I do confess a liking of brands that have an interesting story to tell. Panerai, with origins back to WW2 (and before) when they produced their large and robust Radiomir watch for divers of the Royal Italian Navy, is an obvious candidate. However, for me, that was not always the case.
Going back maybe 15 years or so, when Panerai first appeared on my radar screen, I was not overly keen. Their watches were huge and clunky with a crown locking mechanism that, on the face of it, seemed rather excessive and impractical for everyday use. Also, a friend who was quite into watches, dismissed them as pretentious and that most owners were poseurs! I had to admit that some people I saw wearing these bulky timepieces did seem to reflect that image! That said, to be fair, such watches sit in a similar camp that includes oversized pilot watches with their massive onion crowns – authentic and practical in the past, but as time pieces today, rather less so.
Rather contradicting some of the above, I did in fact buy myself one of these wrist behemoths about 5 years ago. How so? Well, being perfectly honest I did not actually set out to buy one. I was in the premises of a “used” specialist buying a Zenith Pilot chronograph (not oversized!) and whilst awaiting the paperwork to be prepared I started looking at other offerings for sale. One item was a Panerai and specifically a Luminor Marina reference Pam 312 from 2012 – so a couple of years old at the time. It was in very good condition on a black leather strap. Moreover it had all accompaniments – boxes, full papers, unused rubber strap and rubber case protector. By this time I had learnt somewhat more about Panerai and their military history and was therefore pretty interested – mainly for this and design reasons. The latter included the dial clarity with it’s “sandwich” construction, the use of lume and I guess that crown locking mechanism. So, I decided to put aside some of my prejudices and did a deal – which was actually pretty good.
So what is the position today? Well, to be frank I do not wear the watch much. I do find it a bit too large and in fact feel a bit self-conscious wearing it it. I did though try and improve the image by obtaining a nice Panerai style tan leather strap (which actually suits the piece well) but to no avail. Really, I suppose I should move it on but cannot quite bring myself to as it is an interesting and somewhat iconic piece. However, now that Panerai have realised that the large sizes do put off a portion of the market, and now offer smaller sizes, I may just be tempted to look again as I do like the overall design.
Coming to the present, I was in my local Watches of Switzerland boutique recently when I noticed a watch similar to mine but a GMT version with a blue dial and strap. This looked appealing, so, took one picture and thought it should probably warrant further comment.
So, the full title is a Luminor 3 Day 1950 GMT reference PAM 01033. The watch has 239 components. The case is 44mm and made of AISA316L hypoallergenic brushed stainless steel in order to prevent skin reaction and corrosion. This can withstand up to 300m of water immersion. The bezel is polished. The “sandwich” dial is employed here and is a deep turquoise blue with a sun-brushed finish. Arabic numerals are at 12, 6 and 9 with baton markers in between – all heavily painted with Grade A Swiss Super-LumiNova – some 35% more effective than the standard type. A date window is at 3 o’clock and small seconds at 9. The main hands are baton type, with the GMT hand thinner with an arrowhead. Sapphire crystal, made of corundum (only diamond is harder), is used atop and below for the exhibition window.
Regarding the engine, this is the in house automatic calibre P.9011 with 31 jewels and Incabloc anti-shock. The heart beats at at 28,800 vph and boasts a useful reserve of 72 hours via two barrels, all powered up via a bi-directional rotor. A handy power reserve indicator can be viewed from the back. All hand/date adjustment is done via the wheel crown – including the second time zone.
The whole ensemble is finished off with a deep blue Louisiana alligator strap strap with white stitching and pin buckle – the latter being, as usual, pretty huge.
In conclusion, I do like this watch. The blue dial and strap (a black version is also available) are really nice, plus you have two time functions and date. Viewing all information is a breeze and at night is particularly impressive. The in-house movement is very good with great power reserve and useful indicator dial – albeit on the back. The watch is of course pretty robust and for all but really serious deep divers, will do the business underwater. Again, for me though, it is just that bit too large/heavy for my average wrist size. Although Panerai do a slightly different GMT version in a 42mm case, it is not in this appealing blue – otherwise I could have been very tempted. The other slight niggle is that crown wheel, which because of the guard is really a bit fiddly to manipulate. These aspects aside, if you swim and travel a lot – and have large enough wrists, I cannot think of another watch that would fit the bill. And on the matter of poseurs? Well, that maybe a little harsh, but let us just say one is making a bold statement sporting a Panerai.
The price, at £7,500, is I feel quite reasonable for what you get.
Photos: Panerai/The Writer