Panerai’s Luminor 1950 3 Days Titanio DLC 47mm or PAM 629, launched at the recently concluded Watches&Wonders 2015 exhibition (30 September to 3 October 2015) and held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, marks yet another first for the “California” dial made famous by this brand.
What is the California dial? The California dial is characterized by half-Arabic, half-Roman numerals for its hour indexes.
The top half of the dial features the Roman numerals I, II, X and XI, while the lower half has the Arabic numerals 4, 5, 7 and 8. The indexes for 3, 6 and 9 are represented by bar indexes while a triangular symbol is at 12 o’clock.
The California dial style is said to have been first used by Rolex for its Bubble Backs in the 1930s.
In 1936, Panerai supplied its first prototype watch to the Royal Italian Navy and it is generally accepted that it was a Radiomir watch ref. 3646 equipped with a Rolex movement, the California dial and wire loop handles that held the leather straps for securing the watch to the wrist.
In other words, the California dial marked a first as it was used for Panerai’s earliest-known diver’s watch supplied to the Royal Italian Navy. One must also not forget that this Radiomir ref. 3646 of 1936 with the California dial was the first watch in Panerai’s history.
It was only in 2006 that Panerai created a version that was based on their first diver’s watch with the California dial and it was named the Radiomir 1936 or PAM 249 which became highly sought-after.
Since then, there have been a few more Panerai watches featuring the California dial but these have all been housed in Radiomir cases. One example will be the PAM 424 in steel featuring the California dial with a date display launched in 2012.
Panerai’s Luminor 1950 3 Days Titanio DLC 47mm or PAM00629 is one of two special editions that was launched at Watches&Wonders 2015.
What makes the PAM 629 truly special? “This is the first time the California dial is used on a Luminor case,” says Alessandro Ficarelli, product development director, Panerai, who by the way, celebrates his 10th anniversary with the brand in 2015. He joined the brand in 2005 – the year Panerai launched its first in-house movement, the P.2002.
The Luminor case refers to modern-day Panerai watchcases (from 1993 onwards) with the characteristic lever-operated crown-locking mechanism.
The case with this lever device that protected the crown, which is now an iconic design feature for Panerai, was designed in 1950, according to the brand. This crown protector is meant to improve the water-resistance of the case
As explained in the book Panerai in Florence: 150 years of history, this was a patented mechanism that “… made it possible to considerably increase the seal of Panerai’s diver’s watches in that, when the lever was lowered, the winding crown was pushed axially against the watchcase, causing the compression of its own seal”.
Fans and collectors of Panerai should note that there are two types of modern-day Luminor cases: the “Luminor 1950” case for instance, has been designed with proportions faithful in every detail to the watches of that era.
The first modern-day Panerai Luminor 1950 with a reproduction of this historic case was launched in 2002 and it was for the PAM 127 special edition watch.
Panerai watches with the “Luminor 1950” designations are therefore those with cases designed to be like the original of 1950.
The PAM 127 with the Luminor 1950 case is also known as the “Fiddy” for the “1950” inscribed on the dial. However, this is not the case (pun intended) for the PAM 629 as historically, it has a dial with no branding nor text to positively identify the manufacturer as it was supposed to be used by the Italian commandos for their military missions.
There is still a “1950” year marking on the PAM 127 though. It can actually be found engraved on the lever locking the winding crown.
Panerai watches housed in Luminor cases without the “1950” designation and featuring the lever device have designs that are slightly revised. Production of such modified cases with the crown protection mechanism first began in 1993.
As highlighted by the brand: “It can therefore be said that the Luminor case was inspired by the modern history of Panerai while the Luminor 1950 case was linked to the past history of the brand: the legendary story of the commandos and their missions”.
The PAM 629 or Luminor 1950 3 Days Titanio DLC is housed in a case made of titanium, as its name also implies while not forgetting that its case is similar to the original of 1950.
What is different from the original of 1950 though, is not just the material but the colour – this 47mm case in titanium has a black DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating. It is powered by the P.3000 manual-winding in-house movement.
As the first California dial in a Luminor 1950 case, there is no doubting why the PAM 629 has been classified as a special edition.
We do believe that the PAM 629 makes a strong case (pun intended) for those considering a Panerai watch, whether as their first or yet another for their collection.