I was first introduced to Panerai back in January of 2011. At the time, I had a general interest in watches, but it wasn’t a watch addiction like it is today. I was working a trade show in Reno, and the person in the booth next to me was wearing a watch that caught my attention. I struck up a conversation to ask him about the watch, and he told me “it’s a Panerai.” Later that evening, I did a little research in my hotel room to find out that he was wearing a PAM 51 (40mm Luminor with a white dial). My jaw dropped when I found out they were selling for about $5,000. I didn’t own a watch at that time and “expensive” to me was a Movado Museum.
A little over a year goes by, and after a bit of saving, I decide to get my first Swiss watch. I pull the trigger on a TAG Heuer Link, and I remember being anxious about sending $1500 to a complete stranger. It was the most money I’ve ever spent on a watch and had second thoughts as soon as the money was sent. Eventually, I turned that TAG Link into a TAG Grand Carrera. Then I traded that Carrera for a Breitling Superocean. While owning the Superocean, I dabbled in a few other brands like Oris, Lumtech, and Raven Watches.
During this time, Panerai would manage to keep popping into my mind. It took awhile, but eventually, I came to love the unique Luminor design and was drawn to its military history and strap culture. Knowing that the urge wasn’t just a phase, I decided to start shopping for my first Panerai and had my heart set on a PAM 111. After a bit of searching, I ran into a mint condition PAM 112 from none other than Brandon aka @bzabodyn214. We negotiated a trade, and a few days later, I had my first Panerai!
The Look and Feel:
The first time I put that PAM 112 on my wrist, I finally understood the draw to Panerai. For the most part, Panerai is a polarizing brand. You either hate it or love it. Once I had it on my wrist, I immediately fell into the latter. The 44mm cushion case was unexpectedly comfortable and its wrist presence undeniable. The highly legible Arabic numerals and sandwich dial were visually stunning. The unique crown guard and flip down lever made setting the time more fun than usual. For the first time in my watch collecting journey, I can say that I was actually content. But, we all know how that goes....
The honeymoon phase of the PAM 112 would eventually come to an end, but not before guiding me to my favorite brand, Rolex, and to about half a dozen other Panerais. Some of my favorites include the PAM 233, PAM 372, and recently, the PAM 911. Each one was drastically different from the other, but each one was still Panerai to its core.
One of my favorite things about Panerai is its versatility. Panerai watches are strap monsters. With no shortage of styles, materials, and strap makers, customizing your Panerai is as easy as flipping a switch. Even Panerai has embraced its strap culture by offering a plethora of strap options for its clients. Recently, Panerai has opened an accessory room in their Hong Kong boutique with more than 670 straps/bracelets, full range of buckles, and an interactive strap display that invites you to mix and match to your collection as you see fit. Don't forget to check out Everest's custom Curved End Leather and Rubber watch bands for different Panerai models.
Along with the unique style, wrist presence, and versatility, a major part of Panerai is the people. The Paneristi are a tight knit group of people who are as excited about the brand as they are about the relationships they form with their fellow Panerai collectors. It's not uncommon for Panerai collectors to make close friends with people from around the world. For example, “P-Day” is an international Panerai enthusiast get together where Panerai owners travel from all around the world over the course of a few days to meet and talk about all things Panerai.
Another great community resource for Panerai enthusiasts is an editorial website called Panerai Central. Run by Khalil Ghorbani, Panerai Central gives Paneristi the latest news as well as up close and personal access to all things Panerai. Occasionally, Khalil likes to keep Panerai owners involved by letting them submit questions and participate in his interviews with Panerai personnel. Something uncommon in the luxury watch industry and a nice touch that makes Panerai collecting feel personal.
Personally, Panerai is a fun brand that really started me on my way to watch collecting. It’s that high school girlfriend that you still occasionally think about. Even though I don’t currently have one in my collection, I know a new addition isn't too far away.
Written by Patrick Bernardez