I often hear things like Panerai watches are too large… they all look the same… they’re overrated…. Why should I buy a Panerai? Now although this is very subjective, let me tell you, a Panerai is more than just a large dialed watch. When you buy a Panerai, you’re essentially buying into that sense of history and tradition.
The inception of the brand dates back to 1860 when Giovanni Panerai opened his first watchmakers shop in Florence, which was also the city’s first watchmaking school – one of the first of its kind for that era. Towards the beginning of the twentieth century, it established itself as a relevant player in the Swiss watch industry and eventually assumed the name Orologeria Svizzera. While the brand was still strong in its precision-instrument game, in 1916 Officine Panerai created the first of its many patents, a radium-based powder that adds ‘next level’ luminosity to the dials of sighting instruments and devices – the Radiomir. A diving watch using radioactive material – Radiomir, using Rolex movements. However due to it’s hazardous effects, Radiomir was then replaced by Luminor. In 1949 Officine Panerai patented a new self-luminous substance based on Tritium (an isotope of hydrogen). After that, there was just no looking back. From catering to the needs of the Royal Italian Navy to creating almost a cult of its own today, Panerai has come a long way.
Aside from general design and finishing, ask a watch enthusiast what he/she looks for a good watch and somewhere on that list will be ‘Consistency’. Be it Consistency in Design… Consistency in Brand Marketing… Consistency in Wearability… And this is exactly where Panerai shines. Although the brand is Swiss-Made, it has always been true to its Italian roots. When you look back to the first Radiomir’s Ref. 3646 (1936) that was introduced for the frogman commandos of the First Submarine Group Command of the Royal Italian Navy, with that large 47mm, cushion-shaped steel case, luminescent numerals and indices, wire lugs welded to the case, a hand-wound mechanical movement (supplied & signed by Rolex), and a water-resistant strap long enough to be worn over a diving suit and compare it to the new Radiomir California PAM 0039, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say Consistency. The brand has retained its identity with elements like a Plexiglas crystal just like the original watch amongst other details of course.
Those of you who know me, clearly know my obsession for larger dialed watches. I do have a few 44mm and 47mm Luminor’s on my wish list, but we’ll leave that for another day. But it’s not just about the size of the dial here. Over the years the Luminor’s and Radiomir’s have created an identity of their own. One that has more to do with not just the “not so traditional” size of the case. The answer to that is the Luminor Due that Panerai introduced in 2016. Although the collection is a part of the Luminor family it faced a lot of criticism for not being a ‘Proper’ tool watch – in particular the 30m water-resistance and I get it. But here’s the thing anything above 30m would mean a thicker case and larger diameter, which pretty much defeats the purpose of what Panerai is trying to achieve. The way I look at it is: The Luminor Due is great for someone who likes something a bit more dressy. 38mm (Great for smaller wrists), great everyday wear, slim, well-balanced with just the right proportions, versatile, light-weight, and in terms of wearability – a fit that’s second to none… And most of all… You still have the core design elements of the collection. Frankly, I can’t wait to see what direction Panerai takes with these.
Personalise your PAM
This is the best part. Panerai offers you a variety of straps in different materials and colours to make your PAM, your own, so to say. Whether it’s a NATO, an alligator strap, a calf strap, rubber strap or even the textile straps, Panerai has an array of options to suit every mood and occasion. What makes it even more exciting is the brands’ innovative quick release system. Offered in a select few models, the straps can now be replaced with ease and without the use of any tool, by applying a little pressure on the back, close to the case attachment. Close your eyes.. focus.. and picture the PAM 739 on a pistachio green leather strap. Hallelujah!
If you’re an avid Panerai enthusiast, the term “Paneristi” will surely ring a bell. It’s really cool, that a brand has such a diverse authentic global fan base. I also think it speaks volumes of the ever-so engaging and on-going relationship that Panerai has with its “cult” since 2000, if I’m not wrong.
To me a Panerai is one of those watches that doesn’t just command attention but commands respect. Eventually, it’s not about how big your wrist is, but rather, do you have personality to carry it off 😉