Believe me, I know the feeling. Buying First Panerai watch can be a tricky choice if you don’t know much about Panerai watches. There are many variations, many PAM numbers, but what they all mean? You have several watches in your collection, but want to get your first Panerai watch. Your collection includes several fairly expensive pieces — maybe a Rolex Submariner or an Omega, but there is always room for improvement. You realise this when you’re at a dinner party and some guy shows up wearing a Panerai Luminor. Of course, there are lots and lots more expensive watches at this cocktail- plenty of Rolex Daytona and a couple of Patek Philippe pieces. But that Panerai is star of the night. It just looks…awesome. You don’t know exactly which model it was, but you know you cannot rest until you own one Panerai of your own.
So with the decision made to buying first Panerai watch, many questions arise. Which model should you buy? Luminor or Radiomir? New? Or Pre-owned? Manual or automatic? Let’s see what are all the options. We won’t get into any Panerai history and general Panerai commentary — this will be part of some other blog post.
Let me cut to the chase and give you the answer to the question: Buying first Panerai watch. If your goal is to get first Panerai watch just for the sake of having Panerai watch; a piece that is essence of “Panerai”; a piece that just screams “Panerai” when you strap it on, then you really need a PAM112. No fuss about, no doubt. Now, the PAM112 is a Panerai Luminor Base 44mm. In my mind, this is the quintessential Panerai. If I had to start my collection all over, I would begin with a PAM112. The 44mm case is large on most wrists and it is the classic Panerai size (we’ll get into other sizes a bit later); it has the classic shape with that signature Panerai crown protector.
PAM112 is known as a Panerai “base” with dial thta has only two hands, hours and minutes, with no seconds hand and no date. No fuss, no nonsense, that’s it. This allows that beautiful, bold, yet simple dial with 4 cool numerals: 12, 3, 6 and 9. Absolutely classic, everyone will agree. The PAM112 also has a trademarked sandwich dial where the numerals are cut out of the top layer, exposing the luminous layer underneath (luminous layer is also trademarked by the Panerai). The sandwich dial is a Panerai hallmark if you will. The PAM112 uses Panerai’s famous OP X caliber movement, which is a higher-end modified ETA Unitas movement. Although that’s not a true in-house movement, this is the movement that really screams, “Panerai,” because it is simple, yet high-quality, robust and solid. You can view the movement through the back of the PAM112 and it looks fantastic, which is treat to the any Panerai enthusiast. To me, this is the one Panerai to have; it is basic, simple, uncomplicated and classic. Simply must have! The PAM112 is one of the very least expensive Panerai models, but it is also one of the most desirable. It also has great collectible value. Having all that in mind, it is really really hard to find a PAM112. You can always buy a pre-owned piece or order from an authorised dealer and wait their call.
If you Panerai PAM112 is way to simple for you on your journey to buying first Panerai watch, a very close runner-up would be the PAM111. Now, the PAM111 is a Luminor Marina, as opposed to a Luminor Base, which means it has a small seconds hand at 9 O’Clock. You can read about Panerai watches main differences in another blog. Besides that, PAM111 is pretty much the same as a PAM112. I would prefer PAM112 base dials, but a seconds hand can be useful sometimes. Never worry about the strap on a Panerai watch because they can be changed so easily and there are so many gorgeous options for any PAM. Aftermarket straps are all over the internet and I find it much better wearing aftermarket instead of the original. You can always sell your Panerai better if it comes with official strap. If you ever want to sell it anyways. When buying a Panera watch, focus on the piece itself and find your ideal strap later.
To the untrained eye, all PAM look exactly the same. And that’s one reason why a basic PAM112 is almost as good as a higher end model to many people. That’s why PAM112 is probably the best option for buying first Panerai watch. I currently have three Panerai watches in my collection and, few weeks back, my wife took them side-by-side for comparison. They are three completely different pieces, but my wife kept saying that they were completely the same. The essence of all Panerai watches is in those little and subtle differences that will be missed by the untrained eye. That’s why I love them so much. You can meet a fellow Panerai enthusiast and talk for hours about your PAM watches and their differences. And it will look like you speak some foreign language to all other people.
You see, different Panerai are all about little changes – different movements, base dial versus Marina, brushed case versus polished case etc. My fellow Panerai enthusiast and I were discussing collecting in general recently – not just watches, but collecting stamps, models cars or anything. He said a real collector doesn’t need to collect every item made by a company, but rather every variation of a specific model. He would collect a very specific model car, for example, in every colour and version. It’s the same about Panerai collecting. The Luminor Base is so different to a Luminor 1950 PAM312. Even my Luminor 1950 PAM359 is totally different to a PAM312 because of its 11-numeral “dirty” dial as opposed to a standard 3-numeral Marina dial. When you’re fanatic about Panerai, you really get excited about the subtle variations between all the models. Probably because they are hard to spot and so rare.
So you have still not decided? A manually wound entry-level Luminor or Radiomir won’t do it for you? You need something a little more special? You need a true in-house movement and more up-market piece? This means more expensive, of course. Well, now we need to look at the Luminor 1950 range. The 1950 case is cushion-shaped and sits huge on the wrist – really huge. Unless you are really big guy, this Panerai watch is probably going to look silly on your hand. It is a piece of art. Most of these pieces use Panerai’s own in-house movements and come in 44 mm, although there are a couple of mind-blowing 47 mm models which are even bigger.
You should look at the PAM351, which is a Luminor Marina with a date display and a titanium case!!! It uses the Panerai P.9000 movement – an in-house automatic movement with 3 days power reserve. This means that you won’t have to wind it every day. However, you cannot quick-set the date on the P.9000. Instead, you can set the hour hand independently of the minute hand and wind it until the date is correct. Pretty cool, you’ll agree. Different variations of this piece are the PAM312 and PAM359. These Luminor 1950 are certainly more high-end and look stunning, although big on the wrist.
If you are still reading this, it means that you haven decided on buying first Panerai watch. If you need to start off on even more high end than previous model, check out the 47mm Luminor 1950 PAM422, which has an in-house manually wound movement with 3 days power reserve and. Get this – it has power reserve indicator on the back. How cool is that? I have tried on this beauty before and it is just sensational. For something slightly less obvious, look for a Radiomir 1940 PAM514. Also a 47mm case, but much slimmer and using a similar movement, the PAM514 is one gorgeous piece.
Pre-owned or new? Tough question when you are buying first Panerai watch. The problem with pre-owned Panerai is that they retain their value so well. I often see 6 or 7 year-old pieces selling at barely a 20% discount relative to the price of a new one. The problem with brand new Panerai is that you will get virtually zero discount on the price. I have found some good deals on virtually new pre-owned Panerai. These are pieces that were originally purchased within the last 6 months, have full warranty, and offered good value. If you are lucky enough to find such an opportunity, then go for it. If you have to purchase brand new, at least you know that you can resell the piece after 4 or 5 years and not loosing too much money on your initial investment.
Here is a piece of advice that I ignored when I got my first Panerai watch. If you acquire a PAM with its original strap unworn, either because the piece is brand new or the original owner never wore the aftermarket strap, don’t wear the original strap. If you need to resell a Panerai watch, it will sell better with an unworn original strap. It’s hard, I know, because some of the original straps are so gorgeous. But if you can find another great strap to wear and just keep the original strap in the box, you may do better and quicker resale.
Let’s assume, of course, that you were planning on buying first Panerai watch before reading this blog. I hope that this blog has at least given you some insight. At the end, I can guarantee one thing — no matter which model you buy and no matter which model you buy after that, your favourite model will always be the next PAM on the horizon.