With original letter dated 16 May 2014 signed by Alessandro Bettarini, former chief of Officine Panerai's mechanical engineering department and drawing room, confirming that the present wristwatch in titanium, examined by him, is part of a small series of eight experimental prototypes, four in titanium and four in bronze. The watches were completed in the laboratories of Officine Panerai, made for the development of timepieces for the Diver Corps of the Italian Navy. The dial of the present watch is composed of a metal disk with pins for the movement and a Plexiglas disk painted, engraved and filled with phosphors, according to a process in use at Officine Panerai for many years. The project was launched in 1985, the last prototype was made in 1988.
Furthermore offered for sale with three framed limited edition prints of Mr. Bettarini's original drawings dated 1983 and 1984 for the prototype in titanium, such as the present watch. Made in a limited edition of 20 examples only, the prints are numbered 1/20, signed by him personally and bearing his stamp "Certified Bettarini Original Firenze".
The watch is moreover delivered with a copy of Alessandro Bettarini's "Documento di Manutenzione" or Service Document (for confidentiality reasons the original bearing the name of the client will remain in our files) dated 16 May 2014 and signed by him confirming the inspection and cleaning of the present watch. During this servicing, Mr. Bettarini hand-engraved his signature to the inside of the case back, shown on the detail image.
The present prototype of a Panerai One Thousand Meter watch in titanium is an extremely appealing example of this super rare species. In fact it is believed to be the only example of a Panerai prototype fitted with the final bezel version featuring the triangle and luminous dot to appear in public to date, particularly outstanding by its superb "tropical" dial: designed by Panerai's celebrated engineer Alessandro Bettarini and used by the latter as desk clock on his windowsill for many years, the originally black colour has changed to an extremely charismatic, uniform dark chocolate tone, rendering it a very unique look. Its case is in close to new condition, impressing with its substantial design.
Following the success of wristwatches made for the Italian Military from the 1930s to the 1950s, Officine Panerai was commissioned with the development of a new diving watch specifically for the Italian Navy. The watch had to be antimagnetic, waterproof to great depths and easy to read and two initial prototype designs were launched under the supervision of Alessandro Bettarini. Both versions were fitted with an ETA automatic movement, black dials with luminous 3, 6, 9 and 12 numerals and luminous baton hands. The dial was changed several times, two of the titanium versions, including the present one, featuring printed metal and Plexiglas dials, the final version using a thicker Plexiglas dial fitted with inset luminous Traser glow tubes replacing the baton markers, similarly the hands were fitted with glow tubes. Initial prototypes used Plexiglas crystals, replaced by a thick sapphire crystal in later editions. The titanium case featured canted fixed lugs, the bronze version a large circular case with movable lug, both with plain rotating bezels.
The final version was presented to the Italian Navy and although it successfully passed the rigorous tests, no orders were placed. The experiment however opened up the watch for the re-launch of the Officine Panerai brand had been established.
The final version of the titanium prototype is today in the Panerai Museum.