Panerai doesn\’t leave me indifferent. But I feel different about Panerai every time I have one on. One moment I get why the Paneristi are so devoted to the brand and why the subtle differences between each model make them so exciting. The next I wonder if the manufacture isn\’t running out of ideas. But the new PAM 662 and PAM 663 clearly show they haven\’t.
The reason in this case is their lovely tobacco-brown dials, and the history behind them. It\’s a color Panerai would\’ve hated seeing when they began making watches with Rolex in the 1930s. Their brass dials were black and meant to stay that way.
To their dismay, the Florentine house would soon find out their patented radium-based powder (Radiomir), which so successfully lumed the hands and indexes of their diving instruments, would later turn them brown.
That\’s exactly what happened to one of its most famous watches, reference 6154. Nicknamed the “Egiziano Piccolo,” it was commissioned by the Egyptian Navy in 1954, specifically because they required the properties of Radiomir for underwater use.
On December 14, 2012, Christie\’s presented one of the last remaining examples, a badly discolored reference 6154 with a pre-sale estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. But far from turning collectors off, its tropical dial captured their hearts. A few hours later, the brown reference 6154 would become the most expensive vintage Panerai ever sold, smashing its estimate at $326,500.
Four years later Panerai has decided to bring back the historical reference by producing two limited editions with brown dials. On the surface, Radiomir 1940 3 Days PAM 662 and Luminor 1950 PAM 663 seem heavily inspired by reference 6154. But all traces of Rolex\’s involvement in the original piece have been erased, making way for the Panerai era.
Presented in a stainless-steel case measuring 47 mm, the watches both feature luminous hour markers and Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o\’clock, with gold hour and minute hands, and the words Radiomir Panerai placed at the 12 o\’clock position.
True to their vintage roots, both watches are also equipped with a domed Plexiglas glass, and their reference numbers are engraved between its lugs, just like the model that inspired them. And as you\’d expect, they too can be used under water, to a depth of about 100 meters.
While the PAM 662 comes in a classic Radiomir case, the other special edition features the instantly recognizable crown guard and lever device of the Luminor family, and is significantly larger on the wrist.
Times have of course changed for Panerai, which manufactures its components in-house in Neuchatel, Switzerland, since 2002, and the crown and movement signed by Rolex have been duly ditched.
To power both the PAM 662 and PAM 663, Panerai have instead turned to their workhorse, the robust caliber P.3000, a manually wound movement with two barrels providing three days of power reserve. And this time, the movement can be admired through a sapphire case back showing off the large balance wheel that is so characteristic of the P.3000.
The success of Panerai\’s early models has been their Catch-22. While they simply can\’t rely on their past to provide a well of ideas for future collections, they face unjustified criticism for forgetting their roots when they introduce a novel design.
But Panerai got it just right with the PAM 662 and the PAM 663. The watches highlight one of the brand\’s most historically important watches and make light of one of the unintended consequences of using Radiomir – a rare “mistake,” and an even rarer admission of one.
Both watches come on a very handsome “Ponte Vecchio” leather strap with a heat-engraved Officine Panerai logo on either side and a tongue buckle in polished steel. The PAM 662 and the PAM 663 are limited editions of 1,000 pieces each, priced at $9,800 and $10,200 respectively.
Radiomir 1940 3 Days PAM 662 and Luminor 1950 3 Days PAM 663; AISI 316L polished steel; 47.00 mm x 47.00 mm. Movement, caliber P.3000, 72-hour power reserve. Water-resistant to 10 bar. More on the PAM 662 & PAM 663 from Officine Panerai right here.
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