Panerai’s first moon phase complication is packed into the manufacture’s most complicated watch yet.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Panerai’s first moon phase complication is packed into the manufacture’s most complicated watch yet.

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For a brand that frequently cites Galileo as a source of inspiration, it’s somewhat peculiar how few astronomical complications Panerai has made. However, that changed this year. Unveiled at the recent Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie is the Panerai L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT – an absolute beast of a watch that’s packed to the brim with functions, including the watchmaker’s very first moon phase.

Its lengthy name clues you in on what the 50mm watch has to offer, and may also remind you of another technically impressive ticker from 2010: the L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Equation of Time Titanio. That model was created to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s  rst observation of the night sky following the invention of the telescope, but this year’s edition seriously ups the celestial ante.

Powering the new L’Astronomo, also known as the PAM 00920, is the manually winding P.2005 GLS calibre. The P.2005 refers to Panerai’s in-house tourbillon base, while GLS stands for Galileo Luna Scheletrato, which identifies it as a skeletonised movement.

The tourbillon is worth paying attention to. The patented mechanism has a cage that rotates on an axis perpendicular to the balance, rather than parallel to it, in order to counteract gravitational variances. And unlike many tourbillons that complete a rotation in one minute, this one rotates once every 30 seconds. The higher speed, coupled with this particular arrangement, means any possible alterations of rate are effectively compensated, resulting in greater precision.

The movement comprises 451 components, boasts a 10-bar water resistance rating, and can keep going for four days after a full wind – thanks to three spring barrels. And due to its dialless construction, the tourbillon isn’t the only thing you will be able to admire.

The Luminor case and signature Arabic numerals are part of a few design elements that keep it recognisable as a Panerai watch, but everything else is a complex web of technical innovation that truly pushes the brand’s boundaries. The central axis holds the hour, minute and GMT hands. Below that is the Equation of Time scale, which measures the difference between solar time (time told through sundials) and mean solar time (time shown on clocks and watches). On the lower right and left fiange are the sunset and sunrise indicators respectively, which are configured to the wearer’s home time.

The subdial at three o’clock shows the month, and is attached to an ingenious, patent-pending date window. As a traditional date window would obscure some of the skeletonised movement, the team at Panerai’s Laboratorio di Idee came up with the idea to use borosilicate glass for the date disc, while the numbers possess laser-modified optical properties. Thanks to a polarised crystal situated above the date disc, only the numbers for the current date will be legible, while all other numerals will be virtually invisible in all positions.

That’s just the front of the watch. The PAM 00920 continues to thrill on the flip side. Don’t be fooled by the conventional depiction of the sun, moon and night sky; this is a moon phase unlike any other. The system consists of two superimposed discs that rotate in combination. The upper disc displays the 24 hours, while the lower disc bears the moon. This disc rotates about 6.1 degrees per day, a figure based on the exact duration of one lunar cycle. What’s more, it will correspond to the precise phase of the moon over the wearer’s chosen geographic location.

It’s not just the geographic coordinates that can be tailored to the owner’s preference. Panerai is also offering the opportunity to select the material and finish of the case (available choices: everything from brushed titanium to precious metals), as well as the colour of the hands, Super-Luminova and alligator strap.

The made-to-order watch is not a limited edition, thus allowing any number of starry-eyed horophiles to own a ticking treasure that best expresses their shared appreciation of the heavens, and the miniature machines that follow them.
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The L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT (left) is Panerai’s first moon phase watch. The tourbillon rotates once every 30 seconds, instead of the more common duration of one minute, allowing for greater precision in compensating for gravitational pull.
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