Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

Welcome to the second installment in our Cost of Entry series of articles, where we go hands-on with the most affordable, entry-level watches of today's leading luxury watch brands. In our first article, we looked at Rolex and the Oyster Perpetual, and today, we are checking out what Officine Panerai has to offer with its Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo watch.

The remarkable popularity of Panerai is something that needs no introduction to most. Officine Panerai was purchased through the Vendôme Luxury Group by luxury industry giant Richemont SA in 1997; and since the dawn of the new millennium, Panerai has enjoyed a lasting – and for a while, seemingly endless – growth and expansion that was matched by only a handful of other brands. Chances are, if you are reading this, you either already own a Panerai and are thinking about whether also getting the base model is a good idea, or you are interested in the brand and are planning on "entering it" sometime soon. Now, as many of the former could certainly explain to the latter, there is something unique to the wearing experience that a Panerai provides – and we are here to find out whether the most affordable among all Panerai watches can deliver that.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

We have covered the history of Panerai in greater detail in our History of Dive watches feature article here, but for the sake of better understanding the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo watch, we will look into the past of the Luminor line briefly. Originally, Panerai used the "Luminor" term only to refer to a luminous substance it debuted in 1949 – the same goes for the brand's other major collection called Radiomir; but let's maintain our focus here. Defined by the unique bridge over the crown of the 44mm wide 316L steel case, as well as its integrated lug design, the Luminor collection, for many, is the quintessential Panerai.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

The trademark bridge was debuted by Reference 6152-1 in 1943, but Panerai only patented the design much later, in 1956. The Panerai Luminor PAM000, of course, proudly features this steel bridge over its crown and it functions as flawlessly as it does on any other Panerai Luminor – you really are not missing out on anything here, unless you're one for the "REG. T.M." designation engraved onto the bridges of some other models.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

The high legibility is, of course, essential to any true Panerai: the black dial of the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo comes with excellent lume that appears off-white (with a slight greenish hue) in the day and bright green at night. It also displays the OP logo at 6, that comes from Officine Panerai (officine being Italian for "workshops") and, with its upwards and downwards pointing arrows, is storied to represent the company's involvement in manufacturing diving and landing aid systems.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

If you are just getting into the world of Panerai, you will have to note that the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo has a so-called "sausage dial" – a not very appetizing name for an otherwise cool aesthetic. Notably, there are two main dial versions that the company offers, and they are differentiated by the way the luminescent material has been applied. The one here features a flat black dial with the Arabic numerals and baton hour markers painted on the surface, hence, the lume appears slightly domed or elevated from the plane of the dial.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

The other Panerai option is the sandwich dial, which is as straight forward as it sounds: there are two dial plates, the bottom one is solid and has lume applied to it, while the upper one has the hour markers cut-out, revealing the lume underneath. This method gives more depth to the dial, while the "sausage dial" of the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo is arguably a bit more historically authentic (if that's your thing), and somewhat more simple looking, allowing for other design elements to stand out.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

The movement inside is the Panerai OP I, as bog standard as the name implies – but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is basically the trusted ETA 6497 hand-wound movement which, in this iteration, is something that Panerai has been using since 1997, the dawn of its renaissance. As a large, reliable, rugged caliber that was originally designed to be a pocket watch movement, it fills up the case nicely, and it runs at 3 Hertz with a power reserve of 56 hours.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

It is hidden under a solid steel case back that bears the Officine Panerai logos and designations, and also carries the case number and serial number. For that added sense of exclusivity, the Panerai Luminor PAM000 is limited to production runs of 2500, with each run being marked by a letter from the alphabet – so you have M series, N series, and so on.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

Okay, so by now we have discussed most of the technicalities of the Panerai Luminor PAM000, but that only partially helps us determine the answer to the original question – just how much of the Panerai experience it manages to deliver. Well, as we can see, the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo is packed with design elements that are highly relevant to Panerai's history, and both the case size and shape, as well as the crown guard and dial design work together in a way that they help you enjoy not one or two, but a large number of unique Panerai treats.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

While there is no one definitive reason why so many have become (nearly) addicted to this wearing experience, the way the Panerai Luminor case looks on the wrist certainly is one of them. And with this, we have arrived at an interesting point and one that you may not realize until you have either seen hundreds of Panerai watch images, or you yourself already own one: the remarkable versatility of the design.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

With a lug width of 24 millimeters and a hassle-free strap changing system, the round dial and cushion shaped case of the Panerai Luminor can change its appearance entirely by the addition of a different strap – and worry not, there is a smaller industry worth of larger companies and one-man workshops around the world who have specialized in crafting fantastic straps. Using various kinds of leather and rubber, they have been granting the Paneristi (the fans and collectors of the brand) virtually endless options to change the looks of their watches. From a full-on military look through fun colorful options, to an elegant and restrained aesthetic, this simple combination of a curved case and round dial can be renewed over and over again in a way few other watches can be.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

This ease of maintaining versatility is what many consider to be one of the key defining factors that made Panerai so popular – and because the Panerai Luminor PAM000 is as basic as they get (apart from the addition of the OP logo at 6), it will wear different kinds of straps beautifully. Speaking of the addition of the logo, we arrive at discussing the alternatives to the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles
Panerai PAM112 with a sandwich dial

Finding an alternative from another brand will be challenging because the Panerai wearing experience is so specific that it can hardly be replicated by getting something from another brand. There are plenty of "Panerai homages" out there, but instead, we will look at two offerings – one more affordable and one priced higher than the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo – that in one way or another can be suggested as an alternative. We will, of course, look at some other options, but first, let's stay within the realms of Panerai and look at the Panerai Luminor PAM112.

At first glance, it looks remarkably similar – same case size, material, and color scheme – but, as always with Panerai, it all comes down to subtle differences. The PAM112 replaces the sausage dial of the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo with a sandwich version, loses the Base Logo from 6, and features the OP X movement which adds a swan neck regulator to the OP I and, more importantly, is on display thanks to a sapphire case back. The Panerai Luminor PAM112 is priced at $5,900, so you are paying quite a bit of a premium for those small upgrades.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

As we said just above, it is very difficult to replicate the Panerai experience, but you are not out of luck if your budget is a bit tighter. The Citizen Grand Touring Sport (hands-on here) is an excellent dive watch and one that I have been wearing on and off for a few months now. Interestingly, its stainless steel, cushion shaped case is also 44 millimeters wide (three major similarities right off the bat), it also features a crown protector – which although works in a slightly different way, it looks very similar – and it also comes with a mechanical movement, and a really good one at that, from Citizen. Priced at $1,195, you also truly get a nicely executed steel bracelet – but you can get away with putting it on leather straps, see the image further above.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

What you do miss, beyond the name and the Swiss Made designation on the dial, is of course that powerful, restrained elegance that comes from the minimalistic appearance of the Panerai Luminor. A diver's bezel, date, and central running seconds all add to the complexity of Citizen's design – which may or may not be a bad thing; that is entirely up to personal taste. It is nevertheless an extremely well made watch with its own kind of masculine aesthetic.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

For the next alternative we picked, we looked for a vintage diver offering from a major brand to put up against the Panerai Luminor PAM000. A vintage inspired dive watch that, although in different ways, delivers on some of the key points that make the Panerai stand out. Its full-on dive watch design is relatively restrained but is versatile enough, and the wearing experience that it provides is also unique and specific enough for it to be comparable.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles
The new Omega Seamaster 300 (left), compared to the original from 1957 (right)

The Omega Seamaster 300 (hands-on here) debuted at BaselWorld 2014 and features Omega's Master Co-Axial movement that is resistant to magnetic forces of up to 15,000 Gauss, a 41mm-wide case and a typically Omega "broad arrow" handset for the dial inspired by the original 1957 model. The looks are certainly different, but the "vibes" of wearing a vintage inspired, modern dive watch is similar. Price for the Omega Seamaster 300 in steel on the bracelet is $6,600. That is clearly more than the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo, but the pricing premium is justified by the modern, proprietary movement and the steel bracelet.

Cost Of Entry: Panerai Watches Feature Articles

Still, it is very difficult to recommend alternatives to the Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo because if you want to get into the Panerai world, then anything else is a far cry from delivering it. The Panerai Luminor PAM000 delivers a large number of key design elements that make a Panerai special – and if you want a different kind of dial or any open case back, Panerai has you covered with other versions, like the PAM112 that we looked at above. The Panerai Luminor PAM000 Base Logo is priced at $4,500 and is a highly recommendable option for those who are looking to buy their first Panerai and want to make the most of it – and it is a must-have for the die-hard collector, for it comprises the very essence of the brand. panerai.com

  • Johnny Tank (Forever Autumn)

    I recently tried a couple of Panerai’s for the first time, and I totally fell in love with the sandwich dial. Although it’s a tad more expensive the PAM 312 is what I am saving up for – also, I think the “mid-range” PAM’s are much easier to sell, if that time should ever arise.

  • If you are a Panerai lover, then nothing anyone will say can dissuade you. But even at the lowly (for a Panerai) price of $4500, I find this to be a lot of money for a watch with a Unitas/ETA 6497 and not much else going on technically. You are paying for that Panerai look I guess. The do have a distinctive look so they are on their way to being a design icon. Just not a design I’m in love with, but that’s just me. I don’t hold anyone’s love for Panerai against them, but the prices they ask for them continues to flabergast me. Thanks for doing another one in this series David.

    • radikaz

      Panerai & Hublot’s pricing are really out of these world haha One charges US$4500 for an Unitas movement, while latter charges US$15k for a modified & glorified Valjoux 7750

    • WImads

      They are indeed quite overpriced watches… which is a pity, because boy do I love them! Despite being nowhere near the most special, complicated or horologically exceptional, the PAM359 is on top of my grail list. It is just that distinctive look that grabs me.
      It is unfortunate on one side, but from the other side, the fact that they are so expensive also adds to the desireability of the brand. It takes some serious effort to obtain, and there is no workaround to satisfying that desire, since there is no true comparable alternative out there.

    • Zhengyi Zhu

      I much prefer a PAM with a tried and tested Unitas movement that I can service anywhere to a PAM with an in-house movement that doesn’t run anywhere as well as the Unitas one.

    • egznyc

      I agree – there’s nothing that impressive mechanically to justify their pricing. While it’s clearly a popular brand based on a distinctive, masculine design, they’re really just a one-hit wonder.

      • Malcolm

        Not an ETA fan for that price. The in-house movements are worth it in my opinion.

        *One-hit wonders don’t last two decades.

  • Ulysses31

    The entry-level models lack a sophisticated look. Just a few machined blocks bolted together with an absence of nice decoration or fancy finishing. There are way too many good homages to justify buying any low-end Panerai. I like the overall design language but these lack a “hook” to catch my interest.

    • egznyc

      I am not in love with Panerai. But I’m not sure what the homages are to this brand, as there is something rather distinctive here.

  • BIG CHRONO

    You can circumvent asinine costs by entering the gray market. Places like Amazon, Alan Furman, & others offer ample discounts. Sometimes with the manufacturers’ warranties, more often the vendors’, or 3rd party coverage. I checked Alan Furman, & this is an allegedly rock solid online firm, & it does have a brick/mortar site in Rockville, Maryland. If I went off my meds & were contemplating a Panerai, it would be brokered through the Furman option.

  • Fjodor

    this is a very interesting seies about “cost of entry” I wonder what will be the next brand after Rolex and PAM?

    • ??????

      Seiko lol

    • Zhengyi Zhu

      Omega Speedmaster? Nomos Orion? Both pretty good watches with low entry points.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Terrifically good timepiece , ticks all the boxes ( apart from no date window ) , but if am shelling out 5k on my first watch ( my most expensive watch was $800 Raymond weil ) I need to see a bit of eye candy re: the movement. If I had the money , it would be in my watch movement cabinet. .

  • Fjodor

    btw, Omega Rail Master can be even a better alternative to PAM than the Seamaster 300.

  • ??????

    Does it look good? Yes. Does it look 6000$ good? No!!!

  • r_s_g

    I don’t know, I think Magrette does a pretty good job matching the “Panerai experience” at a much lower price point.

    • frustin

      just looking at the Leoncino, very nice actually.

  • J.P. Coqueran

    I know way more about Panerai than I probably should, and there is now way I would drop 5k on that. That Panerai experience should come with a bottle of KY Jelly.

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  • great iconic Design worth the price u get the Panerai experience around 5k and that’s it. wouldn’t wana spend more for extra useless features….

  • Raymond de Mystère, fils

    Gorgeous watch but there ain’t much under the hood. Cut the price in half and let’s talk.

  • disqus_2kQGE2hTU3

    Love the Panerai. Like it O.K.-ish for $6,000.

  • I really like this and the Rolex Cost of Entry articles. What’s the absoIute lowest price you can spend for the brand’s most uninteresting and flavorless offering? Consider the line, “it is very difficult to replicate the Panerai experience”. What’s the experience? Spending $4500 for a watch with a $300 off-the-shelf movement in a case that has been copied by ninety thousands Asian sellers on eBay? Remember the PAM 318 Brooklyn Bridge? A $6000 “limited edition” with the same bog standard ETA movement as the 000 and, with the exception of the small seconds subdial, exact same styling? Is that the experience?

    Snark aside, keep up the good work, David, but may I humbly suggest you explore “vintage” offerings from the same brand whilst offering alternatives? With a little searching, you can pick up a preowned PAM333 or PAM00089 for about the same price as a new 000.

  • John William Salevurakis

    Nope.

  • Martin Buck

    I was curious about Panerai, and have seen a few online, but i wanted to find out how I liked them in person. So I bought a Curren watch via AliExpress, for about $7.00. This has a Radiomir shaped and sized body, and the classic Panerai sandwich dial. There is a little bit of lume, but not much, and I doubt whether it is very waterproof. And the strap is a horrible PU fake suede leather which gives off a petro chemical odor. It uses a Miyota quartz movement and is highly accurate, and has a large second hand. Otherwise it is a little bit like having a Panerai, with the addictive quality of the dial face prominent among the virtues. The clasp did fall off due to a weak spring bar, but it was easy enough to put back, and has not given trouble since. At something less than 1% of the price, I think I have about 50 to 60% of the experience. All without the ego tripping over how much money I have. But I understand the Paneristi, and I do not begrudge them the pleasure in their indulgences. There is just something about them.

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  • Roll Tide

    Just get a Panerai….then you’ll understand. Take it from a watch guy.

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  • Panerai Review

    Getting fake Panerai will not get you to love the brand. Trust me, I’ve been there. You need the real thing!