I assembled the new Panerai movement the other day. I wish there was a way to rephrase that sentence so I could accurately convey how challenging I found it to be. To be absolutely fair, it was at the end of a long week. You may think that Watches & Wonders is more chilled out than either of the big two watch fairs, but you are absolutely wrong, my friend. Nothing in Hong Kong is chilled out, especially not large-scale exhibitions of haute horlogerie.
Let’s have a look at this movement. The calibre P.1000 is designated to replace the P.999 as the smallest movement in Panerai’s catalogue, and there are a number of qualitative improvements that you may not have noticed at first glance. (Let’s face it, you probably didn’t notice them at all. It’s not like they’re written on the movement plate.)
The calibre P.999 is a good-looking movement, there’s no doubt about that. In fact, it’s probably the most traditionally constructed movement that Panerai has. Fully bridged. Large, screwed balance beating at 21,600vph (3Hz), suspended from a balance cock with a whiplash regulator for adjusting the index. For those of you who don’t really know what the above stuff entails and just want to know what it all means, the P.999 was built to simultaneously demand and allow for a high level of manual adjustment.
The calibre P.1000, however, uses a slightly smaller, more streamlined balance supported on both sides by a sturdy balance bridge. It beats at 28,800vph (4Hz), which means it’s more resistant to chronometric error caused by shock. The entire works are covered by a single plate, which adds strength. This means that the P.1000 is a lot tougher than the P.999.
Additionally, whilst the P.999 had 60 hours (2.5 days), the P.1000 has three days of power reserve. I could probably give you the number of hours for that as well, but if you can’t figure out for yourself how many hours there are in three days, you have serious problems that you should be working on instead of reading an article about the new Panerai movement.
Now, take into consideration the fact that a higher balance frequency decreases the power reserve (the more frequently you release energy from a source of stored power, the faster it runs out, yeah srsly). You’ll notice that the P.1000, despite beating faster than the P.999, has a longer power reserve. This is all good, practical stuff that you’ll appreciate when it’s on the wrist and keeping time better than your other watches.
The P.1000 also has a stop-seconds function that simultaneously brakes the balance and resets the small seconds counter to zero when the crown is pulled out. I really like this feature in a watch, but then again I’m the kind of person who stays up until 3am aligning things in article layouts. You may not be the kind of person who goes nuts for precision setting features in a mechanical wristwatch, but at least you can respect the fact that it’s there.
One other thing that I absolutely love about the P.1000 — in fact this seals the deal for me — is that it is entirely coherent with the Panerai aesthetic. The P.999 didn’t really do it for me, because I’d look at the watch and get this tough, tool-watch, no-nonsense, can-take-on-Naomi-Campbell-even-in-a-room-full-of-mobile-phones demeanour. And then I’d turn it over and look at the movement, and it just never seemed all that congruent to me. This was particularly so with the P.999, which had the whiplash regulator and finer finishing, but even the scaled-back P.999/1 gave me this impression.
I think Panerai watches work best in terms of concept and design when the watch and movement match as well as they do with the P.1000 and the new Radiomir 1940 42mm. Then again, apparently the most sought-after Panerais are the ones with the Minerva movements, so what the hell do I know, right.
Someone actually asked me yesterday if it was truly possible for me to like a movement such as the P.1000 when only last week I’d proclaimed my everlasting love for an ultra-complicated movement from an ultra-historical brand (I’ll give you two guesses). Honestly, this is like asking if it’s possible for someone who enjoys a bottle of Château d’Yquem to also like drinking a chilled pint of Asahi; just FYI, I did both a couple evenings ago. A person can do both, you know.
The beauty and economy of the P.1000 made themselves known to me as I was disassembling and reassembling it. The movement may be simple enough, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. Take a close look at it when one of the new Panerai Radiomir 1940 42mm timepieces falls into your hands and you’ll see it very quickly. I certainly did.