If you had to define a Panerai watch to somebody who knew nothing about the brand, you would probably end up with a description along these lines: a hefty cushion-shaped case, vintage accents, a unique Italian flair and a simple dial with signature numerals glowing in the dark. Iconic for some, but for others perhaps a bit too minimalist, too empty. However, Panerai has more to offer than time-only watches and if you want more going on your dial, the following Panerai Luminor 1950 Automatic Flyback Chronograph PCYC (Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge) ref. PAM00653 is definitely one to consider. Let’s get straight to the point: it is one of the coolest Panerai models of the lot (almost unanimously approved among the redaction team).
The Panerai Luminor 1950 PCYC 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Acciaio 44mm (note to Panerai: please make simpler names for your watches), or the PAM00653 for more simplicity, is part of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge (PCYC) collection, the leading International Circuit for Classic Sailing Yachts, from the Antilles to the Mediterranean – in short, a series of regattas for vintage sailing boats sponsored by Panerai and that has existed for 13 years. It is no surprise that Panerai has a dedicated collection of watches celebrating this partnership with PCYC – a collection now comprising three models, the white dial PAM00654, the titanium and 47mm PAM00652 with regatta counter and the present steel/black dial and 44m diameter flyback chronograph ref. PAM00653.
As a race for vintage sailboats, you can’t expect Panerai to provide modern and technical watches in this context – such as the Panerai Luminor Regatta Transat Classique ref. PAM00956, introduced a few weeks ago. For this PCYC collection, the Italian brand had to fire with all its vintage weapons, yet with the necessary technical modernity that a chronograph requires. For this reason, the PAM00653 is an interesting mix of cool retro details within an overall contemporary package – in fact, it feels more balanced than the traditional 1950 models that can sometimes play a bit too hard on “heritage”.
A typically Panerai habillage
As for the case, no surprises here. The Panerai Luminor 1950 PCYC 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Acciaio 44mm PAM00653 relies on all the traditional codes of the brands. The case, typical of the Luminor 1950 collection, mixes the vintage cushion shape of early Panerai watches with the trademark crown protection device/locker that will later become the norm – a sort of transitional watch. The 316L steel case is mostly polished, with the exception of the crown protection device that is satin-finished.
As for the dimensions, then again it is typically Panerai, meaning a hefty, robust and heavy watch. At 44mm in diameter, it certainly makes an impression when worn and won’t fly under the radar. This has been part of Panerai’s concept for years and it isn’t likely to change. Yet, what the specs won’t tell you is that, even though it measures 44mm and is over 16mm in height, this watch is pretty comfortable on the wrist. The lugs are short and curved and the strap is large enough to balance the watch on the wrist. This almost came as a surprise and even 17cm wrists can handle this hefty piece of stainless steel.
As most chronographs of the brand with in-house movements, the pushers are located on the left side of the case – start/stop at 10 o’clock and reset/flyback at 8 o’clock. This remains a slightly surprising choice but on a daily basis, the reset pusher appears to be extremely practical to actuate with your right thumb. The start button requires to get used to its unusual position, however.
The crown is, as usual with Panerai, firmly secured by the signature lateral device but is large enough and easy to grip. The case of the PAM00653, even though a chronograph, is water-resistant to 100 meters – more than enough for most conditions. And all in all, it is a nautical watch, not a diving instrument. Complementing the vintage look is Panerai’s cool-looking distressed natural leather strap, which will gain patina over the time, and a classic pin buckle to secure the watch to the wrist.
As mentioned in the introduction, Panerai watches, due to their large size and their time-only or small seconds display, can sometimes be a bit too simple, a bit too clean. This isn’t the case for this Flyback Chronograph PCYC ref. PAM00653. There is a lot going on this watch but in a very positive way. Details, colours, display… It is honestly a very, very appealing watch.
So, if the case is unmistakably Panerai, the dial is somewhat unusual for the brand: it is busy. Dials at Panerai can be clean to the point of not even featuring a logo – think California-dialed watches – and in most cases, it is just a pair of hands, indexes/numerals and (not always) a small seconds sub-dial. But on a 44mm or 47mm watch, some will find it too sleek. The PAM00653 will please them, as it adds to the classic Panerai DNA the coolness of a 1940s chronograph with a balanced dial and interesting display.
The base is clearly that of a Panerai, with a matte black plate, stylized Arabic numerals (luminous, of course), typical hands for both the hours/minutes and for the sub-counters and a combination of colour that is warm and old-school – a good point is that this gilt dial doesn’t try too hard to mimic an aged watch. The logo sits classically below the 12 o’clock hour marker and the sub-dials are balanced, well-positioned and well-proportioned. One of the main advantages of in-house movements is this adaptation to the watch and its size.
As you can see, in addition to the central hours/minutes, the small seconds at 9 o’clock and the 12-hour counter at 3 o’clock, the Flyback Chronograph PCYC ref. PAM00653 also features a pair of central chronograph hands. Don’t be too enthusiastic, it isn’t a rattrapante. Panerai, however, made the choice of a legible chronograph display with both the recorded seconds and minutes given by central hands – silver-coloured for the seconds, gold-plated for the minutes (just like the hours sub-counter). Thus, the elapsed times are indicated in a natural and easy-to-read way.
In terms of inscriptions, Panerai has printed a lot on this dial, yet in an orderly way to avoid confusion. The dial is circled by two scales, one for the seconds/minutes and, printed on the inner flange, a nautical tachymetre (to justify the connection with the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge. Instead of being graduated in kilometres, this tachymeter scale is here giving speeds in knots – based on nautical miles (1.852 km). This doesn’t imply a technical modification, just a different graduation.) This Panerai Luminor 1950 PCYC 3 Days Chrono Flyback remains a simple chronograph – for a true regatta chronograph, check the 47mm PAM00652 with its countdown complication.
As for the mechanics inside this watch, Panerai relies on its all-purpose in-house chronograph movement, the P9100. Based on the P9xxx architecture with 3-day power reserve, it is modern and conceived with reliability in mind. However, it also features most of the contemporary delicacies. The P9100 is an integrated, automatic chronograph with column wheel and vertical clutch – an architecture that allows a precise start of the chronograph as well as a smooth action of the pushers.
In addition to this, the P9100 is also equipped with a flyback function on all three chronograph indications. The flyback allows a fast restart of the chronograph by only pressing once on the pusher at 8 o’clock – instead of the 3-step sequence stop-reset-start on a classical chronograph. The flyback function is useful when recording several laps in a row.
The movement, hidden behind a closed steel caseback (with nice nautical scenery on it), is decorated in the typical Panerai way – straight brushed bridges and diamond-polished bevels. This movement has a comfortable 72-hour or 3-day power reserve and a 4hz frequency.
Price and availability
The Panerai Luminor 1950 PCYC 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Acciaio 44mm PAM00653 is a special edition watch, however not limited in production. It has been on the market since 2017 and is available at retailers as well as on the e-commerce site of Panerai (depending on the countries). It is priced at EUR 12,000 or USD 12,300.
This PAM00653 came as a surprise to us. It is attractive, well-executed and above all, shows a great balance between the technicality of a chronograph and the beauty of a vintage-inspired watch. If you’re in the market for a robust, sporty Chrono with old-school style and the Panerai touch, this is one you should consider. More details at www.panerai.com.