Staying up to speed with which luxury-watch brands are sponsoring what America’s Cup teams or partnering whatever cups being contested during each edition’s four-year build-up is almost as confusing as the competition’s (very lengthy) rulebook. So let’s extend our thanks to Officine Panerai for making things infinitely simpler this time round, in the shape of the new Submersible Luna Rossa.
Not only does it sport mercifully concise nomenclature for Panerai (“Luminor 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Ceramica 44mm”, anyone?) but it also pares-back the macho watchmaker’s involvement with the world’s oldest sporting event from 2017’s three-pronged role of Official Watch of the 35th America’s Cup Presented by Louis Vuitton / Official Watch of the Defenders of the Cup, Oracle Team USA / Official Watch of challenger Softbank Team Japan duties to a singular, and singularly interesting partnership: Official Sponsor of Luna Rossa.
It’s certainly good to see the racy livery and flamboyant personalities of Luna Rossa back on the waves at all. The Prada-owned team, formed in 1997 by CEO and husband to Miuccia Prada, Patrizio Bertelli withdrew from the last Cup in 2015, objecting to the switch from double-hulled 72-foot catamaran to a 45-foot monohull boat design. But now things are back up to 75 feet for 2021’s challenge in Auckland (home to 35th Cup defenders and Omega-sponsored Emirates Team New Zealand) with the AC75 Class Rules setting out speed as the essence, the Italians are all-in once again – even replacing Louis Vuitton as the main sponsor and changing the preceding Challenger Selection Series’ “Louis Vuitton Cup” to “Prada Cup” for the first time in 36 years.
As a brand that wears its Florentine origins on (under?) its sleeve, Panerai is certainly a more logical partner to the Sardinian team than previous partner Hublot. Although the boats themselves won’t be revealed till late March, the watch on-board Challenge Luna Rossa is certainly looking the part, despite a lack of regatta-countdown function. Not only does Panerai’s carbon-fibre-meets-polymer Carbotech composite neatly reflect the boats’ predominantly carbon construct, but also provides bang-on-brand background to the GMT and small seconds hands’ flashes of Prada red.
But where the real aesthetic interest lies is that haphazardly crosshatched dial texture. No, it’s not carbon fibre weave gone horribly wrong, it’s a thin layer of fabric from genuine AC sailcloth, painted in charcoal grey.
In miniature form, the Submersible Luna Rossa’s dial heralds the switch from the 34th and 35th Cups’ ‘hard wing’ concept back to a ‘soft wing’, manufactured as always and across the board by San Diego’s North Sails. The design is a result of a collaborative effort alongside engineers from Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand: a composite reinforced with controllable “battens” that twist to change the sail’s profile.
The ‘Formula 1 of the seas’ has always been blighted by its high costs (therefore low number of participants) plus its regattas’ unfathomable rules and opaque viewability. But little things like a Panerai watch can help highlight the ice-cool technology at play, plus sprinkle a little bit of genuine cool.