" Listen carefully to what the marketing people say and just do the opposite" Oliviero Toscani

SIHH 2015: Panerai, the perigee.

Le 27 January 2015
Malik "Pifpaf" Bahri
PAM616 Cover SIHH2016
  • My Paneristi friends and the others, good evening, good night, who cares, we’re on the internet.


Le Battle of Stalingrad is over, 1.5 millions dead lie in the smoldering ruins of the Russian metropolis; very few movies relate the greatest battle in the history, the turning point of WW2. Yet, Soviets, fuelled by their typically Russian self-denial, will manage to circumscribe the Nazi threat, though unimaginable losses of human lives. With the help of the Italian-New Yorker mob, the allies land in Sicily and will get done with the troops of the Axis, Monte Cassino (where my grandfather, gunner in the 1st DFL, witnessed the north-African riflemen’s nihilism at work) will be the tipping point of the Battle of Italy.

Valerio_Borghese - Copie

Until then, Borghese’s Gamma divers had achieved great successes and coups, even leading the easy-going Churchill to react in the British media. But after the demise of Mussolini, Borghese will join the ephemeral and dreaded Salo Republic.
He will then lead a series of deadly commando raids, which will display neither the genius nor the effectiveness or the military accuracy seen during the boat-sinking operations led during the first half of WW2, and which caused very few human casualties.

This year is their perigee,

At the SIHH2011, I had coined the title « The apogee of Panerai », because I had witnessed what I felt was the pinnacle of the brand from Firenze-Neuchatel’s creativity.

because, akin to Borghese who, because of a lack of logistics, lost himself in suicide missions and criminal operations, Panerai are losing their focus because they don’t understand their own codes, and instead revisit those of their competitors.

The 2015 propaganda video, totally street credible, but the watches don’t fit this spirit…

  • Paneristi,

last year Patek celebrated their 175th anniversary, and they presented for this occasion a Great complication as subtle as a Big Mac: the 5175.
Beside a plethora of complications (20), this Patek featured a «magnificent» watchcase, fully engraved in a Rococo-Kitsch overdone style, a piece that looks like it has been created to showcase Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s most famous quote with its exact opposite…
Patek presented a few beautiful works for the event, but the 5175 is definitely not one of them… (No worries, despite a price of more than two million Euros, and because only seven have been produced, the copies are already sold; the delivery should be effective in approximately 10 years…).

PAM604 (1)PAM604 (3)

So, it looks like Panerai inspired themselves from this 5175 to create the PAM604, a 47mm engraved stainless steel Radiomir.
Congratulations, the artwork is beautiful, but why spoiling it with such a plain sapphire caseback? To showcase a P3000, as simple as that (Duh, Helloooo!).
One has to admit that between a 1000CHF engraving and a 10CHF piece of sapphire, the cost is different…
For about 20K (18800€), one could expect something better. Notwithstanding this sapphire caseback, and even if the result was convincing, one still doesn’t know what this piece means… Did the Gamma divers have their Radiomir engraved before blowing up the Allied boats?
To me, this watch is a testimony to the road the association Panerai/Bonati is taking: they are trying to get into Haute Horlogerie without really understanding the market or the products…

The funniest part is that , instead of reminding us of Patek, it is reminiscent of the cute New-Zealander Magrettes « Maori » inspired by Panerai, adorned with Maori etchings (let’s be clear about that : Magrette have been producing these models for years).


  • Now that we are done with the funny part,

let’s focus on something more serious: the return of the mythical PAM300 aka « the banker’s Panerai », as it looks like these pieces usually spends more time at the bottom of safes than at the bottom of the ocean.

The PAM603 is actually a clone of the PAM300. But there’s something odd with the name of the watch: Why PAM603 and not PAM600, a number which would make sense as this model comes after the PAM300??

PAM603 (3)

One can be glad for this new edition, as many were disappointed by the first version.

Akin to the previous edition, it features a 52mm case, made of titanium instead of stainless steel ; the choice of this material is pertinent, as the PAM300 was as heavy as lead.
The dial is now brown instead of green, which is unfortunate but legitimate for the lucky few who own one (have mercy, take them out of the safes!!!).
But most importantly, and contrary to the previous version, this one features a full back… This is a bummer; the Minerva chronograph is nice and should be visible.
While the PAM604 would need a full back, it is fitted with a transparent back and conversely with the PAM603. Go figure…

PAM603PAM603 (1)

And finally, the highlight of the show, the price: 37.000€. To be compared to 25.000 for the PAM300.

A 50 % increase in five years? Not bad! About three times the inflation rate over the same period. Every year. Yummy.

Not far from the price of a Lange 1815 Chronograph.
This said, it is far cheaper than the insane PAM518, 519 and 520, which feature the same movement and are priced at the same rate as the Patek 5270 Chronograph, more expensive than the Lange Datograph…

  • The PAM516 and PAM601

are based on the Luminor1950 and the Radiomir 1940 watchcases, respectively.

The problem lies with the complication: An Equation of time.

The Equation of time would make sense in a chronograph watch inspired from a marine chronometer (which is accurate up to +/-1sec/day, when the home made Panerai movements don’t do better than +/-5sec/day). The Equation of time indicates the sun’s true position, a parameter with which the longitude can be determined at sea…

These watches feature a low diameter P2002, with an Equation of time in place of the famous linear power reserve: The cases must be quite thick to accommodate the whole stuff…
I’m not sure it makes sense, because of a complication with no direct link with the history of the brand, and because of the price: 18800€.

  • Find the differences:



  • And now, dim the light, here we go: The PAM616 Luminor Submersible 1950 “Carbotech”,

which revisits the Bronzo’s watchcase with carbon fiber instead of bronze.
When one could have expected “Carbonara”, the nickname “Carbotech” strongly reminds me of the French cartoon “Robotech” (the combination of multiple Japanese series, amongst which Macross): The French theme song is grandiose, it talks about peace and love over a background of robots fights and missile shots, magical.

PAM616 Carbon StrapPAM616 SIHH2015

Back to our Robotech, sorry, I mean Carbotech. As seen on this photo from the Purists, the watch is gorgeous, an undeniable success.

  • The carbon features a new type of pattern which, even if it looks baroque, provides the piece a very nice Damascus steel, sport, original and even oneiric look, an invitation to sail on black sand dunes….

Yet, it is a bit too much, a bit vulgar, most probably because of useless touches of blue. Indeed, the association eggshell numerals/touches of blue and carbon watchcase strongly remind me of Bell & Ross.

When a brand starts imitating those by which it is usually plagiarized, it is the turning point, the kairos when everything flips over and unveils itself…

As an (ex ?) aficionado of Panerai, I don’t feel that this watch, as good looking as it is, meets my expectations. As usual, the icing on the cake is its price: 15700€, double the PAM382 Bronzo’s in 2011…

PAM616 Submersible Carbon (2)

During their incursion in the allies’ waters, the Gamma divers probably used to set their submarines at the bottom of the sea, while they waited for the right moment to strike. Let’s bet that, akin to the divers, the Officine has reached the bottom in order to go back to its roots.

  • As for now, one could make this conclusion:

It is obvious that, after this SIHH, the goal of the Officine-Bonati (who used to sell pens) is to become part of the realm of Haute Horlogerie through limited editions and sport-chic designs. One has to admit they are quite successful; especially regarding the complications which are on par with Patek or Audemars Piguet.

The problem is that becoming a “HH” brand takes more than a few sexy complications, more than some delirious labels: only the alchemy of time and sobriety can make a watch like the Patek Nautilus a timeless piece.

Yet, the works presented this year look like they spawned from another vision, that of the theatrical dictators from banana republics, who adorn themselves with insignias to compensate for their absence of legitimacy

a myth that go along with the motto “Less is more”.

It is indeed from this prospective, that the dichotomy between the Officine and the Paneristi starts showing, because the fanatics of the brand expect a minimalism, a pureness,

  • Rolex made the mistake of gentrification, the stumble whose consequence was the departure of so many “Rolex boys” for Panerai. Will Panerai make the same mistake, which would lead the Paneristi away from the brand? Where to ?