90 Bal­ance Of Power

Pan­erai’s long power re­serve watches em­body el­e­gance, func­tion, and an af­fir­ma­tion of its roots


Pan­erai’s long power re­serve watches em­body el­e­gance, func­tion, and an af­fir­ma­tion of its roots

This page: Ra­diomir 10 Days GMT Au­to­matic Acciaio PAM323 Op­po­site page: Lu­mi­nor 1950 10 Days GMT Au­to­matic Acciaio PAM533


When Pan­erai in­tro­duced its first watch col­lec­tion for the gen­eral public in 1993, it must have felt like some­thing com­ing in from the cold. Com­pris­ing over­sized watches in cush­ion-shaped cases with sand­wich di­als, it was quaint, unique, and shrouded in mys­tique from a com­pany that had sup­plied se­cret equip­ment to the mil­i­tary, which only then was mak­ing its first steps into the con­sumer mar­ket with watches it was now per­mit­ted to sell.

Its his­tory of sup­ply­ing spe­cial­ist in­stru­ments to the com­bat frog­men of the Royal Ital­ian Navy, who fought in the shad­ows, gives Pan­erai im­mense ca­chet and im­bues its watches with cult machismo. Yet, while Pan­erai cel­e­brates its her­itage in spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions held ev­ery now and then, as well as mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions to an au­di­ence of ador­ing con­sumers, it re­spects its her­itage of innovation too much to rest on the af­ter­glow of past glo­ries.

Af­ter all, when the Royal Ital­ian Navy was sourc­ing for a time­piece to equip its elite com­bat frog­men in 1935– it would have to stand up to ex­treme con­di­tions that these com­man­dos op­er­ated in, and keep ac­cu­rate time that re­mained read­able in the murky depths – it was Pan­erai that se­cured the con­tract with a lit­tle help from Ra­diomir, a flu­o­res­cent paste that Pan­erai had patented two decades be­fore in 1916, which made the nu­mer­als on the dial glow in the dark.


While the lu­mi­nes­cent ma­te­rial patented by Pan­erai was a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in the time­pieces it sup­plied to the Royal Ital­ian Navy from the 1930s, the cases and move­ments in these watches were ini­tially sourced from Rolex (Cal­i­bre 618). From the 1950s, An­gelus 240 move­ments spe­cially adapted for use in wrist­watches at Pan­erai’s re­quest, were used. Un­like the Rolex Cal­i­bre 618, which of­fered 38 hours’ power re­serve, the man­ual-wind­ing An­gelus 240 of­fered eight days’ run time, thus lim­it­ing the wear­ing down of crown threads and seal­ing gas­kets from daily hand wind­ing.

Both move­ments have played an im­por­tant part in Pan­erai’s his­tory and the vin­tage mod­els fit­ted with ei­ther, are hotly de­sired in col­lect­ing cir­cles. But the Pan­erai story is not whole till in 2002, when the de­ci­sion was made to de­velop its own move­ments.

Since then, Pan­erai has in­tro­duced new in-house move­ments at a pace that few com­pa­nies can match. Be­tween 2005, when it de­buted its first in-house move­ment, to 2016, we counted 16 move­ments; and the year is not yet done.

Among its cat­a­logue of move­ments, Pan­erai has pretty much cov­ered the whole spread of com­pli­ca­tions, from split sec­onds chrono­graphs to high-speed tour­bil­lons where the bal­ance is spun on an axis per­pen­dic­u­lar to its os­cil­la­tion. But here, we sin­gle out its long power re­serve watches, a com­pli­ca­tion that res­onates with the Pan­erai man­u­fac­ture’s his­tory.


The first Ra­diomir watch from 1936 had wire lugs sol­dered to the case. In 1940, a new Ra­diomir case was in­tro­duced, fea­tur­ing solid lugs from the same block of steel as the case. This made the case stronger, as re­quested by the Royal Ital­ian Navy, and is the ba­sis for the Ra­diomir 1940 col­lec­tion that de­buted in 2015.

The 10 Days GMT Au­to­matic Oro Rosso PAM624 is a re­fined

Ra­diomir 1940 10 Days GMT Au­to­matic Oro Rosso PAM624

Lu­mi­nor 1950 10 Days GMT Ceram­ica PAM335

dress watch with tool watch un­der­pin­nings, pro­ject­ing a bal­ance of grace and vigour that is unique and au­then­tic; a watch that will segue from ca­sual week­ends by the ma­rina to for­mal ban­quets, with no trou­ble. Much of this could be at­trib­uted to its warm and darkly glam­orous red gold case. Drop­ping the wire lugs in favour of solid lugs has di­alled down the tool fac­tor a notch, while el­e­vat­ing the time­piece in the man­ner of mak­ing it look more for­mal.

For the cit­i­zen of the world, PAM624 makes a most prac­ti­cal com­pan­ion, sport­ing an el­e­gant and com­mon sense im­ple­men­ta­tion of the GMT func­tion. A cen­tral ar­row hand de­picts home time, with AM/PM in­di­ca­tion shar­ing dial space with the run­ning sec­onds, while lo­cal time can be ad­justed by set­ting the hour hand in­de­pen­dently in dis­crete one-hour jumps for­ward or back­wards, with the date ad­justed au­to­mat­i­cally. An­other con­ve­nient fea­ture is the abil­ity to set the time pre­cisely – pulling the crown not only stops the bal­ance, it also re­sets the run­ning sec­onds hand, so one can set the watch from a time sig­nal, to the minute.

The other head­line fea­ture is the power re­serve: 10 days of run­ning power on a full wind, dis­played on a lin­ear scale above six o’clock. Be­ing self-wind­ing, there won’t be many oc­ca­sions where one would need to wind it, un­less it spends more time in a safe than on one’s wrist.


As it turned out, Ra­diomir (the lu­mi­nes­cent paste) was found to be dan­ger­ously ra­dioac­tive. Pan­erai then re­placed it with Lu­mi­nor, which it patented in 1949. Lu­mi­nor is based on tri­tium, which is also ra­dioac­tive like the ra­dium found in Ra­diomir, but much safer. The fol­low­ing year, Pan­erai in­tro­duced the Lu­mi­nor watch, with its now­fa­mil­iar crown-pro­tec­tion bridge.


Com­pared to the orig­i­nal Ra­diomir of 1936, Ital­ian com­man­dos now had a watch with a much burlier case, and bet­ter pro­tec­tion for the crown against shock. As a coun­ter­foil to PAM624, the PAM533 in the Lu­mi­nor case has the same func­tion­al­ity, but a thor­oughly dif­fer­ent aes­thetic. In stain­less steel, it wears its tool watch ori­gins on its sleeve, but it’s not tech­ni­cally dif­fer­ent from PAM624, be­ing fit­ted with es­sen­tially the same move­ment. It does have a slightly smaller case, and twice the wa­ter re­sis­tance, at 100m.

PAM624, PAM533, and PAM323 share the same func­tion­al­ity be­cause they are all driven by es­sen­tially the same move­ment, the P.2003


Though PAM624 and PAM533 look very sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal watches cre­ated in the 1930s and 1950s, the case sizes, while re­main­ing large, have been “tamed” for con­tem­po­rary taste. With­out doubt, they are still large watches, at 45mm and 44mm, re­spec­tively. But col­lec­tors af­ter some­thing even closer to the orig­i­nal will pre­fer the PAM323, boast­ing the sub­stan­tial 47mm case and wire lugs of the Ra­diomir of the 1930s. In terms of per­for­mance, though, PAM323 uses the same mod­ern in-house move­ment as the other two watches, the P.2003. PAM624, PAM533 and PAM323 share the same func­tion­al­ity be­cause they are all driven by es­sen­tially the same move­ment, the P.2003, equipped with three main­spring bar­rels in series, with ef­fi­cient bi-di­rec­tional wind­ing, GMT, sec­onds re­set, and 10 days’ power re­serve. This is Pan­erai’s first au­to­matic in-house move­ment, and it is ac­tu­ally the self-wind­ing ver­sion of Pan­erai’s P.2002.

It should also be noted that PAM624 uses the P.2003/10, which is a thor­oughly skele­tonised vari­ant that shows off the watch’s elab­o­rate move­ment fin­ish­ing. A most wel­come re­fine­ment, in view of the PAM 624’s dressier in­tent.

LU­MI­NOR 1950 8 DAYS GMT ORO ROSSO PAM576 8-Day Ref­er­ences, Man­ual-wind­ing

Self-wind­ing move­ments make great sense, con­vert­ing the en­ergy from hand move­ments that one doesn’t give a se­cond thought about, into use­ful work done in wind­ing one’s watch. Yet, there is some­thing in­her­ently pure and el­e­gant in a man­ual-wind­ing move­ment’s pur­pose and ex­e­cu­tion that en­thrals. Less mov­ing parts, a neater, slim­mer con­struc­tion with­out a dis­tract­ing ro­tor to ob­scure the view of move­ment op­er­a­tion and fin­ish, even the con­nection and tac­tile de­light from wind­ing a trea­sured watch. Es­pous­ing all these fine qual­i­ties is the move­ment driv­ing the eight-day power re­serve ref­er­ences fea­tured here: Pan­erai’s first in-house move­ment, the man­ual-wind­ing P.2002.

It seems rea­son­able that watch com­pa­nies should be con­ser­va­tive in spec­i­fy­ing their first move­ment, by creat­ing sim­ple, hardy base cal­i­bres that are meant to take on more com­pli­ca­tion mo­d­ules as the man­u­fac­ture’s know-how and pro­cesses ma­ture. Pan­erai looks to have jumped into the deep end on its first try, for the P.2002 boasts sim­i­lar fea­tures as the P.2003, ex­cept with an eight­day power re­serve, which is also dis­played on a lin­ear scale.

The P.2002 has the same di­am­e­ter as its self-wind­ing ver­sion, at 13¾ lignes, but be­ing a hand-wound move­ment, it’s thin­ner, at 6.6mm, com­pared to the P.2003’s 8mm. What hap­pens when one com­bines the hulk­ing tool watch case of the Lu­mi­nor with the sheen of red gold? The re­sult is a time­piece that makes a bold state­ment, to say the least, to suit­ably echo the charisma of an in­di­vid­ual who lives large.


Em­i­nently suited for every­day wear, it has all the func­tion­al­ity of the long power re­serve watches fea­tured here, in a steel case at a rel­a­tively ac­ces­si­ble 44mm case size.


Pan­erai’s early col­lec­tions ren­dered in black Pvd-coated steel drove col­lec­tors into a frenzy and helped ig­nite the black watch craze that is to­day more sub­dued, but re­mains here to stay. The PAM384 is even bet­ter: only the wire lugs and case back fram­ing the smoked sap­phire crys­tal are Pvd-coated ti­ta­nium, the rest of the watch case is ex­e­cuted in matte black ceramic. Scratchre­sis­tant in the way that steel is not, thw PAM384 ex­udes stealth and po­tency that blurs the line be­tween time­piece and weapon. How­ever, un­like its sib­lings men­tioned here, it uses the P.2002/3 move­ment, which drops the GMT func­tion.

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