Panerai's New Watch Is Worth Holding Your Breath For

A dive watch with serious chops.

“I get this extraordinary feeling of wellbeing, I feel great without the need to breathe,” says Guillaume Néry. “I feel great like a tiny dot, a little drop of water floating in the middle of the ocean.” To complete this mind-balming vista, Néry likes to imagine the Pale Blue Dot, the photograph of the Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe in 1990 from six billion kilometers away.

To be clear, Guillaume Néry does not relax in the same way you or I do. He is a French free diving champion, specializing in deep diving, and a multiple world record holder. In 2002, he became the youngest ever free dive record holder, diving to a depth of 87m below the surface of the ocean using his fins alone – no tanks, no respirator, just him and his lung capacity. Thirteen years later he managed 139m. Due to an error in the event organizer’s calculations, that was 10m more than anyone was expecting, which was why he lost consciousness as he neared the surface, rendering the attempt invalid – and bringing his competitive career to an end. Still: 139m. That’s the same as a 42-storey building.

Today, he limits his dives to 125m. To do this, he holds his breath for over seven minutes.

“I know most people would call it ‘extreme’ but we have such a high level of safety, we can control a lot,” he told Esquire’s sibling watch magazine The Big Watch Book on a freediving trip in the Mediterranean in 2018. “But we need to accept that you cannot control everything. It’s like a sailor crossing the Atlantic. The boats are full of technology and you can predict the weather but still, you’re in the wild – and that’s the same thing for me.”


Photo by PANERAI.

Nowadays Néry is as likely to be found giving inspirational Ted talks, appearing in Naughty Boy and Beyoncé videos or acting in his capacity as a brand ambassador for Panerai, the Italian brand known for its high-end dive watches, who once supplied the Italian Navy’s diving corps, as he is in the water.

Today Panerai announces a new watch in Néry’s name: the Luminor Marina 44m Guillaume Néry Edition, water resistant to depths of 300m.

This time the company’s trademark “cushion” case comes in sandblasted titanium with a black dégradé dial. Produced in a limited run of 70, it nods to the 70th anniversary of the Luminor last year – named for the self-luminous material that gives its dive watches their intense glow in the depths. It also comes with Panerai’s new 70-year warranty.

At depths of 125m, it is dark and cold, you can’t breathe and your body is predisposed to fight against the intense pressure.

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Photo by PANERAI.

“I let the water crush me,” Néry says. “I accept the pressure and go with it. At this point, my body receives this information and my lungs start relaxing. I relinquish all control and relax completely.”

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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