Special Edition, Special Allure

There is one sure measure of the capacity for a brand to weather inclemency and rebound from even the sharpest downturn, and that is their secondary value. The one brand that has rebounded most assuredly from the doldrums of 2008 is Officine Panerai. From the onset, Panerai’s watches have demonstrated incredible residual value with most watches maintaining the better part of their retail cost, while some timepieces like the PAM 127 or “Fiddy”, the original 1950 watch, doubled in value since 2005, and watches like “Pre-Vendome, T Swiss Made T” dialled watches have quadrupled in value in less than five years.

In general, it is in its special-edition watches that Panerai has seen its greatest surge in value, in particular with its vintage Angelus-equipped PAM 203 and its original Rolex-equipped PAM 21 leading the way.

At the time of writing, the Panerai watch that has evinced the greatest demand and largest margin of increase is the PAM 339, a stunning 47mm Radiomir timepiece that is the first Panerai to use a new “Composite” case material — aluminium that has been treated so that a ceramic oxide is deposited on its exterior. The groundbreaking status of the case material is complemented by a dial that is rumoured to be the last from the brand to feature the words “Marina Militare”, though this seems rather far-fetched.

What is interesting about Panerai is that it creates these special editions with a combination of awareness of the market dynamics surrounding their watches and a kind of creative intensity fuelled by the brand’s brilliant CEO Angelo Bonati that is almost blissful in its obliviousness to the secondary-value quotient.

But this secondary value has to be the 1,000-pound gorilla in the room when the brand announced the PAM 360, the second of its timepieces (the first was the PAM 195) made uniquely for the 10th anniversary of the stellar website Paneristi.com.

Angelo Bonati chuckles when we discuss the impassioned zeal that accompanies the launch of his special editions. He states, “My job is simply to create the best timepieces I can that are truest to the DNA of Panerai. It is interesting to me that the watches that people want the most are usually the ones that have the strongest historical link to Panerai. That does not mean that we only look backward. For example, the PAM 339, which uses a very modern case technology, is true to our DNA because, as a military brand, we experimented with many different case materials to make the watches more matte, more stealth. We are the pioneers in this, and so the PAM 339 is an expression of this patrimony even though it is modern.”

Following in this tradition of ultra-desirable special editions is a collection created uniquely for the 10 Panerai boutiques around the world.

Codes from the Past

The watches are distinguished by the Luminova markers and hands first seen on the PAM 360, that have been treated to look like vintage “Radiomir” or aged tritium. The dial also features the first use of the “pig” — the slow-moving torpedo (SLC) used by WWII-era Italian naval commandos who wore Panerai watches — on a Luminor watch. This emblem first graced the PAM 292 Radiomir Black Seal Ceramic. The watches also feature the vintage calf-leather strap first used on the PAM 339. The result is watches that literally resonate with vintage patina right out of the box.

Finally, the caseback of each watch is engraved with a motif that honours the home city of the boutique in question. For example, the watch for the Paris boutique has an engraving of the Eiffel Tower, while that for the New York boutique bears an engraving of the Statue of Liberty. The run of the watches varies from 50 (for the Geneva boutique) to 200 (for the Hong Kong boutique). As with all solid-caseback, manual-wind Luminor watches, these timepieces are powered by the venerable Unitas pocket-watch calibre certified by COSC as a chronometer.

The references for the watches are as follows: Florence boutique edition — PAM 411; Hong Kong boutique edition — PAM 412; Taipei boutique edition — PAM 413; Paris boutique edition — PAM 414; Ginza boutique edition — PAM 415; Beverly Hills boutique edition — PAM 416; New York boutique edition — PAM 417; Madrid boutique edition — PAM 418; Geneva boutique edition — PAM 419; Shanghai boutique edition — PAM 420. There will also be a series of eight-day power reserve watches in Radiomir cases made exclusively for the boutiques.

Already the residual prices of the watches, with the asking price of approximately $5,000, have gone ballistic, approaching double this figure.

Excerpted from an article by Wei Koh in REVOLUTION’s archives.