It always has been a love-hate relationship among collectors with regard to Panerai timepieces: the use of Unitas and ETA movements had been frowned upon by many. Yet Panerai enthusiasts, or “Paneristi” as we like to call them, praise the brand for its uniqueness, heritage and no nonsense look. As such, there is only one direction for a brand that is so revered and reviled at the same time, and that direction is up, here’s why.
Panerai timepieces were always built like a tank, built in such a way that it is supposed to be worn outdoors by adventurers and thrill seekers alike. With all the fuss of its Luminor as the quintessential Panerai that every Paneristi should have, people tend to forget that Panerai’s first ever piece was not a Luminor, but rather a Radiomir.
The Radiomir was a true classic of a piece that remained unchanged since its inception in 1938 as the official timepiece of the Royal Italian Navy during World War II. With such history and heritage, modernizing it can be risky. Nonetheless, the makers from Panerai did it, and they did it with Italian flair. Enter the Radiomir Black Seal, a contemporary version of the original Radiomir ref.3646. These vintage models are so rare that they sell for rather steep prices these days, like this one here.
The Black Seal Radiomir has been around for years, but it is only in SIHH 2012 that Panerai introduces one with a fully in-house produced movement inside a Radiomir, the PAM388 or also known as the Black Seal 3-Days Automatic.
The PAM388 houses one of Panerai’s own, the P.9000 in-house movement created entirely by Panerai. It’s a self-winding movement with a 3-day power reserve, evidently providing the PAM388’s name. The movement is supposedly built initially for the Luminors, which requires a specially-made case, designed to have a slightly less convex sapphire crystal that slightly protrudes from the bezel. The PAM388 is the first Radiomir to ever house the P.9000 movement which makes the piece so special.
Additional movement specifications:
- 7.9mm thick
- 28 Jewel movement
- 28,800 vph
The PAM388 is housed in a polished steel case with a case diameter of 45mm which is fairly standard from the brand. A black dial face with the second hand right beside the 9 o’clock position, a date indicator on the 3 o’clock position and a signature “Radiomir Black Seal” text written below the 12 o’clock position. It comes with a black alligator strap with the patented wire loop for easy strap changing, and most importantly a see through sapphire crystal caseback to showcase the P.9000 in all its glory.
Aesthetically, the PAM388 is one of the most elegant piece I’ve ever seen from Panerai watch. Notice the word used – elegant, a word rarely used with Panerai watches. This is because in my opinion, it’s one of those piece that strikes the middle ground in this love-hate relationship among Panerai and its collectors. For one it houses an in-house movement, this shuts up all those folks trying to argue that value of the Panerai pieces, and secondly it’s one of those watches that can be used as a tool watch or as a dress watch. In a manner of speaking, it’s versatile piece that reminds you of the original Rolex Explorer, a piece that can be worn for every occasion.
This article is written by Evan Yeung, contributing writer for Monochrome Watches.