The Panerai Composite deserves a distinct presentation because it represents an absolute first in horology, a material which was previously used mainly in the car and aeronautical industries. Panerai Composite is a synthetic ceramic made through an electrochemical process called MAO (Micro Arc Oxidation) from aluminium.
This results not in a simple coating but in a complete and fundamental transformation of the structure of the original metal, creating an envelope of hard ceramic around the aluminium core which remains extremely light. It becomes an extremely homogenous material, matt and pleasing to the touch, which is also very light and resistant: more so than ceramic and aluminium.
AISI 316L 1.4435 stainless steel is Officine Panerai’s material par excellence since it is highly resistant to corrosion and is hypoallergenic, making it ideal for contact with the skin.
The Panerai watches created for the Italian Navy were made of austenitic stainless steel, a reliable material that was also resistant to the extreme environmental conditions in which the commandos operated. AISI 316L, a specification of the American Iron and Steel Institute, is an austenitic stainless steel alloy with a chromium content of 16–18%, 11–14% nickel and 2–3% molybdenum.
Panerai uses the low-carbon variant of this alloy: the lower carbon content of the steel improves its welding qualities where the metal’s thickness is 6mm or less. The excellent technical qualities of this material make it an essential element of every new Officine Panerai collection.
One of the materials which is strongly featured in the Panerai range is Titanium grade 5, a metal with exceptional qualities of endurance and robustness which is also extremely light, thus ideal for watches with large dimensions. Anti-magnetic and known for its hypoallergenic characteristics, titanium also has a high resistance to corrosion and it is used by Panerai in several versions with polished or brushed finish.
Panerai uses two different types of titanium for various kinds of components: Grade 2 and Grade 5.
Grade 2: titanium with a high oxygen content and greater strength than Grade 1. It is widely used and offers the best compromise between strength, corrosion resistance, weldability and moldability.
Grade 5 (Ti 6Al-4V): this alloy can be polished and not just cleaned. It has very high tensile strength but relatively low ductility.
The working of titanium is a very delicate operation due to the material’s sensitivity to oxidization. If oxidization occurs, the manufacturing process must be restarted.
The ceramic used is hi-tech Zirconium Oxide powder (ZrO2) which is isostatically compressed to form a cylinder (Radiomir) or injection-moulded (Luminor). Diamond wheels are used to arrive to at the final shape. Finally it is sandblasted and anti-fingerprint treated.
In this way, all the positive features of this material are enhanced: Extreme hardness (up to five times greater than steel), strong resistance to high temperatures, high resistance to scratches, damage and corrosion.
The Panerai Composite has unique features: it is lighter than ceramic and metals such as steel and titanium, as well as being harder.
It guarantees comfort and great aesthetic qualities, as well as good resistance to scratches and high temperatures.
The material has a matt brown appearance and it is smooth to the touch.
Panerai Composite is obtained through an electrochemical process of the ceramisation of aluminium, that creates a hard layer of ceramic through aluminium transformation.
Sparks are produced on the surface of the pre-form, their energy causing the atoms of the alloy to combine with the oxygen in the bath in which it is immersed to form an oxide.
Progressively, the metal is converted into a compact ceramic, following the initial geometry of the pre-form perfectly.
Precious metals are also used in Panerai range, in particular in the most valuable Special Editions but also in various other models in the Collections. In this field the attitude to innovation and the search for the highest quality is well expressed in the choice of a special alloy of Red Gold, 5Npt, which has a particularly high percentage of copper that gives the red colour of the gold a great intensity.
It also contains a small proportion of platinum which helps to prevent any oxidation and tarnishing phenomena affecting the gold.
5Npt has another important property: it has a high mechanical resistance than standard pink and yellow gold. It is the perfect material for Panerai high-end watches.
Bronze is deeply linked to the Panerai heritage. While the Panerai Composite is the result of the most advanced research by Officine Panerai in the field of materials, Bronze represents the return to its origins. Its application to watchmaking is original, but it reinforces the brand’s association with the sea where bronze is widely used, particularly on vintage sailing yachts, not only for its particular resistance to the corrosive action of sea water, but also for the evocativeness of its appearance. Its tones change with the passage of time and through contact with those who handle it, giving every bronze watch its unique character.
Carbotech is a composite material based on carbon fibre.
Providing exceptional technical performance, carbotech has an uneven, matt black appearance, which varies according to the cutting of the material, giving each watch a unique character.The structure is designed to enhance both the aesthetics and the performance of the material, which is used to make the case, the bezel, the lever, the device protecting the crown and the crown. To form the plates of carbotech from which these components are made, thin sheets of carbon fibres are compressed at a controlled temperature under high pressure together with a high-end polymer, PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone), which binds the composite material, making it even stronger and more durable.
The carbon fibres used are very long, so as to ensure great aesthetic uniformity, and the sheets are superimposed and pressed together in such a way that the fibres of each layer are set at a different angle to the ones above and below it. With this structure, the mechanical properties of carbotech are much higher than those of similar materials or of other materials used in the world of watchmaking, such as ceramics and titanium: carbotech is lighter than these and has similar resistance to external stresses and shocks, as well as not being subject to corrosion.
Officine Panerai uses 950 platinum (Pt950 Ru, 95% pure platinum) and its specific weight is 11% heavier than 24K gold. This alloy is recommended for machining, but it is not suitable for casting and cannot be hardened by heat treatment. Ductile, malleable and corrosion-resistant, platinum requires a long, complex working process. Stamping a platinum case, for example, requires a specially calibrated press.
The tooling used is subject to greater wear, and meticulous cleaning of the technical instrumentation is required. The polishing stage is particularly complicated and very different from that used for gold, because of the particular characteristics of this material. It has to be carried out entirely by hand, since it cannot be done using automatic tools. The engraving stage is similarly very complex.
Platinum has a good level of hot and cold deformability. Air annealing can be carried out without difficulty. It is advisable to limit the number of times the metal is annealed and to carry out preliminary hardening of at least 30%. The time and temperature of annealing must be controlled to prevent enlargement of the grain (“orange peel” effect).