questionable, but I did at one point put the MHE down for quite a while and come back to it ticking accurately away without issue. Notably, despite this being a time-only movement, you can jump the hour hand in one-hour intervals using the crown’s second position, useful for quickly updating time zones.

Watch Out For

The MHE is objectively yuge. 47mm is a number that only Panerai could get away with throwing around, and conceivably only because folks are so used to it at this point. I admittedly scoff at the notion of something the size of a regulation-sized hockey puck on the wrist of a sub-6’4” human (a regulation-sized hockey puck is actually 76mm, but who’s counting — the watch is big, is my point). But big watches from Panerai are nothing new, and to be fair, the company is making some awesome, smaller watches these days that retain the same aesthetic and feature set of some of the larger models.

Comfort is a separate issue. Personally I find watches so large that they protrude past my wrist bones (whatever they’re called) are invariably uncomfortable, and the MHE wouldn’t be my first choice in a dive watch for this reason. But after passing the watch off to some Clean Water Corps members to try on who were, how shall we say, less vertically challenged than I, the responses I got are that the watch is quite comfortable when you have a 7.5”+-inch wrist.

The MHE ships on a recycled plastic strap, which, while not my first choice for comfort, is significantly more eco-friendly than a comparable leather or rubber version. Given that Mike Horn, for whom the watch is named, is a noted explorer and conservationist, as well as a 15-year Panerai ambassador, the use of recycled materials for both watch and strap is fitting.

In Colombia, the Waves for Water team spent time both in urban Medellin as well as on a Colombian Air Force base and in a remote village about 1.5 hours away from the city. The weather was worm but not oppressively so (we traveled in October), and I found the strap sufficiently comfortable for the environment. However, I imagine that I would’ve liked one of the rubber caoutchouc options better (available for an extra $160).

My only other gripe is with the crystal. Look closely and you’ll notice that the Panerai branding is not printed on the dial but on the underside of the sapphire crystal via a screening process. This look, while unique, smacks aesthetically of cheapness to me. Not because the manufacturing process is inexpensive — I’m quite sure it’s not — but the crystal invariably reminds me of a car windshield with an inspection sticker on it, slapped on as an afterthought. Just print the damn wording on the dial, thank you very much.

The MHE features branding printed on the crystal, rather than on the dial.

Other Options

Sometimes it feels like there are more dive watches than there are humans on the planet, so there certainly isn’t a dearth of available alternatives. However, comparable $20,000+ divers are somewhat thin on the ground (with the exception, perhaps, of entries from the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms catalog). The new two-tone Rolex Sea-Dweller will run you $16,050 and is water-resistant to a silly 1,220m, should you ever find yourself wrestling a sea creature on your way down to inspect the wreck of the Titanic.

There’s also the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date at $17,500, which is water-resistant to 300m and features — you guessed it — an oversized date display. And don’t forget the Audemars Piguet Offshore Diver for $19,000, water-resistant to 300m and clocking it at a mere 42mm wide.

Verdict

There’s no doubt whatsoever that this a well-made timepiece — I’ve yet to handle a Panerai that isn’t. Whether you’re personally attracted to the MHE, however, depends very much on personal preference and taste. Do you like large watches (how about huge watches)? Is wearing one physically comfortable to you? Do you dive, and care about who Mike Horn is and his mission? Do you identify with the conservationist theme that the watch represents?

Some of these are questions that customer must ask him- or herself upon the purchase of any timepiece — they’re simply more pronounced here because of the girth of this particular watch, and, frankly, the price: the PAM00984 is already not-so-cheap at $19,800, but the green-accented PAM00985 will set you back almost double that amount at $39,900.

Why is that damn blue lume so pricey, you might ask? It’s actually not objectively that expensive — you’re paying for the watch, and you’re also paying for the opportunity to travel with Mike Horn to the arctic ice floes on a special excursion, to learn from one of the most famous living explorers. If this is exciting to you and you have the spare change (and a large wrist), then I heartily recommend the 00985. If not, the 00984 is still a hell of a watch, even without the Arctic adventure.

Panerai provided this product for review.

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