PANERAI MARE-NOSTRUM BLACK DIAL 42 MM STAINLESS STEEL CIR. 1998
The PAM00008 Mare Nostrum is a wristwatch that is based on a prototype of an officers' type watch created by Panerai in the 1940s. The PAM 008 shares similarities with the Pre-Vendome 5218-301A models but has been assigned a reference number during the Vendome/Richemont era of Panerai. The PAM 008 features a sleek black dial, while the PAM 007 boasts a white dial and the PAM 006 showcases a stylish blue dial. Equipped with the Caliber 2801, the watch is fitted with a chronograph module by Dubois-Depraz (3127), transforming it into a functional chronograph timepiece. As is the case with all Panerai watches, the Mare Nostrum design carries a sense of heritage. The name itself, Latin for "Our Sea," reflects its origins. The Mare Nostrum was initially developed as a prototype in 1943 but never saw active service. Comprising a steel case with a 52mm diameter, it operated on an Angelus calibre 215. However, much about the Mare Nostrum remains shrouded in mystery. Even the precise date of its creation is a subject of heated debate. Panerai maintains that the Mare Nostrum can be traced back to 1943, but the case style bears a closer resemblance to Panerai's dive instruments from the 1950s. Unfortunately, the majority of records pertaining to the Mare Nostrum were lost during the devastating flood that struck Florence, Panerai's hometown, in 1966. Only one photographic plate survived, and if it weren't for that, the prototype that emerged at an auction in 2005 may have been dismissed as a forgery. So, what was the intended purpose of the Mare Nostrum? Although Panerai was known for producing diving instruments, the Mare Nostrum fell short of being water-resistant due to its unsealed pushers. Moreover, the chronograph hands lacked Panerai's patented luminous paint, making it unsuitable for underwater use. The original version also featured a plain bezel, rendering it unsuitable for measuring speed like most chronographs. Efforts were made to develop a replacement for the Luminor, resulting in a titanium prototype for a deep dive watch known as the Zei. However, this project never came to fruition. With the decline of military contracts, Panerai entered a dormant phase. It was during the 1990s, with the surge in vintage Rolex collecting, that Zei recognized an opportunity. Many of Panerai's military watches had been manufactured by Rolex and utilized Rolex movements, attracting the attention of collectors. Using the surviving historical records, Zei reintroduced three watches: the Luminor, the Luminor Marina, and the Mare Nostrum. While more detailed records were available for the Luminors, the Mare Nostrum's design relied on a single photographic plate, allowing for some creative interpretation to modernize its aesthetics. The Luminor case underwent angular modifications, while the Mare Nostrum received a tachymeter on its previously plain bezel. The name itself, "Mare Nostrum," harkens back to the Roman era when it referred to the Mediterranean Sea. Benito Mussolini revived the name as part of his campaign to reclaim the old empire. The term also appeared on Panerai torpedo timers produced for the Italian Navy, indicating that the wristwatch may have served a similar purpose as an officer's deck watch for timing maneuvers. However, the end of the war marked the demise of the Mare Nostrum. The watch simply became obsolete. By the 1970s, with Giuseppe Panerai, the last member of the founding family, falling ill, the future of Panerai itself seemed uncertain. Nevertheless, the Italian Navy was determined to maintain a supply of diving instruments, appointing naval engineer Dino Zei to lead the company. One of the most significant and fateful changes made to the Mare Nostrum was a reduction in size by one centimeter, resulting in a diameter of 42mm. In contrast, the Luminor only shrank by 3mm, from 47mm to 44mm. When Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone walked into the boutique one sunny afternoon, searching for a large watch and intrigued by the timepieces on display, it was the Luminor that caught his attention. Stallone went on to wear it in the movie "Daylight," sealing its place in history. One can only imagine how the fate of the Mare Nostrum would have differed had it been the larger timepiece favored by Stallone. His admiration for the substantial presence of the Luminor, at a time when 40mm was considered large for watches, might have propelled the Mare Nostrum into the global spotlight, adorning jewelry store windows worldwide. Yet, it was not meant to be. Zei's success with Panerai led to a buyout by Vendôme, now Richemont, in 1997. The Mare Nostrum continued to be produced until the existing parts were exhausted. As seen here, slight modifications were made to the design, such as relocating the minute track to the outer dial and adding a step to the bezel. However, the case remained unchanged, as did the ETA 2801-2 movement with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module. This proved to be the final iteration of the Mare Nostrum for over a decade. The fact that Panerai exists today, let alone the Mare Nostrum, is almost miraculous. The iconic and unmistakable shape of the Luminor, combined with a stroke of good fortune, secured the brand's future, relegating the enigmatic Mare Nostrum to the shadows. Forever trapped in a transitional period, first witnessing the world's shift away from war and then experiencing Panerai's transition from a family-owned business to one led by Dino Zei, the Mare Nostrum clings to the Panerai legacy through a few limited special editions. Without that single surviving photographic plate, it could have vanished entirely.