I recently visited the Panerai manufacture in Neuchâtel. You can read about my Panerai manufacture visit in this article. It changed my view on Officine Panerai quite drastically. No longer I see them as manufacturer of large watches that happen to look good (slightly exaggerated statement), as I’ve witnessed how much effort they actually put in R&D and testing activities in their manufacture in Neuchâtel. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the Panerai Radiomir PAM00627 that was introduced last January during the SIHH in Geneva.
If you ask me the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the brand name, I say “Luminor”. For me, that’s the embodiment of the brand from Firenze. Large divers watch, luminous sandwich dial and a hand-wound movement. Period. But that is of course only half the truth.
“Radiomir” was already filed for patent in 1916, as a luminous powder that could be used for various instruments. You have to know that at the time, Panerai was an instrument maker, for the Italian Navy. Already in 1936, Panerai created 10 prototypes of the ‘Radiomir’ watch. However, the Radiomir 1940 I have here today, was indeed inspired by the design for a new Radiomir watch in 1940.
In 1949, Panerai filed patent for a new luminous substance which they called ‘Luminor’. One year later, in 1950, they introduce the ‘Luminor’ watch, which has the crown protection bridge as well. My association of Panerai with the Luminor is based on the first models that I saw in their pre-Vendome era. Only later on they started to re-introduce Radiomir models.
The resurrection of the Radiomir 1940 design was done in 2012 already, but this year, Panerai introduced a few more variations, including the PAM00627 I have here.
Let’s start with the dial and hands. The dial is something special, as it has the Paris hobnails. I love the use of hobnails on things, ever since I first saw them on St.Dupont lighters. The Clous de Paris on the Royal Oak dials is a tad bit different, but I have a weak spot for those as well as you might know. The hobnails on the PAM00627 dial are very subtle to be honest, which I like. The dial has luminous Arabic numerals and stick markers, in a faux-patina paint color.
All 5 hands on the dial have been applied with the same material and match nicely. Besides the hour and minute hands and small running seconds hand we see a central GMT hand with pointy arrow as well as a small AM/PM indicator on the seconds sub dial at 9 o’clock. The date disc is black and the numerals are also in matching colors. Panerai knows how to work with this. Other brands could take an example.
To be brutally honest with you, my heart is with the Luminor case. However, the case of the Panerai Radiomir 1940 is a nice one as well with its solid ‘built-in’ lugs. I remember seeing and trying the Panerai Radiomir Black Seal (PAM00183) when it came out, and the soldered lugs are just not for me. This Panerai Radiomir 1940 is different of course, and more to my personal liking. The case measures 45mm in diameter and has a polished finish and polished bezel. It is shiny, which is nice, but I wouldn’t have mind a bit more satin finishing here and there. The crown is relatively small, but since it is a self-winding movement, there is no need for a bigger crown. This one does the job and aesthetically speaking, I see no issues here as well. The crown has the OP logo of course.
Normally, I would have skipped this part. The case is made out of stainless steel, 316L. However, since my visit to the manufacture I know how much effort they put in selecting and working with the right materials. AISI stands for American Iron and Steel Institute and their specifications for 316L are somewhat different than normal. The steel alloy that Panerai uses allows welding where the metal’s thickness is 6mm or less, without losing quality.
This movement is developed and manufactured in the Panerai manufacture in Neuchâtel. What sets it apart are of course the off-centre micro rotor for winding and the big (72 hours) power reserve. This power reserve is indicated at the backside of the watch. The balance is attached to a double bridge, like Rolex’ movements, and ticks at 28,800vph. The Panerai P.4001 movement hacks, so you can precisely set the time. From what I’ve seen in the manufacture, the movement are being regulated and tested well within COSC standards. Panerai doesn’t make a fuss about this in their marketing campaigns, but they are truly keen on producing reliable movements.
Besides the beautiful logo and engraving on the rotor, the main plate has a nice brushed finish. This isn’t done by hand, but by clever designed machines that are able to brush an entire batch of movements. It looks stunning and I feel that – although the craftsmanship of finishing movements isn’t done by human hands – this is an effective way of dealing with these kind of ‘steps’ in the process of producing watches.
On the wrist, the Panerai Radiomir PAM00627 is just a great watch. The 45mm Radiomir actually feels quite comfortable on the wrist, despite the size. In my memory, my PAM000 felt somewhat larger with its 44mm than this modern PAM00627. The strap is of great quality – as always – and the stitching matches the faux-patina on the dial. The strap comes on a nice Panerai signed buckle, which I prefer over a folding clasp. It is a great wearer, even for every day. The water resistance is 100 meters (~10 BAR) but I would only take it for a swim with a rubber strap, of course. The hobnail dial is very nice, and despite all the functionality on the dial (5 hands) it is still very legible and readable.
The PAM00628 is a similar watch, but the power reserve indicator is on the dial instead of on the movement. If you don’t mind an extra indicator on the dial, that might be an interesting piece to check-out as well.
As always, let’s close with some thoughts about this Panerai Radiomir 1940 3-days PAM00627. Let’s start with the retail price, which is $11,700 USD. For that money, you get a well constructed and finished sports watch, with an in-house developed movement that features a 72-hour power reserve and an extra time zone indicator.
That’s a bit more than the approx $9,000 USD Rolex GMT-Master II and the approx $8,000 USD Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M GMT. All three are sports watches that have GMT functionality and an in-house developed movement. I am not going to compare them in full, but it does show that the retail price on the Panerai is a bit towards the higher end.
I think it is fair to compare them to these other brands (non Richemont Group, on purpose), as they are all partly finished by machines and offer the same style and functionality of the watch. Fact is, that the production of Panerai is much lower (no number known, but nowhere near the 600,000 Omegas or 800,000 Rolexes). Within the Richemont Group, it is fair to say that it competes with an IWC Aquatimer for example. But buying a watch goes beyond comparing specifications. It is a luxury product you actually don’t need, unlike a piece of electronics like a phone or laptop. So there is more to it than comparing dry specs.
The thing with Panerai is, that you are somewhat safe to assume that you won’t bump into someone else wearing the same watch to work or other occasion. Panerai remains more exclusive than, let’s say, Omega or Rolex. Also, the design of the watch is totally different from the other two (who also find their inspiration in models from the 1950s). You will recognize a Panerai from a mile’s distance for being one. I don’t think people who have set their mind to buying a Panerai will mind the higher retail price compared to the other brands for example. It is something different, something more exclusive but still a reliable watch with a high quality finish.
More information via Panerai on-line.
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