Today I would like to introduce a very special Pre Vendôme Panerai specifically made for action star Sylvester Stallone in the late 1995. As many of you may know, a great deal of Panerai’s popularity is a direct result of Stallone’s promotion of Panerai watches in Hollywood circles. It is said, Stallone accidentally stumbled upon Panerai watches when strolling around Florence – or Rome – depending on who is telling the story. As we have learned over and over again, the stories put forth by the brand do not always reflect reality.
The watch in question is a Luminor Submersible Sly Tech belonging the first series of twelve specimen rushingly assembled to be featured in the action movie Daylight. Since time was pressing, the Swiss company that produced the watches for Panerai at the time just changed the dials on twelve unsold Luminor Logos.
Panerai Luminor Submersible Sly Tech – 5218-201/A – No. 0885
Here it is, one of only twelve prototypes made. What’s so special about it? It looks like a regular Pre Vendôme Submersible. Yes, but once we dive deeper into the history of this watch you will understand the importance of this piece.
When this watch came up for sale, my friend Bebbe sent me pictures and I must admit, the watch was a riddle at first. After reading about the twelve prototypes in the amazing book Panerai – Una Storia Italiana by Loris Pasetto & Luciano Cipullo, Bebbe and I were absolutely thrilled to have come across such a rare piece. Bebbe ultimatelly pulled the trigger on it and is now the proud owner. Congratulations!
The inception of this watch begins in late 1994 when a flamboyant and well-connected Montenegrin photographer and socialite named Monthy Shadow – aka Cedo Komljenović – approached Officine Panerai SpA at their premises in Florence and offered a plan to promote Panerai watches with top tier celebrities.
Mr. Shadow had a keen eye for exceptional things in the luxury sector. He was a longtime friend of Johann Rupert, the owner of the Vendôme Luxury Group – a subsidiary of the Compagnie Financiére Richemont – that owned luxury brands like Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Mont Blanc and Alfred Dunhill.
At the time, Panerai was in bad financial shape as a result of drastic cuts in military spending following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1993, Panerai had recreated the old watches in the hope of establishing a second revenue channel beside the projects for the Italian Navy. Dino Zei, the director of Officine Panerai SpA, was reluctant of the idea to advertise the glorious watches with celebrities but after some consideration, Monty Shadow’s initiative seemed like the last chance to keep the highly indebted company afloat.
To show appreciation for the idea, Panerai gave Monty Shadow a number of watches for promotional purposes. This is when Panerai watches started appearing on Sylvester Stallone’s wrist as in the picture below from December 17, 1994, taken during the opening party of the Planet Hollywood restaurant at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Sylvester Stallone was wearing a Luminor Logo on the typical shark leather strap.
The story put forth by Richemont Panerai is that Stallone found Panerai while he was shooting the movie Daylight in Italy. Check the date. The above picture was taken almost a whole year before the cameras started rolling.
The next picture from June 1995 shows Stallone with Jennifer Flavin, with whom he had an on-off relationship before marrying her in 1997. The watch on Stallone’s wrist is a Luminor Marina 5218-203/A with PVD coated case, which according to former Officine Panerai employees had number 0007.
Monty Shadow met with Panerai a few more times and somewhere along the line, Mr. Shadow proposed a new line of watches for his friend Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone and Monty Shadow were often together as seen in the picture below which was taken in Paris during a promotion tour for the movie Assassins on October 11, 1995. The gentleman on the far right with the mustache is Monty Shadow.
Mr. Shadow soon provided Stallone’s signature to be featured prominently on the casebacks and set up a meeting between Panerai and Stallone in early September 1995. At the time, Stallone was at the Cinecittà Film Studios in Rome shooting the action movie Daylight. He confirmed his friendship with Monty Shadow and expressed enthusiasm for the project. It was verbally agreed to develop two new references with the name Sly Tech on the dial and to feature them prominently in the movie Daylight. Sly is Stallone’s nickname.
The Daylight (5218-207/A) pictured below on the left was meant for the entry sequence while the Submersible (5218-205/A) was intended for underwater action scenes.
Technical drawings of both references sent to Stallone’s entourage were quickly approved with the request for prompt delivery of a number of Submersible prototypes for the movie. In mid September 1995, Panerai sent twelve unsold Luminor Logos (5218-201/A) to Guenat SA Montres Valgines – the Swiss company which produced the Pre Vendôme watches from 1993 to 1996 – to be modified into Luminor Submersible Sly Techs.
According to the highly informative Pre Vendôme volume of Panerai – Una Storia Italiana – which is based on hundreds of original Panerai documents and interviews with former employees – the twelve modified Luminor Logos had the following case numbers: 0872, 0873, 0875, 0876, 0880, 0881, 0882, 0883, 0884, 0885, 0886 and 0887. All twelve pieces were part of the last 5218-201/A batch and featured a movement with slightly different engravings.
To make sure Sylvester Stallone received the Submersibles speedily, Guenat replaced only the dials. For this reason, all above listed watches retained the original 5218-201/A caseback.
The Submersible with case number 0885 is one of the twelve prototypes. This in itself is already super fascinating but it gets better – much better. We will get to that in a minute.
According to the IMDb.com database, the filming of Daylight took place between September 25, 1995 and February 28, 1996. On October 3, 1995, Stallone gave a press conference at the Cinecittà Film Studios in Rome wearing his Luminor Logo on the shark leather strap.
The twelve Submersible prototypes arrived to Florence in late October 1995 and were immediately forwarded to Monty Shadow with the exception of one example that remained with Panerai.
It is unknown what happened after this but none of them were featured in the movie. Stallone continued to wear the Luminor Logo during the filming.
The watch was prominently featured in several scenes of the action movie.
Here is another important scene in which the watch was in the spot light.
It appears the Submersible prototypes were quickly approved cause in late October 1995, Panerai sent another 200 unsold pieces of the Luminor Logo 5218-201/A back to Guenat to be transformed into 100 Submersibles and 100 Daylights.
120 of the 200 pieces, including the twelve pieces used to create the first Submersible prototypes, belonged to the last batch of Luminor Logos delivered in July 1994 which featured a Guenat Cal. 3126 Type 1b (Unitas 6497) with slightly different engravings.
As expected, the movement of the Submersible prototype with case number 0885 is a Guenat Cal. 3126 Type 1b.
The Submersible prototype with case number 0882 presented in Panerai – Una Storia Italiana has the exact same movement.
Ref. 5218-207/A arrived to Florence in December 1995. For some reason, Guenat produced 105 pieces instead of the planned 100. 10 watches were subsequently sent to Monty Shadow and another 31 pieces to Stallone’s staff.
There seems to have been a misunderstanding regarding the dial design cause as soon as Sylvester Stallone saw the Daylight with its blue markers and blue hands in the flesh, he immediately rejected the design and ordered the watches to be sent back to Panerai.
37 of the 41 watches were returned to Panerai. Four of the ten pieces sent to Monty Shadow went missing.
Important note: None of the four missing Daylights that retained the initial blue dial have ever surfaced. All Daylights with blue dial known to the market today are counterfeits made by Luciano Rinaldi and his son Samuele around the year 2000. The watch pictured above has case number 007/200 and is one of many Rinaldi fakes. These were assembled with illegally obtained parts. To save costs, all Panerai watches produced after September 1996 until March 1997 were made by the Italian company Coro Slr in Florence. When Coro went bankrupt in the early 2000s, the Rinaldis scavenged all Panerai left-overs, mostly cases with a slightly different shape than the Guenat cases. They combined these cases with early dials and fake movements, creating dozens of completely mixed-up Franken watches.
The Dial and hands of the Daylight were redesigned and after approval, all 101 pieces were modified and delivered to Florence on May 27, 1996.
There are contradicting statements as to what happened to the initial dials with the blue markers. Some say Guenat reprinted them with the new design. If this was the case, where did the original blue dials come from that were used to make the fakes? The answer is simple, there was an insider collaborating with the fakers.
Since four pieces had gone missing, it was decided to redo all case numbers of Daylight. For this reason the Daylight (left) has a recessed rectangle underneath the reference number where the new numbers were applied. The four missing pieces had the following numbers 032, 033, 034 and 035.
The ordered 95 pieces of the Submersible were delivered to Florence around the same time as the final version of the Daylight. It is interesting to note that the Daylight had a depth rating of only 15 atm (150 m) whereas the Submersible was waterproof to 30 atm (300 m). The reason for this could be due to the reduced caseback thickness. The casebacks of the Daylights were shaved-down and reengraved 5218-201/A backs while for the Submersible, Guenat produced completely new back covers.
In late 1996, Officine Panerai also created 100 Mare Nostrum Slytech chronographs, 50 examples of Ref. 5218-302 and 50 pieces of Ref. 5218-304. Both references were made with unsold 5218-301/A watches.
Sylvester Stallone never signed the agreement sent to him by Officine Panerai. Without written permission to use Stallone’s name and to avoid damage claims, Panerai held the watches back for several months, thus not offering them to the public. A reminder sent to Stallone remained answered.
Officine Panerai’s escapade with Stallone cost the deeply indebted company a lot of money, bringing it to the brink of bankruptcy. Since there was at least a verbal agreement in place, Panerai dared to offer the Sly Tech watches to the public in late 1996.
To promote the Sly Techs, Panerai created a special brochure which featured the following picture from the movie Daylight where the Luminor Logo on Sylvester Stallone’s wrist was digitally replaced with a Submersible.
The brochure stated:
“Nel 1995 l’attore Sylvetser Stallone scopre casualmente gli orologi Panerai e ne diviene grande estimatore. Ne acquista alcuni, chiede alla Panerai l’allestimento, in pochi esemplari, di un particoloare orologio da impiego nelle riprese subacquee del film Daylight girato a Cinecittà e suggerisce che tale modello sia chiamato LUMINOR SUBMERSIBLE.”
Translation: In 1995, the actor Sylvester Stallone accidentally discovered Panerai watches and became a great admirer. He bought a few and asked Panerai to assemble a specific watch, in a few copies only, to be used in the underwater filming of the movie Daylight shot at Cinecittà, and suggested the name LUMINOR SUBMERSIBLE for this model.
The same brochure stated the Luminor was a reedition of the watches worn by Italian divers during WW2 and that the Mare Norstrum prototype was made in 1943. These statements, including the story of how Stallone found Panerai by accident are obviously not true and give you an idea where many of the false stories originate from. Stallone did not discover Panerai himself and as a matter of fact, he never bought a single watch. All watches were given to him.
According to unverified information found on the internet, Stallone had the above Sly Tech brochure quickly taken off the market since he never gave permission for it.
The popular believe is that Panerai watches became famous thanks to Stallone – which is certainly true to some extent. But at the same time, Stallone’s careless behaviour also contributed to Panerai’s rapid financial decline. Truth of the matter is, the original Officine Panerai SpA did not profit from this cooperation.
Sylvester Stallone received at least 68 watches from Officine Panerai. He never felt the need to pay for them. The following is a list of the watches he received:
- 6 pc Luminor Logo (5218-201/A)
- 1 pc Luminor Logo gold-plated (5218-201/A)
- 11 pc Submersible first series (5218-205/A)
- 3 pc Submersible regular series (5218-205/A)
- 32 pc Daylight (5218-207/A, incl. 001)
- 4 pc Daylight sent directly to Monty Shadow (098 – 101)
- 4 pc Blue Daylight (032 – 035, went lost)
- 4 pc Mare Nostrum (5218-301/A)
- 2 pc Marina Militare (5218-202/A)
- 1 pc Luminor Marina (5218-203/A)
During the opening party of the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Berlin which took place in late September 1996, Stallone gifted his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger a unique gold-plated Luminor Logo specifically made for Stallone by Panerai distributor Giancarlo Dallerba.
It appears the boxes were mixed-up as the booklet says Luminor Daylight but the gold-plated watch was a Luminor Logo instead.
Schwarzenegger liked the watch so much, he immediately strapped it on.
The original booklet of the gold-plated Luminor Logo surfaced many years later on its own at an antique dealer in New York where one of Stallone’s ex-lovers had unloaded some of the actor’s watches.
Important note: The original gold-plated Luminor Logo 5218-201/A has not surfaced until today. A counterfeit made by Luciano Rinaldi and his son Samuele was offered at Antiquorum in November 2017 and sold for CHF 18,750.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Movie Eraser
It is interesting to note that Arnold Schwarzenegger wore a Luminor Marina 5218-203/A in Eraser, a motion picture that was released in June 1996. That was six months before Stallone’s Daylight was released in December 1996.
In Eraser, the Luminor Marina 5218-203/A was featured in a super close-up right at the beginning of the movie. Accompanied by the ticking sound of the movement, the sequence shows hands in gloves setting the time and closing the crown guard lever. Basically, Schwarzenegger wore a Panerai on the big screen months before Stallone.
According to the IMDb.com database, the filming of Eraser started on September 13, 1995. The shooting of Daylight began twelve days later on September 25, 1995. It is very much possible that this watch was number 0007 given to Stallone.
After Sylvester Stallone started giving away his watches in Hollywood, Vendôme (Richemont) became aware of the brand and soon expressed interest in taking over Officine Panerai, at least that is the official story. The true story is slightly different. Monty Shadow was a long time friend of Johann Rupert, the owner of Vendôme/Richemont. According to his own words, Mr. Shadow was working for Vendôme at the time. In an interview from April 19, 2005 with the Croatian weekly news magazine Nacional, Monty Shadow was very specific:
“My friend, South African magnate Anthony Rupert and his son Johann Rupert, whom I once vacationed with, told me they wanted me to work for them. I said I couldn’t because we had been friends for twenty years, but then Rupert told me: ‘You will be our ‘Truffle Man’. A truffle is the most expensive mushroom in the world, which can only be found by special dogs. You will travel the world for us and look for exceptional things, products that have an image, quality, tradition and history. Our company Vendôme, one of the most famous in the world, needs someone like you.’ “
“Question Nacional: Some brands became very popular and profitable because of you, which are those?
An unprecedented success was achieved with the Italian Panerai watch. The company which a decade ago was worth few million US Dollars, is worth more than 500 million US Dollars today, and is now part of the Richemont Group. The watch has a long history. It was originally a dive watch used by the Italian Navy during World War 1. The Italians produced torpedoes, called Pigs, which were attached by special diving units to enemy ships. The Panerai watch showed divers how long they could stay underwater. I learned all this when I wrote an article about Panerai for a Japanese newspaper.
I liked the watch because it was simple, clean and I wore it all the time. When I went to Hollywood, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were amazed by the watch. Stallone wore it in one of his movies, and a limited edition production called Slytech was produced. Stallone gifted many watches to his friends and that’s how the word got around. The watch created a trend for large steel watches, which is at its peak today, and all major companies got on the bandwagon. But the real boom began when I gifted a Panerai to Johann Rupert. The next day he asked me if I could buy him that watch. I told him that there were none left, that I gave him the last one. Then he said : ‘I mean company, not the watch. I want you to take action now.’ I called my associate and 48 hours later we bought Panerai.”
The Japanese article mentioned by Mr. Shadow was published in 1992. It was originally written by French photographer Stephan Ciejka. Monty Shadow is not mentioned in the credits.
In March 1997, Panerai sold their name Officine Panerai and some remaining watch stock to Vendôme (Richemont) in order to survive. Included in the unsold watch lot were also 38 Submersibles and 4 Daylights. The low selling price of around 1 million USD was just enough to pay some of Panerai’s debt. Subsequently, the Florentine company changed its name to Panerai Sistemi and carried on with their projects for the Italian Navy. Only two years later in 1999, Panerai Sistemi was taken over by Calzoni Srl in Bologna.
It was Richemont that ultimatelly profited from Stallone’s promotion of Panerai watches. With the PAM 21, their first Special Edition from 1998, the new Richemont Panerai made more money than what they had paid to acquire Officine Panerai.
“So, again, when this watch landed in the shops, it sold out. And the amount of money we made was more than the amount we paid for the acquisition of Panerai. In one shot, we paid for the acquisition of Panerai with one watch, 60 pieces.”
Provenance of 0885
Coming back to the Submersible with case number 0885, as implied earlier, the watch is not only super rare, it also comes with an incredible provenance.
Sylvester Stallone has always been a big Mercedes-AMG fan. Since the late 1980s he owned a variety of modified Mercedes models from the famous Mercedes tuner located in Affalterbach, Germany. One of his first AMGs was the model pictured below, a Mercedes-AMG 560 SEC Wide Body with 6.0 liter V8 engine and 385 horsepower.
The next picture shows Stallone in a Mercedes SL 65 AMG Black Series from 2008 powered by a twin-turbo charged V12 with 670 horsepower. Only 350 pieces were built.
Stallone owns all kinds of AMG vehicles. This is his Mercedes-AMG E 63.
Most people have probably seen him driving a Mercedes-AMG G-Class.
In the late 1990s, Stallone gifted the Submersible prototype with case number 0885 personally to a Mercedes-AMG executive when he flew over to Germany to take his new car for a high speed ride on the German Autobahn before shipping it to the US. Which car in particular is a subject of ongoing investigation.
The Mercedes-AMG executive sent the watch at least twice to Panerai in München, Germany for service. Both receipts are part of the set. The twelve prototypes were delivered without box and papers. The box that is included in this set was added by Stallone.
The following picture is the only known image of Sylvester Stallone wearing one of his Luminor Submersibles.
The Pre Vendôme era may not have a military history like the vintage watches but the events that led to the reedition of Panerai watches in 1993 were of similar magnitude as World War 2. The collapse of the Soviet Union changed the world forever and was directly responsible for the birth of modern Panerai watches.
Monty Shadow was one of the first people outside Italy to recognize the potential of the brand. He instinctively understood that modern action genre icons like Stallone and Schwarzenegger would be the perfect vehicle to spread the word about the military-inspired watches.
Officine Panerai SpA tried very hard to survive but as a small company without a worldwide distribution network it was almost impossible to be successful. Looking back, the whole Stallone thing seems rather strange, an initiative without clear concept and commitments. On the other hand it resulted in absolutely amazing watches like the Submersible prototype with case number 0885.
With Panerai, Richemont acquired a true pearl and at the same time a pig in a poke as many of the stories puth forth by the original company were pure marketing fiction.
Thank you for your interest.
Special thanks to: Bebbe, Loris & Luciano, Jake of Rolexmagazine.com, Marko Cukman
The Panerai Time Machine
The Pre Vendôme era are an important milestone in the history of Panerai and a link between the famous vintage watches and modern time Panerais. Please click the graphic to download the highres version.
This timeline is available as a high quality print in two sizes:
- 120 x 68 cm (47 x 26 inch): EUR 85.00 (plus shipping)
- 150 x 85 cm (59 x 33 inch): EUR 120.00 (plus shipping)
Printed with HD Inkjet on heavy synthetic paper and laminated.
Limited edition: 50 pieces, numbered and signed by Maria Teresa Panerai in Giuseppe Panerai’s very own laboratory at the historical site of the Villino Panerai (Panerai Villa) in Florence: Sold out
More information: The history of Panerai watches at a glance