Officine Panerai Mare Nostrum Slytech
History, Ancient & Modern
This page is not so much of a review as a small photoshoot, and some notes on the history of this model.
Unofortunately both the Mare Nostrum and the whole Slytech range have gone the way of the dodo, so I can hardly recommend that anybody goes out to their local authorized dealer to pick up one of these watches. However the whole watch is an interesting peek into the history of Officine Panerai, both during the Second World War and more recently in the mid 1990s.
The Mare Nostrum was originally conceived as an officer's deck watch with a two register chronograph in 1943. Pictures (which are unfortunately copyrighted) show that the Slytech is very close indeed to the original prototype. The Mare Nostrum was however never put into production.
In 1993 when the Panerai brand was relaunched from Florence the line included the Luminor, the Luminor Marina, and a slightly modified version of the Mare Nostrum. Still basically the same design, a tachmeter scale was introduced on the bezel, with the inscription "Km/h" at 2 o' clock. The Mare Nostrum was always the odd man out in the range, lacking the patented crown locking device, and not being as heavy-duty as its siblings in the line since it was never intended for diving. The crystal is 1.5mm thick instead of the more usual 3.5mm (or 5mm on the modern 1000m Submersible).
Around 1995 the Panerai brand had come to the attention of one Sylvester Stallone, obviously a man of impeccable taste. Stallone commissioned a new model, the "Slytech Submersible", which was basically a black-faced Luminor Marina with custom wording on the dial, and his signature on the back. This was intended to coincide with the filming of "Daylight". He later participated in the production of the "Slytech Daylight", again a Luminor Marina, but with a white face. Both models were issued in runs of 500 pieces and were individually numbered. Finally, the "Mare Nostrum Slytech" appeared, with a slate face, and with a completely plain bezel unlike the other modern Mare Nostrums (Nostra?). Again this piece was signed, and existing examples are numbered xx/500. However one can only guess that the sponsorship deal fell through since allegedly only 50 were produced (at least, according to Antiquorum) .
There is one more Slytech, the Black Seal. It appears that the few existing examples of this watch were prototypes for another Slytech deal that never came to fruition, accordingly there are only five in existence.
The Mare Nostrum survived well past the acquisition of Officine Panerai by the Vendome group, and when it was released with blue, black and white dials for the first post-Vendome Panerai collection the only change was that the "Km/h" on the bezel was replaced by the word "Tachymeter".
So, down to the pictures. The Mare Nostrum Slytech comes in an enormous walnut veneered box, obviously a harbinger of the superb packaging of modern Panerai. In the top layer of the box sits the watch itself, a spare strap, an a model of the mini-sub used by the daring Incursore during the second world war. Presumably the officers who sent them were meant to be wearing a Mare Nostrum.
The watch itself is almost a classic Mare Nostrum, but with a plain bezel and the word "Slytech" at 6 o' clock. This one is sitting on the original shark skin strap, definitely the most comfortable Panerai strap I've worn, light and supple unlike a lot of shark straps. Come on Panerai, ship some more of these.
Under the top layer of the box is a large book in Italian about the mini-sub pilots. It's a shame I don't read Italian.
The back of the watch is numbered, and bears Mr. Stallone's signature.
Frankly, I'd like to see Panerai make the Mare Nostrum again, but with the release of a significant line of chronographs this year I can't see this happening. To wear it is a reassuringly heavy and chunky piece without being an enormous aggressive lump. If anything its place in the line has been usurped by a combination of the modern Luminor chronographs, and watches in the Radiomir case which seem to be Panerai's new dressy (or at least dressier) line.
Anything bearing the word "Slytech" is now highly collectable, and the whole Mare Nostrum line (since it is no longer produced) is now being hoovered up by collectors too. As ever it may prove that the runt of the line will end up as being one of the most collectable items simply by virtue of the rarity (c.f. the Milgauss).