Panerai L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation Of Time GMT: Lessons From The Pope
You know you are on to something big when the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope tell you that you’d better stop saying what you’ve been saying . . . or else!
This is, more or less, what happened to numerous scientists and free thinkers over the centuries while the church was the leader in pretty much all avenues of science. Being the wealthiest organization without being a country allowed the church to push research and education forward in areas of genetics, mathematics, astronomy, physics, biology, and a whole host of others. Many areas of science have been “fathered” by priests, clergy, and devout believers, and often the church was a staunch supporter of scientific research.
It was only when findings or concepts stood poised to question or outright contradict scripture and the position of the church that scientists were urged – or forced – to abandon certain lines of study. This meant that some avenues of science were simply put on hold until different times and political climates emerged. This is what happened to Galileo Galilei.
Galileo was a successful mathematician, astronomer, engineer, and physicist (among a host of other things) who had long held favor with the church. But when he started pushing the Copernican heliocentric view of the universe (funnily enough, based on some incorrect theories mingled with accurate ones), the Pope and the church tried to put a stop to his teachings.
Galileo was somewhat silenced for his remaining years, but the truth would not stay hidden and the punishment did nearly nothing to stop the change that was coming.
Galileo contributed to many areas of knowledge and is duly famous for his role in shaping modern science (and the scientific method).
So it should come as no surprise that there are those in the world of horology who hold the Italian polymath in high regard and seek to build things to honor such a significant historical figure.
One brand that has done a smashing job of this is Panerai, a great example being the brand-new L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT. The name may be long (and uncreative), but what constitutes the L’Astronomo on the inside is nothing short of awesome.
L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT (or PAM 920 for short) is both very similar and remarkably different to its predecessor. Looking at them it’s hard to tell that they share a lot of the same mechanics and layout but they both feature nearly the same complications, the main differences being the swap from sky map to moon phase on the rear and the addition of a GMT hand.
But saying it like that makes it seem like this is just another run-of-the-mill tweaked reissue, and it is anything but a simple reissue.
Following previously used aesthetic cues that Panerai is becoming known for, the entire movement has been skeletonized from front to back and blacked out to add contrast with some brushed steel wheels and the tourbillon.
The skeletonization is a new take on the previous look and actually serves the functions better because the indications become visually brighter, grabbing the eye. This version actually looks like it is as complicated as it is, while its predecessor felt a bit underserved. But it isn’t just about overall aesthetics, it’s about doing some things nobody has done before. For that, in comes the polarized date ring.
The dial has a square mesh separating the mechanics from the displays and instead of feeling cluttered, which can happen with this amount of detail, it acts as visual white noise to provide a barrier between the front and rear of the watch.
The mechanics are still clearly on display, but it almost feels as if that wasn’t the point of the skeletonization. The watch gives off a vibe that doesn’t easily fit a genre; the L’Astronomo is clearly a watch you get because you dig it in all its ways.
And there’s a patent (of course)
You can almost be sure with pieces like this that there is something unique enough that it’s been awarded a patent.
In this case it is the novel way Panerai decided to display the date yet keep the open feeling. With the extensive skeletonization the designers didn’t want to just cover it up with a date ring, so they realized this was an opportunity to try something new.
The date ring is now made from borosilicate glass (the same resilient glass found in Pyrex dishes and lab equipment) and is nearly 100 percent translucent. Areas where the numrals would be printed were optically modified using a laser, changing how light reflects through the glass.
When that modified area passes under a complimentary glass with a polarized pattern applied, the light doesn’t scatter or pass right through, but is reflected in such a way that the number becomes visible. The date ring can be visible when the light hits it just right, but only when it passes under that square of polarized borosilicate glass is the date visible.
As it leaves, the number disappears (thanks, physics) and the glass disk never hinders the view of the skeletonized movement.
The date is definitely the bigger draw outside of the extreme aesthetic packaging, but the moon phase is something brand new for Panerai – and judging by the result, it won’t be the last.
The sky chart is now an artistic representation for the night sky and uses dual disks to show the passage of the moon’s phases. The moon disk is made to resemble the actual moon and rotates around the indication once every 24 hours as a low-tech day/night indication.
Award for most necessary sequel goes to . . .
But when you combine this with the linear equation of time and the sunrise/sunset functions, L’Astronomo continues what began with the original version as a rather epic tribute to Galileo Galilei.
Any watch that focuses on the heavens and astronomical indications could be written off as inspired by many historical figures, but for the Italian brand Panerai it actually feels meaningful and legitimate.
L’Astronomo began in 2010 as a seriously cool timepiece that, sadly, sort of blended into the collection and lacked design features to help it stand apart. This new direction mitigates that and provides a solid model with a bunch of new ideas for Panerai.
Even if the design codes change over time, the polarized date display, the moon phase mechanism, and the rolling tourbillon make for a visually stunning watch that should sit proudly at the head of what Panerai is about.
I am the cool-mechanics guy, so it goes without saying that I will always prefer complicated watches over the “pure” Panerai pieces.
But I feel that unlike some watches from some brands, L’Astronomo (and Panerai as a whole) has worked very hard to maintain a tangible link between everything so that at no point does something feel out of place.
That is an accomplishment not only for designers, but for engineers, marketing, and the entire team. Given research that has been coming from the brand over the past few years, and the introductions and inventions being made, Panerai is surely not sitting still. It is positioning itself to stand out, but not just for a moment: this brand wants to stand out for a generation. Or two.
L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation Of Time GMT will be a part of that history.
Let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.2 If the moon phase, date display, or tourbillon doesn’t get ya, all the rest of the complications will.
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 98.7 » 967.916 m/s2 The amount of lust building up from staring at this watch is a little disconcerting, but I can’t take my eyes off of it!
- M.G.R. * 68.9 With eight extra mechanisms and the unique date display, this movement is off the hook!
- Added-Functionitis * Severe It was obvious from the get-go, only prescription-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream will save you from the historically inspired swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 11.4 The sudden knowledge that you may never be an Olympic gold medalist in pole vault! Never ran track and field, and I never even considered the pole vault. But one day you wake up and the existential realization washes over you and you just know that your best pole vaulting days are behind you. But it’s okay, because you have L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation Of Time GMT on your wrist . . . hopefully.
- Mermaid Moment * Tuesday! Sometimes it’s just a day of the week that makes you want to have an ice sculpture carved and displayed at the reception!
- Awesome Total * 859 Add the number of components in the movement (451) to the number of years since Galileo made his celestial observations (408) and you get a heretical awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.panerai.com/en/collections/special-editions/2018/l_astronomo-luminor-1950-tourbillon-moon-phases-equation-of-time_pam00920.
Quick Facts L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT
Case: 50 mm, brushed titanium
Movement: manual winding Caliber P.2005/GLS with one–minute tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; date, month indicators, second time zone, 24-hour indicator, sunset/sunrise indicator, equation of time, moon phase
Price: from $230,000
Also published on Medium.