Buying Guide: The Best Panerai Watches From The 2000s
We like to talk about vintage watches a lot within the Fratello team. Though most of what we write about is primarily focused on the most recent releases and developments, for many of us, a lot of the fun can be found in the sometimes weird and often wonderful world of vintage watches. It’s a world full of history, remarkable watches, incredible stories, and quirky details. It inspired us to come up with a series of articles focusing on the best watches per decade from a select group of brands. Some of them are priceless, and some of them are still affordable. In this installment, we will take a look at the best Panerai watches from the 2000s.
By the turn of the millennium, Switzerland had proudly reclaimed its title as the watchmaking capital of the world. The 2000s, in many ways, formed the blueprint for the watch industry as we know it today. By the time the 2000s came around, mechanical watches were incredibly popular. Instead of just selling instruments that told the time, the major brands became cornerstones in the world of luxury goods, and the watch industry was thriving.
We saw brands being bought by conglomerates that turned into the luxury powerhouses they are today. But the 2000s was also the decade that saw the rise of independent brands alongside the industry’s big players. Small brands made it their goal to push the envelope of watchmaking in terms of design and technological developments. In the early 2000s, we also saw watches increase in size like never before. Panerai, Audemars Piguet, Hublot, and IWC enjoyed a great rise in popularity with their oversized watches. They will all be part of the best watches of the 2000s.
Panerai in the 2000s
When it comes to watches, Panerai was one of the brands that shaped the 2000s. As I explained in my article about the best Panerai watches of the 1990s, the Vendôme Group (today, the Richemont Group) bought Panerai in 1997. A year later, at SIHH 1998, the brand introduced a new collection consisting of three models. The collection featured the Luminor, the Luminor Marina, and the Mare Nostrum. After that, the brand quickly made a name for itself, and great success followed.
Panerai was one of the instrumental brands that shaped the watch industry’s focus on bigger watches. For most watch fans, it’s probably the first name that comes to mind when asked to name a brand that produces oversized watches. And Panerai watches were everywhere in the 2000s. When it comes to the different models, there were hundreds of watches to choose from for this list. Panerai created a great number of variations of its iconic timepieces. That is why it’s hard to choose from the different Luminor, Luminor Marina, Radiomir, Luminor Submersible, and Mare Nostrum models. But let’s jump in and look at five of the most remarkable Panerai models from the 2000s.
The Entry Point — Panerai Luminor Marina PAM00111
Let’s start this list with the Panerai model that we used to see a lot on people’s wrists during the 2000s. It has become a true Panerai classic. The Panerai Luminor Marina PAM00111 was introduced in 2002 and quickly became a hit. The watch was also available with a white dial (PAM00113) that graced the wrist of Fratello’s Robert-Jan back in the day. But I have always preferred the classic aesthetic of a black dial with a nice leather strap over the white-dial version. While I would always pick the Luminor Base over the Marina because of its even more minimalist looks, the addition of the small seconds at 9 o’clock does bring a spark of life to the watch because you can see it running.
The watch features a 44mm stainless steel case that is roughly 14.5mm thick and has a lug width of 24mm. It comes with a nicely domed crystal, and it is also water-resistant to 300 meters. I remember quite vividly that the watch wears quite comfortably on my wrist despite its substantial size. As I am a big guy, the size has never been an issue for me. As most of you know, the Luminor is a true strap monster. There used to be a ton of different straps available for Panerai watches, and owners would switch things up regularly. I have always loved the look of black-dial Panerai models with a light brown/sand-colored suede or nubuck strap. There is something iconic and authentic about those looks.
The most popular Panerai
Panerai equipped the watch with the COSC-certified Panerai caliber OP XI inside the stainless steel case. This manual-winding movement is based on the Unitas 6497-2. It operates at 21,600vph, has 17 jewels, and has a power reserve of 56 hours. But Panerai made several modifications to the standard movement. These included the addition of a swan-neck regulator and Côtes de Genève decoration on the plates and redesigned bridges. The early versions of the PAM00111 from 2002 to 2005 (E, F, and G-series) feature “Panerai” repeatedly engraved across the bridges. The movement is robust, reliable, and very easy to service. As you can see in the pictures, it is also visible through the sapphire display case back. There is something reassuring about the robust looks that I feel fits the overall design really well.
There is also a difference in the dials of the different generations of the model. Besides the slightly different finish of the movement, the earlier models from 2002 to 2005 also came with a traditional black dial with painted numerals and hash marks. All the models after the G-series (from 2006 on) have a sandwich dial. I would suggest chasing a version with a sandwich dial as it is a thing of beauty. The black dial with the cut-out numbers, hash marks, and small seconds indicator is placed on top of a disk with Super-LumiNova that looks amazing. The layered construction adds great depth to a simple dial design, and those intricate details make it such a nice timepiece. Finding a Luminor Marina PAM00111 is not that hard. Expect to see prices in the ballpark of €3.5K to €5.5K for one. Considering its iconic status, that’s a bargain.
My choice — Panerai Luminor 1950 “Fiddy” PAM00127
My pick for this list is the brilliant Panerai Luminor 1950 PAM00127, also known by collectors as the “Fiddy”. The nickname refers to 1950 or “Nineteen-Fiddy”. The story goes that the watch got its nickname because famous rapper 50 Cent was wearing his PAM00127 when someone asked about it, and he answered, “It’s my Fiddy.” Leave it up to Curtis Jackson III to come up with a short, impactful statement. All jokes aside, the story of the PAM00127 is a great one. The watch was released in 2002 and was based on the legendary modified Rolex 6152/1. That watch was one of six vintage Panerai timepieces that were handed over to the Vendôme Group when it took over in 1997. In 1993, of these six watches had served as an example for Guenat SA in designing the modern Luminor. That watch was — you guessed it — the modified Rolex 6152/1.
In 2002, Richemont decided to introduce an almost exact replica of that watch, which served as an inspiration for one of the brand’s biggest icons. This, however, is a very concise version of the story of this watch. That’s why I suggest that you read this great in-depth article about the origins of the PAM00127 on Perezcope to get a great in-depth look into the history of the watch. It’s an amazing read, and it will help you perfectly understand why this was such a great release and beloved by so many collectors. The watch features a 47mm stainless steel case. It’s a size you will have to get used to, and it will be oversized on any wrist. But it’s not a size that you won’t get used to.
There is one detail that stands out immediately, though it is not on the dial of the original watch. That’s the “1950” printed on the lower half of the dial, referring to the limited number of 1,950 pieces that the brand produced. Some collectors think it ruins the watch, and I can see that. The dial doesn’t need it, and it would have been historically more correct without it. I also feel that the size of the text is rather small compared to the rest of the mostly balanced design. For me, it does not ruin the design, though. I love seeing the sandwich dial with the contrasting gold hands through the extremely domed sapphire crystal. It makes the PAM00127 a spectacular piece that perfectly exemplifies the vintage appeal of historic watches.
The case is water-resistant to 100 meters, and inside it, you will find the COSC-certified Panerai caliber OP XI that I just discussed with the Luminor Marina. The “1950” was the model that introduced this movement in 2002. As you can see, this is one of the early versions of the movement that was decorated with the repeating Panerai branding. With the Luminor Marina, I quickly touched upon the redesigned bridges. Compared to the base Unitas 6497-2, Panerai redesigned the bridges to make them look like the legendary Rolex 618 movement. It’s a great detail, and combined with the repeating Panerai name, it helps give the movement much of its character. And this great piece has tons of character overall, making it one of my favorite modern Panerai models. Finding a PAM00127 is possible. Expect to pay roughly €10K to €15K for one.
Money is no object #1 — Panerai Radiomir 8 Days PAM00190
Another iconic timepiece is the Panerai Radiomir 8 Days PAM00190. This short list would not be complete without a Radiomir. But which one to pick? I love the Radiomir, and in particular, the Radiomir California and SLC models are amongst my favorite Panerai watches. But I also realize they are somewhat of an acquired taste. Another great Radiomir, though, is the Radiomir 8 Days PAM00190 that was released in 2004. The watch combines the signature Panerai looks with a great movement that gives the watch a whopping eight-day power reserve. The Radiomir 8 Days comes in a 45mm stainless steel case that is 15mm thick and has the characteristic wire lugs.
As Radiomir owners will tell you, the size might seem imposing at first, but thanks to its short lugs and elegantly shaped case, the watch is very comfortable on the wrist. The matte black sandwich dial has a small seconds indicator at 9 o’clock. Compared to the two previous watches, this sub-dial is placed relatively far toward the center of the dial, but somehow, it works well. Additionally, you will find the “8 days” text on the lower half of the dial, referring to the movement that powers the watch. The watch was equipped with lume-filled rose gold hands, giving it even more appeal. I love the contrast of the gold against the matte black background.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre movement
Inside the case, Panerai equipped the watch with the caliber OP XIV. It is a modified version of the Jaeger-LeCoultre JLC877 “8 Days” movement. The caliber is modified to show the power reserve on the back of the watch. It ensures that the dial design remains iconic and clean. Additionally, it adds a nice touch to the back of the movement, especially when you wind the watch and see the power reserve indicator move. The manual-wind movement operates at 28,800vph, has 32 jewels, and features an impressive 192-hour (eight-day) power reserve.
Panerai also used the movement for the pink gold (PAM00197) and platinum (PAM00198) versions of the watch. Additionally, the brand created a special Radiomir 8 Days for Sincere that also utilized the movement. But those are the only four Panerai watches that feature the OP XIV. The watch was in production for only three years, and the fact that it was only the second stainless steel historic Radiomir model after the Radiomir Black Seal (PAM00183) makes this a special watch. Finding one, however, is not that hard. Expect to see prices on the pre-owned market from roughly €7K to €8K. What you get in return is a combination of the great vintage-inspired looks of the Radiomir combined with an impressive movement.
Money is no object #2 — Panerai Luminor Base for Paneristi 10th Anniversary PAM00360
This list would not be complete without one of the special editions produced for the famous group of passionate Panerai enthusiasts known as the Paneristi. As most of you know, the Paneristi is a group of Panerai enthusiasts who gathered online to talk about their passion for the brand and its watches. It quickly grew into the biggest and most dedicated group of enthusiasts within the world of watches. As a show of thanks, Panerai created several special editions for the Paneristi, which are well known amongst Panerai collectors. The first release the brand created was to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Paneristi. This special version of the Luminor Marina (PAM00195) featured a black PVD case and an exclusively decorated case back with its owner’s name. Panerai produced 200 pieces of this first special Paneristi edition, and all 200 of them sold out in seconds.
But it’s the model that Panerai created for the 10th anniversary of Paneristi.com that is the most sought after amongst collectors. It is considered by many to be one of the most iconic Panerai models ever created. It’s the Panerai Luminor Base for the Paneristi 10th Anniversary PAM00360, which also came with a 44mm black PVD-coated stainless steel case just like its predecessor. Another similarity is the Panerai caliber OP I inside. But unlike the first watch, this second model does not feature the small seconds at 9 o’clock, resulting in a beautiful and clean dial.
A very limited release
The dial is special because it is not a sandwich dial, but rather, a “sausage dial” with aged lume used for the numerals, indices, and black hands. Additionally, the dial features the famous OP logo. Add the great tan-colored leather strap, and this is indeed a winner. The case back also featured a specially engraved inscription. As I mentioned, Panerai chose to equip the watch with the legendary caliber OP I, which is based on the ETA/Unitas 6497 hand-wound movement. It operates at 21,600vph, has 17 jewels and 41 hours of power reserve, and is equipped with Incabloc shock protection and a Glucydur balance. Panerai and the Paneristi worked together on what only can be described as a phenomenal release.
But the watch did not come without its controversies. In 2010, Robert-Jan wrote an article about the limited production number that left a lot of Paneristi out in the cold. Panerai only created 300 pieces of this limited release, while 2,600 Paneristi wanted to buy one. As you will understand, this left a lot of them really disappointed. Panerai made a massive mistake as the brand should have known that 300 pieces would never be enough. As a result, 12 years later, the Luminor Base for Paneristi 10th Anniversary PAM00360 has become a highly desirable collector’s piece. You can generally find one, but expect to pay roughly €13K to €15K. Considering its €5.5K introduction price, that is quite a hefty sum. But there is no denying it’s a great timepiece.
Money is no object #3 — Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days’ Bronzo’ PAM00382
Another Panerai I could not leave off the list is the Luminor Submersible. Of course, I could have picked the regular Luminor Submersible in stainless steel (PAM00024) or titanium (PAM00025) as they are great watches. But I picked a Luminor Submersible that has become iconic amongst collectors. I must add, however, that I did pick a watch that came out in 2011, so technically, it didn’t come out in the 2000s. But as this is the last decade in the series, I hope you will forgive me. Nevertheless, this Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days PAM00382 is very special as it was the first Panerai that was officially released with a bronze case. The brand had previously created a prototype called SLOB that featured a bronze Luminor case. That watch, however, never made it to production.
Overall, I am not a big fan of bronze watches because of how they age. But there is no denying that if it’s the right dive watch fitted with the right strap, it can look amazing. And that’s exactly what makes this PAM00382 so special — it simply looks amazing. If you search for images of the watch, you’ll see pictures that show it with patina, and that patina results in a stunning aesthetic. With the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days PAM00382, Panerai also started the modern trend of watches produced in bronze. After this watch came out, many other brands followed suit with bronze versions of their own dive watches. But in my opinion, nothing beats this great piece. In particular, the combination of the bronze color with the matte green dial is stunning. Add a nice strap, and this is a winner!
A truly iconic piece
The PAM00382 was based on a historical piece from 1950 produced for Egyptian Navy commandos. The case is 47mm in diameter and 17.7mm in height with a lug width of 26mm. For the case, Panerai used CuSn8 bronze, a special alloy comprised of copper and pure tin. It forms patina quickly, which gives every single watch its unique character. The watch is equipped with a rotating dive bezel and a sapphire crystal, and it is water-resistant to 300 meters. If you turn the watch around, you will see a titanium ring, and through the display case back, you will see the Panerai caliber P.9000. This automatic movement operates at 28,800vph, has 28 jewels, and features 72 hours of power reserve. To achieve the three-day power reserve, the movement utilized two barrels. Additionally, it was equipped with a single-piece rotor that winds the movement in both directions.
The PAM00382 was on the wrist of Sylvester Stallone during the filming of The Expendables. If there’s one person who can pull off an oversized Panerai, it’s Sly Stallone. He helped make the brand famous in the late ’90s and early ’00s, so it’s no surprise that he also wore this beast. It made the piece even more popular than it already was. When the watch was introduced at SIHH 2011, it immediately made an impact. Eleven years ago, Panerai produced 1,000 pieces of this limited release. They sold out quickly for a list price of €7,300. Nowadays, that will get you nowhere because the piece has become one of the most collectible modern Panerai models. Expect to see prices from roughly €25K to €32.5K. In return, what you get is one of the most impressive modern Panerai watches out there.
There you have it! Our list of five remarkable Panerai models from the 2000s. As I mentioned in the article, I had to make choices. There are a lot more models that could have been on this list. Every Panerai enthusiast will have their preferred models from the first decade of the new millennium. But as I mentioned, every week, there are only five spots available. As with all the other brands, it is important to do your homework. Unfortunately, the world of Panerai watches suffers from fake pieces quite a bit. That’s why it is good to do some required reading and search for pieces that come with box and papers.
If you want to know more about the brand, there are plenty of books and websites that you can read. A good place to start is always the Paneristi website with its lively community. It features plenty of info on the different models that the brand released. Additionally, there is a forum where you can meet fellow Panerai enthusiasts, or Paneristi. Another great website with a lot of in-depth research on vintage Panerai is Perezcope. Lastly, there is also the Watchuseek Panerai forum, where you can find a lot of info on the brand and the different models. The book Panerai — Una Storia Italiana by Loris Pasetto & Luciano Cipullo is also a great read.
Next week, we will look at some of the best watches from Sinn from the 2000s. In the meantime, make sure to let us know what your favorite Panerai watches from the 2000s are in the comment section below!