Since its inception in 1860, Panerai has been no stranger to innovation and design. With its oversized cases, military history, and patents in luminescence, Panerai has continued to push the boundaries of its capabilities for over 160 years. There is one area in particular where Panerai seems to experiment the most. Throughout the years, Panerai has released many production and limited edition models in a wide range of case materials. From precious metal to carbon fiber, we’ll take a look at some of the most interesting watches that Panerai has ever released.
In early 1997, the former CEO of Panerai, Angelo Bonati, went door to door with his suitcase to try and jump start the then unknown brand known as Panerai. While most doors told him “no,” the few that came on board saw quick success later that year as their initial stock of 30 watches sold in two to three weeks. The brand's popularity sky-rocketed over the course of a year and in 1998, Bonati stumbled upon 60 new-old stock Rolex 618 movements from World War II. In a bold move, Bonati took those movements, decided to recreate the PAM 3646 (a watch created by Rolex for Panerai in the 1940s), encased them in platinum, and offered it as a reward to his existing dealer base. Priced equivalent to around 23,000 Euros today, the 60 PAM 21 limited edition pieces sold out almost instantly and set Panerai on a course to be one of the world's hottest watch brands.
In 2011, Panerai released its first ever bronze timepiece with the introduction of the PAM 382. Limited to 1000 pieces, the PAM 382 measured at 47mm, featured a green dial, and titanium caseback complete with an exhibition crystal. Powered by the automatic calibre P.9000, it provided the wearer with hour, minute, seconds, and date complications. All 1000 pieces sold quickly, and since then the brand has released three more iterations of the “Bronzo.” Today, the “Bronzo” remains a coveted piece as boutiques reserve them for their best clients and secondary market prices on the limited edition versions are well over retail.
Tantalum (also known as Tantalium) is a rare blue-gray metal known for its hardness, luster, and high resistance to corrosion. In 2003, Panerai released a 300 piece limited edition with the PAM 172. The 172 is a Luminor Marina model measuring 44mm, with a black dial and blue hour, minute, and second hands. Powered by a modified ETA 6497/2, the OP XI Calibre is a chronometer spec manual wind movement with a 56 hour power reserve. The watch remains highly sought after by Paneristi and still holds a premium slightly above its original retail price.
In 2007, Panerai released their first ceramic watch with the Radiomir Black Seal PAM 292. In 2012, Panerai would push the envelope with the release of the 1950 Luminor GMT PAM 438. Also known as the “Tuttonero” (“All black” in Italian). The 438 featured a watch where both the case and bracelet were made entirely of black ceramic. Something uncommon for the time and a first for Panerai as a vast majority of their portfolio comes on leather straps. Everest Bands also offers leather watch bands for certain Panerai models here. Panerai touted that the material was very resilient to wear and five times harder than steel. The watch featured a black dial with matching black hands and an exhibition caseback to display its blacked-out P.9001/B movement. The PAM 438 truly lives up to its “Tuttonero” name.
Keep an eye out in the near future for part two of this story as we look into some of the newest and most advanced case materials within the current Panerai portfolio. And, don't forget to check out Everest rubber and leather watch bands for Panerai Luminor 44mm.
Written by Patrick Bernardez