Any Panerai is perfect, right? Ahhhh… but there are varying levels of perfection! The perfect PAM is the one that screams Panerai the loudest. It is the one that represents the brand’s unique history and expresses that gorgeous-but-utilitarian ruggedness.
Panerai has so many models with such similar features that it may seem difficult to choose one. Perhaps you are shopping for your first Panerai, or perhaps you are looking for the next Panerai. In either case, you may be asking yourself which PAM is the ultimate. Let’s discuss… The Perfect Panerai.
The first question is — Luminor or Radiomir? This is a tricky question. While Luminor models get all the fame, the Radiomir was really the original Panerai case. But, like most people, I would choose a Luminor if I had to choose just one. I want my perfect PAM to be OBVIOUS and I need that iconic crown guard. I need my PAM to be instantly recognizable to anyone who sees it. So it’s gotta be a Luminor. The first question settled — we’re really progressing!
Panerai is famous for plain, simple dials and a clean look. Think of the 112 or 111 with their gorgeous bold numerals. So I would rule out chronograph models right away. I would also rule out models like the 321 and the 233 because they have too much going on on their dials. I want either a base dial (no seconds hand or date) or a simple Marina dial (with small seconds and no date). I will rule out every Submersible model because I don’t like their looks. And my perfect PAM HAS to have a sandwich dial. I have read that newer versions of the 510 and 560 are dropping their sandwich dials. The painted dials can be gorgeous. But when you think Panerai, you probably envision a sandwich dial- where the bottom layer is luminous and the top layer actually has the numerals cut out, exposing the luminous layer beneath and maximizing the lume. Ah yeah, that’s the stuff. So I want a base or Marina dial, sandwich dial, Luminor.
I probably want a manual movement because that’s the real essence of Panerai. The original watches were using hand-wound movements supplied by Rolex and other third parties. A manual caliber, whether in-house or supplied, is what screams Panerai the loudest. I loved the P.9000 in my 359, but hand wound is the way to go.
Now, what about size? You can now buy Luminor in 40mm, 42mm, 44mm and 47mm. I would go for the biggest size. I don’t care what your wrist size is. I have big wrists and I can pull off big watches. Panerai wears well on anybody, though. At 7 3/8 inches, my wrists are pretty thick. A 44mm Luminor looks small on me. I have worn 47mm Luminor that fit right under my shirt cuffs, with no problem. The 47mm models wear so well. So I need a 47mm- a big and imposing watch that oozes Panerai presence and DNA. This will be a Luminor 1950 as opposed to a regular Luminor- the 1950 case is a curvy, pillow-shaped masterpiece.
So let’s recap. I am looking for a 47mm Luminor 1950, with a base or Marina dial, sandwich dial and manually wound movement. OK – we are getting somewhere!
We can now focus on two models — PAM00372 and PAM00422. Either one would be perfect. I prefer the 422, however. While the 372 has an arguably prettier base dial, the 422 has a special trick. It has a plain Marina dial. But it has a hidden surprise- a power reserve indicator…on the back! Isn’t that genius!? You get the beauty of a plain, clean dial while having the functionality of a power reserve on the back. After all, you only need to see the power reserve when you put on or wind the watch. This is genius. Another advantage over the 372 is that the 422 has sapphire crystal whereas the 372 uses a retro type of plexiglass which gets scratched. I would gladly have a 372 and I always preferred the base dials. But the 422 is my favourite because it offers all of the essential Panerai elements while offering my favourite watch complication ever — the power reserve. The PAM00422 is THE ultimate Panerai in my view.
The 422 is a high-end watch with an in-house movement. However, it still has that simple feel to it- time only (on the dial at least), no date. It is a modern expression of the Panerai story. It is a true diving watch. It is also my favourite timepiece ever.
I think many Panerai models are worth serious consideration. If I loosen my “perfect” criteria, I start to think of the 560, 510, 351, 312, 533 and more. Which is the perfect Panerai for you? Which PAM keeps you up at night? Which Panerai expresses your own passion for the brand? Which reference will make your friends jealous? As always, the fun is in the search…