Professional explorer Mike Horn is on a two-year mission to circumnavigate theÂ globe and heâ€™s depending his life on Paneraiâ€™s tool watches to do the job, writes Katherine Arteche.
Standing on the deck of a 35-meter sailboat, itâ€™s hard toÂ imagine that aÂ wooden vessel of this size flaunted its sails across all the worldâ€™s oceans. Named Pangaea, itÂ is interpreted in geology to mean aÂ â€œsupercontinentâ€, which comprises allÂ seven continents joined together. With its linear whitewashed body branded with theÂ words â€œMercedes-Benzâ€, the boat belongs to professional explorer Mike Horn who has traversed storms and tropical climates, andÂ evenÂ brokenÂ through Arctic ice withÂ it. He set off from Monaco inÂ May 2016 to embark onÂ a two-year adventure, Pole2Pole, where heÂ circumnavigates theÂ NorthÂ andÂ SouthÂ Poles.
Mike Hornâ€™s large stature stands easily at six feet tall, his tanned skin dusted with freckles and a bed of hair tucked underneath a baseball cap. Despite his wild encounters against the birds and the beasts in unkind terrains, his body displayed mild scars. He gestured toward a long laceration along his forearm, the result of a self-inflicted wound in order to quickly drain the venom after being ambushed by a poisonous snake in the rainforest. HeÂ has amputated part ofÂ his forefinger in a frostbite episode, repaired hisÂ chipped teeth using super glue, andÂ drilled holes in his toe to restart the blood circulation in his body. His methods, though unorthodox to the average person, relied on his intuition and decisiveness to get him to the next step of his adventure. â€œIÂ donâ€™t do this to die. I do this so that I can survive,â€ said Mike. And if his life depended onÂ nothing else but a Swiss-made luxury Italian watch, he would utilize the metal wristwatch to the best of its abilities. And that includes using it as an anchor for his body weight. â€œIÂ wasÂ climbing Broad Peak back in 2010 andÂ IÂ ranÂ outÂ ofÂ pitons to get me down the mountain. The only thing on me that was reliable was the Luminor 1950 Pangaea Depth Gauge. I unstrapped it from my wrist, thrusted the watch into the rock face and looped my rope through it toÂ serve as an anchor as I made my way down. Unfortunately I had to leave it there, butÂ I wouldnâ€™t beÂ here without itÂ ifÂ notÂ for the strong metal in the case â€” thatÂ was the onlyÂ thing I trusted.â€
The last thing Panerai expected Horn would do with their watch was toÂ leave it wedged into an ambiguous corner of an Asian mountain; yet, lest we forget, the sense of adventure is not foreign to theÂ brand. Case in point, ifÂ it werenâ€™t for the use of the Royal Italian Navy, the Luminor would not have become the paragon of strength that it is, this in reference to its cushion-shaped case, larger-than-life dial, andÂ the solid lever crown guard making a watch that is able to withstand even the roughest conditions. Deviations in design throughout the years are subtle, yet the only constant is the continuous research that takes place within the doors of the Florentine workshop. The Italian manufacture focused on building robust, legible and reliable watches, which is to say, suited for exploration. And 51-year-old Mike Horn can attest to that. The bespoke watches Panerai manufactured for him were made for specific missions and the unruly terrain he would face. For instance, the PAM92 Luminor Arktos for his 27-month expedition in the North Pole in 2006, and the Luminor 1950 Pangaea Depth Gauge for the environmental Pangaea mission in 2008, both of which were issued under Paneraiâ€™s special-edition collection in quantities of 500 units each. Horn is Paneraiâ€™s strongest ambassador for their tool watches simply because Iâ€™ve never met anyone else who depended on their watch in life-or-death situations as much he does.
THE POLE2POLE WATCH
Hence, in adopting the same adventurous spirit, Panerai commissioned the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days GMT Automatic Titanio for the extreme Pole2Pole expedition. The bulky titanium case houses theÂ newÂ P.9001 automatic movement which contains double spring barrels to provide a power reserve of 72 hours. The 47mm blue-hued dial is a canvas for main hours and minutes, a GMT hand indicating a second timezone, small seconds at nineÂ oâ€™clock and a dateÂ window at three oâ€™clock. With water-resistance at a depth of 300Â meters, the thick bezel allows forÂ unidirectional rotation to calculate the immersion time. Besides the Super-LumiNova coating on the hour markers, yellow accents include the words â€œPOLEÂ 2 POLEâ€ to indicate the 500-piece edition, including an engraving of a polar bear and a penguin on the caseback. WhenÂ he finally reached his destination inÂ the South Pole, Officine Panerai wasÂ recorded as the first watch to travel the uninhabited continent. WithÂ snow crusted around its edges, theÂ blue dial was ticking perfectlyÂ away.
When we caught up with Horn, heÂ still had the remaining leg ofÂ India, Kamchatka, the North Pole and Greenland, before he concluded his grand adventure back in Monaco. â€œBeing out here is like in outer space â€” thereâ€™s no life,â€ he said of the South Pole. â€œMindÂ you, these things IÂ admit are extremely difficult. But the will toÂ winÂ isÂ much stronger than the fearÂ toÂ lose.â€