Sunday, January 26, 2014

LiveBlogging Panerai SIHH 2014

Panerai @ SIHH 2014
January 20-24. Geneva, Switzerland

SIHH is a private event for guests of the exhibiting brands, and I had the privilege of attending the SIHH show this last week in Geneva, Switzerland, and it was mind-blowing!

SIHH History

First a little bit of history. SIHH is the acronym for Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, which is one of two major horological trade-shows that take place every year in Geneva, Switzerland. The other major horological show is BaselWorld. BaselWorld was founded in 1925, and has grown significantly over the past 89 years to become the largest horological trade show in the world. BaselWorld today features over 2100 exhibitors, from 45 different companies. BaselWorld is open to the general public, and also features many companies that specialize in precious gems.

Twenty three years ago, in 1991, as the Richmont Group began growing, it sought to start its own trade show, that was not open to the general public. Instead, it was only open to retailers, distributors and the media. In 1991, the following brands attended the very first SIHH Show: Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Piaget, Gérald Genta, and Daniel Roth. Today, in 2014 The 24th year of the SIHH Show featured 16 watch brands which include, A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piquet, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Greubel Forsey, IWC, Jaeger LeCoultre, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Parmigiani Gleurier, Piaget, Ralph Lauren Watch & Jewelry, Richard Mille, Rouger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin, & Van Cleef & Arpels.

This year was the first SIHH I have ever attended, and it completely blew my mind!!! Ironically, when I mentioned to several of my friends who have been in the horological business for decades, that I had been invited to attend SIHH, they kept telling me how envious they were, and repeated that they really wished they could attend. I thought this was kind of strange, and didn't understand what the big deal was, until I walked in the door of SIHH, and was stunned with the amazing world that unfolded in front of me. 

I know understand why there were envious. Approximately 14,000 guests attended SIHH this year, from around the planet, of which 12% were journalists. The theme at this years SIHH was, Horologie, A Childe Of Astronomy, which was chosen since so many of the watches featured had amazing movements in them that were like miniature universes.

SIHH is held at a convention center in Geneva, located near the Geneva Airport, named PalExpo, and from what I learned, it has one of the longest build times of any trade-show in the world, at 4-5 weeks. Meaning, that the attending brands begin building out their stores over a month before the invitees attend. If I didn't know any better, I would think I was walking into an enormous, elegant mall, with 24 dedicated watch brand stores. Each brand has its own store, which is highly customized to be an extension of its personality, and the Panerai venue was absolutely stunning!!!

First Class Everything

SIHH is enormous, and in many ways it seemed like attending a black tie event, without black ties. In other words, the vast majority of people were wearing elegant business suits. In between all the brand venues/stores, there are restaurants that have an amazing assortment of superb food and drink. When you attend SIHH, there is a magic in the air, and you get the idea you are attending a very special event. Everything about SIHH was absolutely First-Class in every way possible.

Panerai first exhibited at SIHH in 1999. Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati is pictured below chatting with an friend in front of the Panerai Section at SIHH 2014, just as the show began.

Angelo Bonati is considered to be chief architect of the modern Panerai company, and under his decades long leadership, Panerai has grown into a colossal success, which continues to innovate and grow at an unusually fast pace.

I was extremely fortunate to gain the first appointment to for a journalist to preview all the new Panerai models in person, and I immediately published these first wrist shots of the all-new highly limited-edition 45MM Panerai Chronograph models (Reference PAM00518, PAM00519, and PAM00520], which took my breath away!!! These stunning beauties are unique in many senses. Particularly, they are the first Panerai chronograph models to feature the Historic Panerai 1940 case.

This next Oro Rosso (Red gold) beauty has a chocolate brown California dial, and it's also 45MM. I think one of the most interesting things about these new Panerai Chronographs, is how vintage looking their design language is. I mean these models, literally look like they were made in the 1940s in every way, yet they are brand new, and all of them feature a beautiful Minerva movement.

Vintage Panerai Museum Pieces

The Panerai Exhibition at SIHH featured a small collection of pieces from the Panerai museum. There has been much speculation over the years about how many vintage Panerai watches were made, as well as how many of them are still in existence, and of course, how many of the the ones that still exist are known or have been identified by collectors? 

In other words, I am certain that in the world there are still many undiscovered vintage watches that are tucked away in drawers, that have been dismissed as worthless old pocket watches or something like that. My best guess is that Rolex made less than 1000 pieces and it could be as few as 300 pieces, and keep in mind 100% of the vintage Rolex-made Panerai watches were NEVER available to the public. I believe today there are approximately 200 known examples of vintage Panerai watches throughout the world, and I further believe that the Officine Panerai Museum Collection consists or approximately 50-60 pieces, of which several were on display at SIHH 2014. These are very rare birds, indeed...

Reference 3646

This first beauty is a Reference 3646 which was made between 1936 and 1938, and it features a classic California Dial.

52MM Mare Nostrum Prototype

This next watch is an extremely rare Radiomir Panerai Chronograph "Mare Nostrum" which was made in 1942 or 1943. This watch never went into production, and is mythical among vintage Panerai collectors. This tool watch is very large, even by todays standards, at 52MM!

Reference 6152

This second beauty is a Panerai 6152, which was made in 1952 by Rolex for Panerai. Today this would be classified as a "Base" Panerai since it has no complication beyond the second hand. In my opinion, this 6152 and 6154 base models, are the most timeless and beautiful vintage Panerai models, due to their supreme tool-watch simplicity. 

The photo below shows the 6152 (pictured above) from the side view, and you notice it features an standard 8MM Rolex "Big Crown" winding crown. This watch is truly sublime and without pier. A true timeless Italian beauty, just like Sophia Loren.

Reference 6152-1

This next vintage Panerai is a 6152-1 which features an 8-Day Angelus movement, with a second hand sundial located just to the right of the 9 O'clock marker. Notice is has the "BREV. ITAL." etching on the front face of the crown guard.

Reference 6152 Lefty

This next vintage Luminor Panerai is a 6152 Lefty, with the Marina Militare dial designation. This watch was made for left handed people to wear on their right wrist.

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