At this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), Panerai made waves with a new range of Luminor Due watches in 38mm, the smallest ever made by the brand. They also updated their Luminor Base Logo and Luminor Marina Logo models, to include their in-house Caliber P.6000, creating in the process a great value proposition for anyone considering a Panerai. Two special edition watches were also presented: a new edition of the Lo Scienziato and the L’Astronomo, two very complicated watches, offered in a Luminor case, which demonstrates the high-end watchmaking abilities of Panerai.
But Panerai had more planned for the year and we recently got a live look at a couple more pieces that were not shown during the January fair.
If you were afraid that the Panerai Radiomir line wasn’t getting any love this year, rest assured because two new Radiomir watches have been added to the lineup, just in time for summer. There’s also a new Luminor 8 Days with a California dial and, as well, the L’Astronomo, now in white gold.
The New Radiomir Watches
After updating their 44mm Luminor Base Logo earlier this year, which for many represents the quintessential Panerai watch, it was just a matter of time before the brand did the same with their other iconic design: the Radiomir.
Panerai’s new Radiomir watches now feature the brand’s in-house Caliber P.6000, which is a hand-wound movement providing 3 days of power reserve. Both models are in stainless steel with a 45mm case, the only difference between the two is the small seconds at 9 o’clock on the Black Seal model. As it turns out, even at 45mm, the watch doesn’t feel or wear too large, even on a small wrist.
The Radiomir Logo and Radiomir Black Seal Logo are great value propositions. Both no nonsense watches with the classic cushion case design, wire lugs, iconic dial, and now with the P.6000 movement.
The New California Dial Luminor 8 Days
The California dial is a dial that features half Roman numerals (from 10 to 2) and half Arabic numerals (from 4 to 8). Some say the origin story of these half and half dials come from prototypes, where salespersons could easily show customers one version or the other by simply covering one half of the dial, that somehow made it into production.
Regarding where the name “California dial” comes from, there are many theories. One theory is that dealers in California used to sell a lot of watches with this dial configuration. Another one refers to a dial refinisher in California who worked on a lot of half and half dials. Origin story aside, needless to say, “California” dials are just cool.
Previously, “California” dials only appeared inside of Radiomir cases. What we have here is the first Panerai Luminor watch to feature a “California” dial. But that’s not all, the case is 44mm titanium, coated with DLC giving the watch a matt anthracite finish and is powered by the in-house hand-wound P.5000 caliber. The watch, therefore, boasts a total 8 days of power reserve. To top it off, the watch is delivered with a cool and comfortable cuff strap.
The White Gold L’Astronomo
At SIHH, Panerai presented an update to its Panerai L’Astronomo timepiece called the L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT – or PAM920. That watch was housed inside a brushed titanium 50mm case. The PAM922 is simply the white gold version of the PAM920. The L’Astronomo in red gold, if you are wondering, bears the reference PAM921.
Although simply different in case material, it’s worth running through what makes this watch special because in my opinion it really is a great timepiece worth exploring.
The original L’Astronomo was first presented in 2010 for the 400th anniversary of the celestial observations made by Galileo as a result of the invention of the telescope. The PAM365 had, at that time: a tourbillon, a calendar and equation of time indication, with a sky map on the caseback.
This year’s L’Astronomo PAM920 (or PAM921 or PAM922) is firstly visually different as the movement is skeletonized, but most importantly it offers a moon phase indication for the first time ever in a Panerai watch. Looking at the watch from the front or the back allows you to view all the different complications that the hand-wound P.2005/GLS (short for Galileo Luna Scheletrato) allows the watch.
Let’s start with the back where you’ll find the moon phase indicator. It is the first time Panerai is offering a moon phase so they wanted to make a first good impression. The way it is done here is with a system comprised of two superimposed discs which rotate over each other. The upper disc serves as a day/night indicator showing the 24 hours of the day with a large sun during the daylight hours and a starry sky for night time. A small window on that starry sky unveils the lower disc, where the highly detailed moon appears, showcasing the undulating surface of the moon.
Before a watch is made, Panerai presents their customer with the opportunity to choose a location and the indication of the moon phases, relating to the sky above a particular location of the customer’s choosing. This, also, works hand-in-hand for the sunrise and sunset time indication.
The time at that location, or Home time, is indicated with the GMT hand on the dial and all previously mentioned indications will continue to show the situation at that home time location even if the owner changes time zones.
At 6 o’clock (front of the watch) is the equation of time indicator. If you find that complication to be a bit obscure, it’s actually very easy to understand. Time is based on the position of the Sun but the thing is that the time we read on our watches is never perfectly in sync with where the Sun is above our heads (due to the non-perfect orbit of the Earth around the Sun) so the equation of time just displays the difference between actual time (solar time) and conventional time on each day, this period ranging between +15/-15 minutes, according to the time of year.
Because the movement is skeletonized, you can admire Panerai’s tourbillon either from the front or the back of the watch. The cool thing here is that the tourbillon rotates the escapement perpendicular to the dial, instead of a more conventional parallel direction, and does so twice per minute.
To keep the whole skeletonized look intact, Panerai came up with an innovative system for the date disc, which is made of transparent borosilicate glass with the numbers of the days etched on it containing laser-modified optical properties. They are virtually invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen under certain lighting conditions. The date window features a polarized crystal which then reveals the date number aligned below it.
The sub-dial next to the date window completes the calendar function as it indicates the months of the year; D for December, S for September, etc…
While the complicated watches keep us ogling and asking all the geek questions they bring, there’s no question that when it comes to Panerai, the more utilitarian and straightforward the watch is the more we are drawn to them. In that regard, I would have to say that of the summer lot, my personal pick has to be the PAM00779 California Dial Luminor 8 Days.