For once, more than whatever minor design tweak has spawned a new Panerai reference, it is how the watch is being sold that is most notable. The Panerai Luminor Submersible Automatic Acciaio PAM731, with its limited-edition blue dial, is most certainly a handsome and capable dive watch. But, as the first Panerai to be offered exclusively online, it is representative of some pressing current issues and how the watch industry is, very slowly, adapting to change.
Panerai already sells watches online, but the Panerai Luminor Submersible Automatic Acciaio PAM731 "E-Commerce Micro-Edition," limited to 100 pieces, cannot be bought in stores - and that is a first for Panerai. Time and again, we have discussed the systemic problems of the watch industry here on aBlogtoWatch, especially in relation to sales and distribution, and the watch industry's failure to accept, use, and adapt to the modern reality of online purchasing. This means in terms of media and advertising as well as moving toward direct online sales instead of relying solely on third-party retailers. The current outdated wholesale distribution model along with an inventory glut has allowed the gray market to not only undercut luxury watch pricing but also undermine the all-important commodity that is consumer trust. You can find many articles on these and related subjects on our Watch Business topic page here.
So, while the Panerai Luminor Submersible Automatic Acciaio PAM731 "E-Commerce Micro-Edition" watch might look like one degree in the 90-degree turn that is necessary for the industry, it is at least in the right direction. And it is in the company of other signs that more brands are finally waking up. Examples such as the Omega Speedmaster "Speedy Tuesday" limited-edition watch made for Fratellowatches.com and their #speedytuesday Instagram hashtag having sold out in four hours must at least get the brands' attention. The convenience, competitiveness, and comfort of the online buying experience for customers makes the transition to a proper online presence necessary for any watch brand that wants to survive.
So, what about the watch that is the vehicle for this discussion? Blue dials always seem like a good choice for limited editions because they look a little special and are a less conservative option than, say, black. The Panerai Luminor Submersible Automatic Acciaio PAM731 (PAM00731) has a blue dial but is otherwise more or less like the black-dialed PAM01024. At 44mm wide in steel (acciaio means "steel" in Italian - though don't ask me how to pronounce it) and water-resistant to 300m, the Panerai Luminor Submersible PAM731 has the Luminor's cushion-shaped case with signature crown guard device, and the rotating brushed steel bezel quickly identifies it as a Luminor Submersible and unmistakably as a dive watch.
Behind a solid caseback, the Panerai Luminor Submersible PAM731 watch is powered by the "exclusive" caliber OP XXX, a COSC-certified automatic movement beating at 4Hz (28,800bph) with 50 hours of power reserve. It offers the time with a sub-seconds at 9 o'clock and the date at 3 o'clock which has a "cyclops" magnifier over it on the sapphire crystal. Skeletonized hour and minute hands are familiar for Luminor Submersible watches, and Super-LumiNova, even for the seconds hand and its indices, is sufficient for a dive watch. It comes on a black caoutchouc (natural rubber) strap as well as with an additional canvas strap and strap-changing tool.
While it seems like merely a cautious experiment at this stage, this "E-Commerce Micro-Edition" watch is hopefully a sign of a greater overall transition for the watch industry that we have been advocating for a long time. It is a step in the right direction, but a lot more aggressive action is still needed. The Panerai Luminor Submersible Automatic Acciaio PAM731 watch itself has a price of $7,200, but with currently no "Purchase" button on the website, and only options like "notify me when available" and "add to wishlist," it seems that all 100 may have already sold out. panerai.com