This new Panerai wristwatch is decidedly trying to look old, and for some timepiece enthusiasts, that is a very good thing. “Aged” new watches are an interesting modern phenomenon in an industry that is obsessed with vintage. Today, there is a thriving niche market for “pre-patinaed” watches that are brand new but constructed in such a way as to evoke the mysterious and organic appeal of watches that have been worn through time. In the past, Panerai has played with watch dials that evoke the look of their vintage military watches, but with the PAM01349, the brand fully embraced an aged look for this new member of the Radiomir family that features an iconic California-style dial.
I am in the camp of people who happen to like the look of these “faux-tina” watches. To me, they are beautiful, and I’m also interested in the various artistic techniques brands use to achieve a “pre-worn” look. Some brands take the cheap route of simply printing dials with “aged colors,” but better artisanship is at play with those products that are built to be new, but they are given an “aging process” to simulate the wear and tear that can occur over time. In the fashion world, I believe this really started with faux vintage jeans and t-shirts, and these have similar analogs in the wristwatch space. What is Panerai’s strategy for making the Radiomir California PAM01349 look like a timepiece from the past? Note that, according to Panerai, the original Radiomir watches (produced with Panerai dials and Rolex… everything else) debuted in 1935.
The crucial element here is Panerai’s new Brunito eSteel case material. The 45mm-wide Radiomir California is made of steel that is given a slight PVD coating layer and is water resistant to 100 meters. That layer is then gently brushed by hand, giving the case the particular look you can see in the images. According to Panerai, each watch will look a bit different as a result, and fans of vintage-style watches will certainly enjoy the overall look. Those who like brand-new-looking watches only will no doubt continue to snicker at the idea of buying a pre-worn luxury item.
Panerai says it uses eSteel, which is a recycled form of steel for the Radiomir California case; its also the case that most high-quality steel alloys are technically recycled (as this process results in harder steels). Panerai might be taking a marketing step to brand its steel as recycled, but it really isn’t the only brand in the high-end watchmaking space to make use of steel that is processed in this way. The good news is that Panerai forgoes the vintage-style acrylic crystal for a sapphire crystal that has the shape of an older-style acrylic one.
For the California dial, Panerai offers something very beautiful. The background is a green color that melds nicely with the gold and cream tones on the dial, as well as the blued steel hands. The simple symmetry of the hours- and minutes-only dial is truly attractive, both in legibility and hue. California-style dials are typified by the use of Roman numeral hour markers on the top hemisphere of the dial and Arabic numeral hour markers on the bottom hemisphere of the dial. Attached to the case is a vintage-style brown “Ponte Vecchio” calf-leather strap with a matching Brunito steel buckle.
Inside the Panerai Radiomir California PAM01349 watch is Panerai’s in-house manually wound caliber P.5000 mechanical movement. It features just the hours and minutes and offers eight days of power reserve (between two barrels) operating at 3Hz. Panerai has stated that this version of the Radiomir California will only be available for purchase in Panerai boutiques around the world. The PAM01349 is a very beautiful watch, but it isn’t meant for all people. It embodies a brand whose mission is to create beautiful statutes in honor of its past glory. This is a popular strategy, but it mainly has Panerai’s sales efforts focus on more elite collectors who are truly interested in getting into the Panerai game. That’s mostly due to the pricing, but if you can afford it, this is an attractive timepiece. Panerai was unable to provide pricing information ahead of press time. Learn more on the Panerai watches website.