Richard S. Cunanan

Glass Houses

“Throw as many stones as you want, this glass can take it.”

Panerai has given us a case material that you really wouldn’t expect, even in modern horology.

Panerai has been a well-known watchmaker ever since they started making underwater watch cases for Italian frogmen who rode torpedoes. (And THERE’S a history for you!) They’ve made watch cases out of steel, gold, and even bronze. But this latest case material really catches your eye.

The Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-TECH ™ 3 Days Automatic – 47mm is encased in a material known as BMG-TECH. This material looks at first glance like stainless steel. It is silvery in color, light, fairly resistant, and all the things you would imagine watch designers look for in a material that is required to be both worn and resilient. Almost the entire case is made of this BMG-TECH material. The case, the bezel, the crown, even the distinctive Luminor crown protection device, and made from it. Only the caseback is made of titanium. The BMG-TECH covers almost the entire watch.

It may be a cousin to glass, yet the BMG-TECH surface conceals more than it reveals. BMG stands for Bulk Metallic Glass. It is a glass-like alloy, made of zirconium, copper aluminum, titanium and nickel. It is glasslike, but it is formed in a way that prevents crystallization. The alloy is injected, at high pressures and high temperatures, and then swiftly cooled, a process that lasts only seconds.

“Strange be the world we live in, as through a glass darkly.”

Because of this, the atoms of the alloy do not have enough time to become arranged in a regular ordered structure. This “chaotic” structure, this non-crystallization, is, what gives the alloy its particularly valuable qualities: resistance to external shocks, robustness, and corrosion resistance. Corrosion resistance is particularly useful in a marine watch, as you can imagine. Salt water is a particularly corrosive solution, and prolonged exposure in it is pretty much a given when you are a dive watch.

“…they’re clearly demonstrating a willingness to try out things old and new.”

Panerai may be trying new things, but they will always be Panerai. With the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-TECH ™ 3 Days Automatic – 47mm, we see a historical watch brand trying something new and different. Indeed, Panerai looks to be doing a lot of thinking outside the box lately. They recently released a Carbotech watch, which they claimed to be free of the need of any kind of lubrication – a boon for us low-maintenance types, no doubt. But as we spin into modern times with these new touches, let us take comfort in the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same.