Once a little known and niche brand, Panerai has come a long way since Richemont acquired them in 1997.Their watches can be found on the wrists of everyone from Heidi Klum and Bill Clinton to your neighbor next door. It’s actually Sylvester Stallone who can be credited with bringing Panerai to the public’s attention. He discovered a Luminor on a jeweler’s shelf while he was in Rome shooting “Daylight” and wore it in the movie.
Panerai originally made instruments for the Italian Navy; they weren’t really true watchmakers. A specialist in water-resistant cases, they sourced movements from manufacturers such as Rolex and Angelus. After Richemont came into the picture, they stayed true to the aesthetic roots of the brand but began a repositioning to a higher market segment that included complicated movements and in-house manufacture. Just last year they presented a tribute to Galileo with three pieces culminating with their most complicated piece to date, the Luminor 1950 Equation of Time Tourbillon Titanio – 50mm L’Astronomo (PAM00365). After mastering the deep with dive watches, Panerai is now reaching for the stars.
Typically, Panerais are bulkier watches because cases need to be watertight. Perhaps to catch the thinner watch trend as seen in Piaget’s lineup and their record-setting Empereador, in 2010 Panerai debuted the P.999 series of movements in the PAM0037, the first Radiomir to get an in-house movement. (The PAM0036 and PAM0038, also powered by the P.999 movement, are the same as the PAM0037 only with different cases and dial treatments.) The P.999/1 ticking inside is really the star here, showing the brand’s technical versatility. It is not only the smallest manufacture calibre but also the slimmest with a 27.4mm diameter and 3mm profile.
Turning over the watch reveals the view of the P.999/1 through the sapphire caseback. For an entry-level watch, a lot of thought and design went into this hand-wind movement with a hearty 60-hour power reserve. It’s a good thing there’s no rotor because it would be a shame to hide this landscape of swoops and curves. It’s a treat for the eye to wander around the bridges, all the pieces falling into place like a puzzle. Winding the watch with the grooved crown embossed with Panerai’s logo gives equal pleasure.
Of course, the chassis has to live up to the P.999/1 movement. Cased in stainless steel, the 42mm PAM0037 comes in the characteristic steel-cushioned shape that really is blessed with sensuous body, especially when viewed from the side. Unlike thicker Panerai models, this one can hide under a shirtsleeve and slip out easily when you need a quick time check. Though the 42mm size is smaller than the average 44-46mm of the new modern standard, the PAM0037 still has presence on the wrist due to the thin polished bezel. For men used to the larger and heavier Panerais, this switch might seem a little too out of character. However, it’s a perfect fit for women who dig the Panerai styling but find the usual offerings too heavy and overpowering on the wrist.
True to its lineage, the PAM0037 has a black sandwich dial with black luminous Arabic numerals and hour markers, and running seconds at 9 o’clock. The dial holds a nice symmetry; the running seconds at 9 o’clock balance well against the 12, 3 and 6 Arabic numerals. Completing the composition, the font and size of the model name fit just right. While the PAM0037 looks great in by day, it also is quite handsome at night. The lume on this piece lights up like a rock concert stage, bright and legible and focused on the action. It doesn’t need much charge to bring out its bright face either.
The PAM0037 probably isn’t going to see many watery expeditions, but it still holds its own with a respectable rating to 100M, sufficient for a dip in the pool and snorkeling in Pigeon Cay, Honduras. I’d suggest a change from the crocodile strap in these scenarios, but fortunately the PAM0037 comes with removable wire loop strap attachments.
With their new complications and transfer over to in-house movements, Panerai is expanding their reach from the devotees to a new audience of watch aficionados that appreciate design along with manufacturing competence.
The lowest price point for a Radiomir in the current collection is the PAM380, which retails at $4,600, but this model has an ETA movement. The PAM0037, retailing for $7,700, is outfitted with an in-house movement, but you pay a premium for the privilege.
See Panerai’s catalogue for more details on the P.999 movement series.