Sailing timepieces are, despite their obscure use and narrow target market, very popular these days. Something about the imagery of teak decking, salt spray and clanking halyards lends itself well to watches. But few of the ones sold are truly useful to a skipper angling for the starting buoy in a regatta. Most are simple chronographs gussied up with some nautical colorways and branding. Officine Panerai knows a thing or two about sailing, having been a very active sponsor of a classic yacht regatta series for the past decade and a company CEO who's the owner of a vintage sloop himself. So it came as no surprise that when the brand released its first purpose-built regatta timer, they got it right.
Due to its innovative regatta function, the Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Titanio -- PAM00526 for short -- represents nothing short of a breakthrough for Panerai and a milestone for the watch industry. While it’s a significant achievement for any brand to develop its own chronograph movement, Panerai took it a step further with the P.9100/R that beats inside the PAM00526. Besides its column wheel-actuated function and flyback complication, the in-house built movement puts the minute totalizer on a central pinion, driving a prominent orange sweep hand around the dial. This arrangement (too rarely used on chronographs, in our opinion) makes it a snap to read off elapsed time. Any skipper worth his salt won’t want to squint at a tiny subdial when he’s rounding markers in a 15-knot breeze.
The Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Titanio isn’t bad in the looks department, either. In fact, we’re so smitten with the orange and blue colorways, distinctive 1950 case shape and beefy rubber strap, we’re tempted to call it the best looking Panerai in their entire lineup.
But what gives the PAM00526 its “regatta” designation, and what really sets the watch apart, is the double duty that the orange central minutes hand performs. An orange-tipped button on the lower starboard side of the case moves the sweep hand backwards in one-minute increments. Why? In sailing races, the start is crucial to time correctly, since a sailboat doesn’t do well from a standing start. The crew must maneuver the boat in such a way that it crosses the starting marker just as the race cannon fires. An accurate countdown is vital to timing that crossing. The PAM00526 makes this easy, when set according to the race start countdown. When the orange hand ticks over to zero, the skipper had damn well better be crossing the line and bearing down on the first race buoy. The chronograph doesn’t stop there though; it continues to count up, tracking the total race time.
A regatta watch designed for use in actual race conditions and good looking enough to wear while collecting the winner’s trophy in the yacht club afterwards? Panerai did it with the Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Titanio, and that’s why it’s worthy of inclusion in the GP100.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
Jeremy Berger, Ben Bowers, Nick Caruso, Jon Gaffney, Jonathan Gallegos, K.B. Gould, Bradley Hasemeyer, Jason Heaton, Amos Kwon, Matt Neundorf, Scott Packard, Austin Parker, Henry Phillips, Chris Wright, Eric Yang