The New Panerai 424 Takes on the Rare Vintage 3646
Mention the name Panerai and you’ll hear a racuous cry of celebration across the globe. Calling themselves the Paneristi, (they even have their own forum), these fans are the best advertising Panerai could ask for. The acolytes gather online and in person from countries as far flung as Australia to the Netherlands to trade tales and share their Panerai watches. In front of a Paneristi you don’t want to rake on their beloved brand or you might risk starting a brawl.
The Paneristi have so much clout that Rafael Alvarez, the new U.S. President, acknowledged that Panerai develops based on feedback from the disciples. What the Paneristi want, they get. They may protect the brand with their lives but they also don’t cut Panerai any slack if they find out they’re cutting corners with the watches. Witness the furor that went on when someone opened up the back of his PAM318 “Brooklyn Bridge” edition limited to 150 pieces only to find a scratched and unfinished movement inside. Panerai fans were not only disappointed but some were extremely pissed off—and rightly so.
But back to the real story. While most of the attention will be on the Luminor Tourbillon GMT Ceramica from SIHH this year, which retails for $141,000 (circa £90,000), I found the Panerai 424 (PAM424) much more in keeping with the brand’s DNA; it’s Panerai doing what Panerai does best.
Panerai 424 Radiomir California 3 Days (PAM424)
In line with the trend to revisit heritage pieces, Panerai also issued the Panerai 424 Radiomir California 3 Days (PAM424) at SIHH 2012 with now what is officially called the “California Dial”. I showed you some of the other brands digging into the archives for inspiration for current models such as the Baume & Mercier, JLC, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet, to name a few.
It’s rumored the “California Dial”, which shows Roman numerals on the top half and Arabic on the bottom, got its name because a dealer in California retailed it. Before Richemont took over Panerai, the brand was an assembler and not a watchmaker. They designed the cases and then sourced materials from other companies such as Rolex. Since the “California Dial” originally came from Rolex, you can also find “California Dials” on their watches as well as those from Movado.
This isn’t the first time modern Panerai dusted off the California Dial. In 2006 they put out the PAM249 Radiomir 1936 California Dial in a limited edition of 1936 pieces based on the PAM 3646 made for the Italian Marina Militare.
Vintage Panerai 3466 – Radiomir 1936 – PAM3466
The new PAM424, which hearkens back to the 3466, incorporates what Panerai deems evolutions, a term they use to describe all their new introductions. As Alvarez explains, the brand can’t stay static but has to evolve.
For example, the 3466 didn’t have a date and the Panerai 424 (PAM424) does, and while the vintage example used a Rolex movement, the Panerai 424 (PAM424)uses the P.3000 in-house handwind movement the company introduced last year with two barrels giving a 3-day power reserve. Panerai retained the vintage looks of the 3466 with the 47mm cushion-shaped stainless steel case, wire strap attachments, conical, blued hands and a plexi crystal.
For the PAM424 Panerai chose an exhibition back and a water resistance to just 100 meters, which seems odd for an homage to a military diving piece. I would’ve preferred a closed back like the original. It’s not like the finishing on the movement is supposed to be the selling point here. The new OP logo on the dial and the “California” inscription engraved on the flange at 12 o’clock are new and identifying characteristics of the Panerai 424 (PAM424).
So what would I choose? I haven’t seen any 3466 come to market, but if they did I’d still choose the PAM424. And it’s not just because of the huge price differential that makes the 3466 unattainable to most, including yours truly.
I like the upgrades and modern touches Panerai did to the watch, giving it an overhaul and facelift. Inside ticks a robust new movement with a convenient 3-day power reserve so you can take the weekend off and kick back without hassling about the time. And, even if the watch did wind down, the independently moving hour hand connected to the date makes resetting a cinch, especially because you can move forwards or backwards.
With the Panerai 424 (PAM424) you’ve got a great daily wearer that’s based on the original but using state-of-the-art technology. It’s the difference between owning a vintage Ferrari and a brand spanking new one. The vintage you only drive on special occasions while the new one can roar out of the garage whenever you want it to. The Panerai 424 (PAM424) offers you superb performance in a modern package.
The Panerai 424 (PAM424) Radiomir California 3 Days retails for $9400 (circa £6500). The 3466-??? Who knows, because I haven’t seen any come to market but it’s certainly a boatload of cash.
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