Panerai’s innovative Submersible Elux LAB-ID features mechanical luminescence – without using a dynamo

Panerai’s innovative Submersible Elux LAB-ID features mechanical luminescence – without using a dynamo

Jamie Weiss
  • The latest creation of Panerai’s Laboratorio di Idee, the Submersible Elux LAB-ID features mechanical luminescence, activated by a pusher at the 8:30 position.
  • Rather than utilising a dynamo, like previous mechanical backlights, it uses a complex six-barrel system that’s wound by a typical automatic rotor.
  • Despite its complexity, it boasts a 500m water-resistance rating.

The problem of luminescence in watches – particularly dive watches – has been tackled in multiple ways over the years. The first luminescent watches used radioactive pigments containing radium (including Panerai’s original innovation, Radiomir), with radium being phased out in favour of the less-harmful tritium. These days, phosphorescent pigments have all but replaced radioactive pigments, with¬†strontium aluminate-based pigments like Super-LumiNova profuse in the industry.

Quartz watches tackle this problem by using LED backlights, which can be activated with a simple button press and work even in ambient lighting conditions. Panerai has taken this concept and applied it to a mechanical timepiece, the Submersible Elux LAB-ID, which is capable of on-demand lighting powered by fully mechanical energy storage with no active electronics – an impressive feat.

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB ID underwater

The name Elux actually refers to another defunct and obscure Panerai technology. Panerai’s Elux offerings were originally electroluminescent panels powered by either small chemical batteries or fixed AC supply, intended for use in naval and military applications. Panerai Elux products also included lamps, signals, inclinometers and instrument panels. It’s cool to see the Elux name return on a watch.

panerai elux
L-R: a Panerai Elux torch pictured alongside the Submersible Elux LAB-ID, and a Panerai Elux inclinometer, intended to be used in tanks.

This Panerai isn’t the first watch with a mechanical light or luminescence. For instance, the De Bethune DB28GS Grand Bleu from 2019 also has a mechanical light, which uses a dynamo (in conjunction with energy from its mechanical power reserve) to illuminate its minute track when a pusher at six is activated, like an old pushbike lamp. However, the Submersible Elux LAB-ID differs from that De Bethune in that it doesn’t use a dynamo at all. Instead, its Calibre P.9010/EL features six barrels – four for the light, two for timekeeping – charged by the winding of its automatic rotor.

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB ID dial

Upon activation via a pusher at the 8:30 position, those four barrels unwind in an 8 x 2.3 mm microgenerator, which then powers LEDs on the watch’s indices, hands, bezel and light power reserve indicator. This is another key innovation the Submersible Elux LAB-ID brings to the table: it’s capable of mechanically illuminating moving parts. Specifically, it’s capable of providing continuous light for up to 30 minutes, which is exceptionally impressive. The two barrels dedicated to timekeeping mean that the watch can run for three days when fully charged, even if the power light energy is depleted.

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB ID power reserve

All those barrels mean the Panerai Submersible Elux LAB-ID is not a small watch, measuring up at a beefy 49mm – but Panerai isn’t known for making svelte little timepieces. However, it features a case made from Ti-Ceramitech, a proprietary ceramised titanium with a strikingly azure appearance that’s 44% lighter than steel yet has a fracture toughness 10 times higher than traditional ceramic. It’s a futuristic-looking timepiece, with the blue of its case and bezel contrasted by a dark green dial and its almost neon-green luminescence.

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB ID light off

The watch isn’t completely illuminated mechanically, however – at least technically. Its indices and hour hand are accented with green Super-LumiNova X2, while its minute hands and bezel are illuminated by blue Super-LumiNova X1. However, these are indeed just accents, with the watch’s primary luminescence generated mechanically. They don’t detract from the fact that this watch is extremely innovative and extremely cool. I mean, it’s got a mechanical backlight – how awesome is that?

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB-ID pricing & availability

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB ID box

The Panerai Submersible Elux LAB-ID is a limited edition of 150 pieces, with an availability of 50 pieces per year over three years. Price: US$97,400.

Brand Panerai
Model Submersible Elux LAB-ID
Reference Number PAM01800
Case Dimensions 49mm (D)
Case Material Blue Ti-Ceramitech ceramised titanium
Water Resistance 500m
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Matte green
Lug Width 26mm
Strap Blue rubber strap, titanium pin buckle
Movement Calibre P.9010/EL, in-house, automatic
Power Reserve 72 hours for time function, 30 minutes for light
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, unidirectional diving bezel, mechanical luminescence
Availability Limited edition of 150 pieces, availability of 50 pieces per year over three years
Price US$97,400