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Off the charts

December 2019, Mike Horn culminates his two-year expedition linking the poles with the support of Panerai. We anticipate the celebration of this epic achievement 

Mike Horn operates on a 30-hour day. With five hours each for food and rest, he spends the remaining 20 merely walking to accomplish the last leg of his two-year expedition – a 2,500-kilometre trajectory across the frozen Arctic Ocean, before the polar winter settles. For those unfamiliar with the name, the South African is considered to be the world’s greatest explorer. Following the equator around the globe with no motorised transport has been his greatest achievement to date. And he is currently in the final stages of a Pole2Pole expedition that will see him complete a 270,000-kilometre journey in December 2019, if he is successful. The trek will link the South and North Poles through conquering mountain peaks and crossing oceans, using only kayaks, skis, 4x4s and his custom-built 109-foot aluminium boat, the Pangaea, designed to go anywhere. Sturdy and broad-shouldered, tanned and weather beaten, Horn’s physical stature perfectly embodies the description of an outdoorsman. Yet with several almost inconceivable feats to his name, Horn still believes that nothing could be greater than the magnificent planet we inhabit.

Driven by a keen passion for nature, the young Horn often found himself in remote corners of the globe, where few would dare to tread. It wasn’t too long before adventure would become a full-time job and the world would start to take notice of his extreme talents, including the venerable Italian watch maison, Panerai. At the turn of the 21st century, Horn became the first man ever to circumnavigate the globe at the equator with no motorised transport. The feat, which took 17 months, won him the 2001 Laureus World Alternative Sportsperson of the Year Award. At the awards ceremony, he met Johann Rupert, chairman and founder of Panerai’s parent company, the Richemont Group, who took off the Panerai timepiece he was wearing and presented it to Horn, promising the brand’s lifelong support to the explorer’s future adventures.

It was the beginning of a relationship that saw Horn take Panerai to the extremes of the planet. For each subsequent expedition, the brand made a bespoke watch to suit his specifications. In the years that followed, Horn adopted “No Limits” as a personal motto, a philosophy that saw the daredevil conquer new heights, quite literally. In 2006, he became the first man to embark on a 60-day adventure on skis from Russia to the North Pole in the dark Arctic winter, without the use of a dog sled. Among other firsts, Horn also became the first person to hydrospeed down the Colca Canyon in Peru, one of the deepest canyons in the world. 

Horn’s recent attempt to summit K2, the world’s second-highest mountain at 8,611 metres, although unsuccessful, was lauded as he had to turn back only 200 metres away from the peak due to bad weather. In 2008, with Panerai’s support, he pioneered the Young Explorers Program to raise awareness about the fragility of the planet. The four-year effort involved selecting an international team of explorers between the ages of 15 and 20 to accompany Horn on different stages of the Pangaea expedition, taking the group to some of the world’s most scenic places. More people have been to the moon than where Horn has gone. With every achievement, he has only proved that his strengths go far beyond his physical abilities – a rare trait that every Panerai ambassador has in common. Heroism runs in the DNA of the brand and Panerai’s association with men of valour can be traced back to the early 1900s, when under the leadership of founder Giovanni Panerai, the maison became the official supplier of technical and precision tools to the Royal Italian Navy. In preparation for World War II, Panerai created its first dive watch to be used exclusively by ocean-faring navy personnel during their underwater operations. It is this chapter in the brand’s history that continues to inspire its collaborations with modern heroes even today.

No matter where his adventures have led, a Panerai timepiece has served as Horn’s most reliable companion. He even credits one of his Panerai watches for saving his life during a 2010 attempt to summit Broad Peak on the Pakistan-China border in 2010 when he found himself stuck without pitons (climbing spikes) and oxygen at an altitude of 8,000 metres. Quick thinking led him to use the solid steel dial of his Panerai timepiece as an anchor to abseil down the mountain. He wedged the watch into a crack in the rock and tied a rope around it, descending smoothly, although it meant leaving the watch behind. 

With his technical requirements considerably different from the brand’s regular consumers, Horn has worked closely with Panerai to develop custom models to suit his specifications. Prior to undertaking the Pole2Pole expedition, the brand created the PAM00719 Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days GMT Pole2Pole. The watch was specifically made out of a single block of metal to ensure that the entire timepiece compresses at the same level to avoid breaking at extreme temperatures. Also, normal watchmaking oils couldn’t be used as they would freeze. The watch also had to be an accurate timekeeper and compass because standard compasses do not work at the poles. Earlier this year, Panerai announced its latest collaboration with Horn, launching two new timepieces – the Panerai Submersible Mike Horn Edition PAM 984 and the Submersible Mike Horn Edition PAM 985. The latter is a limited edition piece that comes with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – intensive training with Horn among the ice floes of the Arctic. The experience will give participants the chance to get up close to the extremities of nature while also becoming aware of the dangers to our ecosystem caused by human impact – a cause close to his heart.

As Horn tackles the last leg of his Pole2Pole adventure this month and readies to head home, it won’t be long before he begins plans for the next expedition. You’d be forgiven for thinking that crash landing while paragliding over Machu Pichu, losing fingertips to frostbite, or nearly being shot by a death squad in the Democratic Republic of Congo would deter even the dauntless, but not Horn. He has vowed to tread on until he can’t climb, dive, ski, sled or trek anymore. But these narrow escapes are not taken for granted. Instead, Horn considers himself having had a full life and found the sense of being complete. He believes that as long as he’s alive, it’s a sign to keep his adventures ticking on. 

Panerai Submersible Mike Horn Edition PAM 984 – 47mm

Inspired by Mike Horn’s worthy cause to protect the planet, care has been taken to avoid the use of natural resources in the creation of this timepiece. The 47mm case is made of EcoTitanium™, a recycled material first introduced to the world of watchmaking by Panerai. Water-resistant to a depth of 300 metres, it features a unidirectional rotating bezel, which enables the duration of each dive to be precisely calculated. Legibility in the dark is guaranteed by the use of generous quantities of green Super-LumiNova® on the index markers and the large skeleton hands, which stand out strongly against the black dial. The caseback is engraved with Horn’s signature and creatures that inhabit the oceans, a nod to Horn’s playground. 

Panerai Submersible Mike Horn Edition PAM 985 – 47mm

This professional diver’s watch is a limited edition model available in only 19 pieces around the world. What makes this timepiece unique from the PAM 984 is the blue strap, which is crafted from a special material obtained from recycled PET. The luminous substance used on the dial and the rotating bezel is also blue in colour, celebrating Horn’s love of the ocean. The fortunate few who acquire this timepiece will enjoy the chance to train under Horn for a few days among the ice floes of the Arctic. 

Discover the models at Panerai stores in The Dubai Mall 04 3398444 or The Galleria on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi 02 4919748.  

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