The Panograph is descended from a somewhat more complicated watch that appeared during a complicated time: the PanoRetroGraph. The PanoRetroGraph was originally introduced 16 years ago, in 2000, only a year after A. Lange & Söhne debuted its in-house flyback chronograph, the Datograph. Both watches were unprecedented in a lot of respects – really new chronograph movements are very rarely developed even today, and for two to come out within a year of each other, from a small town in Germany, from two manufacturers within shouting distance of each other, was something very few of us at the time had seen coming. Given the proximity of Glashütte Original to Lange you could wonder if there hadn’t been some peeking over the fence from one brand to the other to see what was going on, but given the length of time it takes to develop a chronograph movement, and the significant technical differences between the Datograph and the PanoRetroGraph, more or less parallel, but independent, development seems the likeliest scenario. As Sherlock Holmes says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the case.”
While the Datograph was, and is, a hand-wound, column-wheel, lateral-clutch flyback chronograph, the PanoRetroGraph was something even more complex: a hand-wound, column-wheel-controlled, 30-minute countdown counter with a chime, struck on a cathedral gong, to indicate the end of the timing interval, as well as a flyback chronograph. The original PanoRetroGraph and its movement, the GO caliber 60, was made in a limited series of only 150 pieces, in platinum, and even today, there isn’t really another watch out there quite like it. ]The year that the PanoRetroGraph came out also coincided with the acquisition of Glashütte Original by the Swatch Group, where the company remains today.
The PanoRetroGraph did lead to the production of a less complex but still unconventional chronograph: the PanoGraph, with the hand-wound, column-wheel, lateral-clutch flyback chrono movement, caliber 61.
There’s a tendency, for whatever reason, to expect a German-made (and especially Glashütte-made) wristwatch, to give an overall impression of solidity and focus on build quality and mechanical integrity. There are other approaches to watchmaking to be found in Glashütte, of course (the vibe you get from a NOMOS, for instance, is obviously much more contemporary and overtly design focused) but when it comes to fulfilling an admittedly somewhat stereotyped idea of German watchmaking in general, and Glashütte watchmaking in particular, the PanoGraph fills the bill nicely. It’s not an especially big watch – 40 mm x 13.7 mm – but it wears and feels bigger, partly due to the generally very solid build quality, and partly due to certain aspects of the design, like the relatively narrow bezel and the generous amount of white space.
There are two things to discuss when it comes to the dial: the overall composition and choice of design elements, and the quality of the dial work itself. Qualitatively, the PanoGraph is impeccable; everything from the hands, to the applied markers, to the beveling on the date window, quality of printing, and so on, shows every sign of a lot of very serious attention to detail. From a design perspective, the PanoGraph’s a little harder to figure out. The sub-seconds dial and tail on the seconds hand give the watch a slightly archaic feel and at first, this seems slightly at odds with the sector for the chronograph seconds, but over the course of a week of wear, it started to seem much more natural to me than it did at first glance. If I had to pick one element of the design that seems challenging, at least the first few times I wore the watch, it would probably be the fact that the composition, plus the big date, seemed irresistibly reminiscent of A. Lange & Söhne. Ultimately, though, by the time the week was over I’d stopped seeing the Lange 1 in the back of my mind, so to speak, when I looked at the PanoGraph, and it had started to assume an identity of its own.
I’m not sure how much the feeling that this particular design can seem derivative of the Lange 1 is really inherent to the design, and how much of it stems at least somewhat from the fact that you know both brands are from Glashütte – I suspect it has a lot to do with it. In any case, for me, the design of the GO PanoGraph is sufficiently its own thing that by the end of the review period, I saw the PanoGraph as a PanoGraph, and not as something derivative of anything else.
In terms of operation, it’s good news all the way around. In addition to being a very legible watch, thanks to the high polish of the dial furniture and the textured dial finish, the chronograph operation’s very smooth as well, with crisp but not rough pusher feel for start, stop and reset – there’s a clean break at the detent, which is not so stiff as to be unpleasant nor so soft in feel as to make for an uncertain transition.
The nice thing about wearing a watch like the GO PanoGraph for a Week On The Wrist is that you have something pretty exciting to look at when it’s off the wrist. Caliber 61-03 gives you a great viewing experience, and there’s a full suite of finishes, including Glashütte stripes, straight-grained and black polished steel, nicely beveled edges on both plates and bridges, blued steel screws and jewels in screwed-down chatons, and so on. Interestingly, GO uses perlage on some visible elements of the mainplate; this finishing technique is more often confined to areas under other elements of a movement, or to the dial side (bottom plate). Here, they actually give an interesting, somewhat industrial contrast to the other, more overtly luxurious finishes, and once you strap the watch on, you get exactly that secret sense of satisfaction you should that there’s more to what’s on your wrist than meets the eye. I’d only wish for a few really sharp inner angles, the better to counteract the slightly industrial feel of the perlage.
Between the pragmatically luxurious look of the movement (if something can be called pragmatically luxurious) and the very structured, highly detailed dial, this very much left me with the impression of a watch that’s more formal than not. Given its size and complexity, it is certainly not a watch suitable for formal wear, and it seems clearly designed to make a very overt impression, but there’s no doubt you feel, if you’re in jeans and a polo shirt, and you’re wearing the PanoGraph, that the watch might be a little better dressed than you.
There are watches that you forget you’re wearing, more or less, unless you look at them, and it’s not just a matter of price; a Patek Calatrava and a Seiko 5 can both manage the same vanishing act though in other respects, they couldn’t be more different watches. Wearing a PanoGraph is a bit like wearing a bow tie or driving a carefully battered vintage Rolls-Royce to the grocery store to pick up a carton of milk – you’re deliberately looking to create an effect, while at the same time deliberately saying you’re the sort of fellow who does things for his own reason and doesn’t care all that much about other people’s opinions.This is a watch to wear because you like complexity, prefer making style choices of your own instead of following rules, and don’t mind rising to the occasion.
The Glashütte Original PanoGraph: movement, GO caliber 61-03, 32.2 mm x 7.2 mm, column wheel, lateral clutch chronograph with seconds and 30 minute counter; large date. 28,800 vph, 42-hour power reserve. Case, 40 mm x 13.7 mm, 18k red gold. $34,600, as shown. See it at Glashütte Original online.
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