I have been completely overhauling my timepiece collection recently. In the process, I actually found myself Panerai-less for a few days. I actually thought I could do it. But within a couple of days, I felt like something was very wrong. Something was missing… TimeCaptain had lost his mojo.
Now, I had a phenomenal Panerai (PAM00359), but it was never quite the right model for me. The odd dial always bothered me. Parting with this particular piece wasn’t the problem. The problem, in fact, was not having a Panerai at all to strap on my wrist. While I had plenty of other cool pieces to choose from, it hurt to not have an example of my favourite brand to sport during meetings and presentations.
So I was instantly on a mission to acquire a new PAM for my stable. One of the very first references that came to mind was the PAM00183. A few years ago, when I first decided to buy my own Panerai, it was all because of a blog I read about the 183. I ended up buying a very similar (yet older) 210. But the 183, since the beginning, was my favourite typically-Panerai-classic-timepiece. And when I spoke to my dealer, he had actually had a virtually new example for a reasonable price.
Soon, I found myself with a new Panerai on my wrist — one with that unmistakeable dial. And I felt like… TimeCaptain got his mojo back!
So what is it about the 183? Let’s not do a full technical review, but let’s discuss the essence of the 183. Now, this is your classic 45mm Radiomir with the wire lugs. I emphasize the word “classic.” It uses the OP XI calibre movement, which as everybody knows, is based on the good ol’ fashioned ETA Unitas movement. It’s a basic, robust, no-frills movement and it doesn’t even have a date or a hacking mechanism. The movement is visible through the back and is absolutely gorgeous. The 183 has your classic dial with a large 12, 3, 6 and a small seconds at 9 o’ clock. And it is a sandwich dial. I mean, you can find all of these features on Luminor models such as the 111. If you want my view on Radiomir vs. Luminor, click here and read my blog on the subject. In short, the Radiomir are more true to the very first Panerai models. Perhaps more importantly, Radiomir models are slimmer, more elegant, and a little more suited to business attire.
Adam has taught me to blog about the “feel” of a timepiece. At the end of the day, timepieces are absolutely unnecessary luxuries so it’s all about how they make you feel. How does it feel to wear a 183? Well, it feels like I am wearing a Panerai. I have been wearing more high end pieces, with in-house movements and more complications. But they don’t necessarily have the cool factor of something like a 183. When I strap on my new Radiomir, it feels light. And slim. It feels very vintage and elegant and somewhat more delicate than a Luminor (although they are mechanically similar). At the same time, the 183 just oozes Panerai essence and DNA. It’s manually wound, basic, non-in-house-movement feels authentic and true to Panerai history. Despite the Radiomir not having the Luminor’s crown protector, the 183 looks PANERAI. Anybody who looks at it will know it’s a Panerai. And for me, that’s the whole point! I just wanted something that looks and feels like a Panerai.
While discussing the essence of the “feel” of the 183, we must discuss the movement. I actually specifically collect watches with derivatives of the ETA Unitas movement. Originally designed decades ago as a pocket watch movement, this mechanism has become the workhorse of the mechanical watch industry. I like it so much because it’s just so consistent with tool watches and practicality. It’s all business. Now, Panerai have taken this legendary movement and done a sensational job on the finishing, as you can see on the photo. This OP XI caliber is far more beautiful than many automatic movements because there is no rotor blocking the view of the gears, etc. The visual effect of the movement was a major selling point for me and leads me to prefer the OP XI caliber over many in-house models.
Winding the 183 is a joy — a real timekeeping experience. You first must unscrew the crown, which feels solid and high end. Then, it winds so crisply and with such a nice sound. There is absolutely no play in the crown as you set the time, unlike many higher-priced watches I have experienced. Although there is no hacking mechanism, you can line up the minute hand every 5 minutes with one of the minute marker “sticks” and synchronize the minute and second hand. And you can do this so precisely and easily with the ultra sharp feel of the crown. Despite the humble origins of the OP XI caliber movement, it feels absolutely high end and top level. Make no mistake, this really is a luxury timepiece.
I dream about many Panerai timepieces. If I had an unlimited budget, I would be shopping for a 422 and one of the sensational new Radiomir 1940 models, such as the 619. Resources are limited, however, and I can’t have them all. I realized that what I really wanted was something typical of the brand, no matter how simple or basic.
Wearing a timepiece is all about making a statement. It’s really a non-verbal communication. When you choose a timepiece, you are expressing yourself — you are expressing your personality, your aspirations, your ideals. So what I am expressing when I strap on a Radiomir 183? Well, I am expressing my appreciation for the Panerai brand. I am expressing an appreciation for history, style, mechanical excellence and cool things that have “different” origins. I am expressing a passion for simplicity and minimalist designs. Wearing a 183 is my way of telling the world what I have come to enjoy most about watches and timekeeping.
As you may know, the 183 is really an entry-level PAM. Many of my favourite Panerai references are the entry-level models. Actually, many of my favourite timepieces are entry-level models. A great example would be the Rolex Datejust II. I believe my favourite Hublot Classic Fusion are also some of Hublot’s entry-level pieces. These timepieces often seem to capture the essence of a brand’s character without going crazy on the materials, complications, and price.
So, I am sitting in an airport, blogging on my tablet, and waiting for a flight. I am going to a conference this week, wearing my new Panerai Radiomir. Now, I am sure there will many guys with more high-end Rolex Daytona’s, IWC Portugieser and maybe even some “bigger” PAM’s. But which piece will get the most stares? Which piece will look cooler? Which piece will project elegant cool? I guess it doesn’t matter! But if I arrive with a little bit of swagger, then we will know that… TimeCaptain got his mojo back.