Monday Morning Watches: A Titanium Panerai With A Delicious Coffee-Brown Dial
Good morning, Fratelli! I hate to shock you before you’ve had your first sip of coffee this morning. I know you’re expecting Lex’s usual introduction to the week. However, due to his summer break, I’m taking over. But don’t worry; Lex will be back next week. Now that I find myself with my feet firmly up on the soapbox, there are a couple of things I want to talk about. First and foremost, I want to address the elephant in the room — my new (to me) titanium Panerai Luminor PAM00055, a watch I’d describe as having a lovely coffee-colored dial. Call it mocha, chocolate, tropical, brown, or whatever you like. But please, just don’t call it tobacco.
I get why that was the term formerly used by Paneristi. In my mind’s eye, I can picture Sly and Schwarzenegger, Panerais on the wrist, each with a chewed-up cigar in the corner of their mouth. They cross an acrid smoke-filled room and share a handshake like Arnold and Carl Weathers shared in 1987’s Predator. As badass as that image might have been once upon a time, I feel it’s time to opt for something a little more pleasant from now on. I still remember the pre-2007 days of coming home from restaurants smelling like an ashtray, which is not the most positive association. I’m sure I’m not alone in being glad this is a thing of the past. And much like we removed tobacco from these shared spaces, I’ll be ditching the term when describing watch dials altogether. It seems like the healthier choice.
Before I continue, I want to clarify that this is all in jest. I’m not throwing any shade at those of you who smoke. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice to which everyone is entitled. However, please remember to be considerate when doing it in public.
As someone who doesn’t enjoy tobacco in any form, I don’t want to be reminded of it every time I check the time. Instead, I’d much rather think of something I find appealing. That’s why I’ll stick to coffee or chocolate. This makes my wrist-based time consultations far more enjoyable. But looking down at the pre-hand portion of my left arm and seeing a Panerai is still a very new experience for me. It’s also one I didn’t see coming. We all made predictions about the watches we saw ourselves picking up in 2023. Looking back at mine, a Panerai watch could not have been further from my mind.
Sometimes, however, opportunities arise that are too good to pass up. After a conversation on the brand at Fratello HQ, curiosity led me to search the web for what was out there. Scrolling through countless watch listings is a standard evening activity for me. But you do not often find something exciting, interesting, and well-priced enough to tempt you beyond your self-control. Long story short, encouraged by my tax return and some enabling from my colleague Thomas van Straaten (who is now also a Panerai owner), I went for it. Just a few days after I found it online, the titanium Panerai PAM00055 arrived in the Netherlands.
The titanium Panerai Luminor PAM00055
A new strap and a thorough clean later, it was on my wrist. The watch, in well-worn condition, was still on its original alligator strap, which was over 20 years old. The next step was to take it to a watchmaker and have it checked. Thankfully, the peace of mind provided by the fact that this is a titanium model proved to be well rooted. Upon closer inspection, everything checked out. The only thing that bothered me was how sudden this all was. It was a bit jarring, like waking up with a tattoo after a rowdy night out. Usually, a decision like this takes some premeditation. Was I truly ready to become a “Panerai guy”? But I embraced the process, knowing that, unlike a tattoo, you can always remove (and sell) a watch. Knowing I could turn back any time, my hesitation gave way to a trickle of enjoyment.
I slowly began to enjoy the large 44mm case. At 84 grams, it felt lighter than my Seamaster on the wrist. Something about the grainy brown dial, insanely bright lume, and fully brushed case gave it a distinctively rugged appeal. The first strap I put it on was a tan ZULU-style single-pass strap I had bought for my Citizen Promaster Aqualand JP2000. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t ideal. Once I got the watch on a nice, chunky leather strap, all the pieces fell into place. Another factor that stoked the embers of my enjoyment of the watch was the response from my colleagues. Not that they’re ever discouraging regarding watches, but they’ll call BS when they see it. However, the PAM55 on my wrist drew nothing but positive feedback. Before I knew it, I was honeymooning. A risky purchase (in more than one way) had panned out beautifully.
From the pinnacle of contemporary Panerai
I did feel that my colleagues’ positivity went a little beyond the Panerai Luminor in general and how it sat on my wrist. There was something about this version specifically and the time in Panerai’s history that it came from that was also special. We all know that from the beginning, Panerai was an uncompromising maker and purveyor of military instruments and tool watches. But in 1997, the company changed hands. It was purchased by the Vendôme Group. The brand remains under the stewardship of the group known today as Richemont. In recent years, many long-time passionate Panerai collectors have become somewhat disillusioned with the direction the brand has been given, with an air of luxury taking priority over functional chops. Admittedly, some of its offerings remain rugged and boast great specs. However, others reduce the size and sacrifice water resistance, which, for diehard Paneristi, is sacrilege of the highest order.
But there was indeed a time when Panerai watches were still (arguably) as good as they were before the brand changed hands. At least some of the spirit of the pre-Vendôme days remains. The closer you get to 1997, the more of it is intact. My PAM00055 was produced in 2001 as part of a numbered and limited run of 1,200 watches annually. As I took it out of the box, my first impression was, “Wow, this thing is rudimentary.” And it most certainly is, in the best way possible — the same way that a Series III Land Rover Defender is rudimentary. There’s a certain charm to something so explicitly purpose-built. This lingering romantic spirit of purposefulness exists across most of my watches, from my Omega Speedmaster and Breitling Aerospace to my Hamilton Khaki Field and Omega Seamaster Professional 2254.
Light as a feather, built like a tank
Let’s take a quick look at the specs of this titanium Panerai Luminor. The PAM00055 (or PAM55) features a fully brushed titanium case. It measures 44mm in diameter (50mm including the crown and its locking mechanism). The watch takes a 24mm strap and stands 14mm tall with a lug-to-lug of about 52.8mm. It has a solid titanium screw-down case back, which, combined with the crown lock, makes it water resistant to a depth of 300m. The dial’s rich brown tone contrasts nicely with the matte black lume-filled pencil hands. The lume on the dial is applied to recessed numerals at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, as well as the markers in between. There’s no running seconds hand, date, or minute track. The only text on the dial is “Luminor,” Panerai,” and “L Swiss L.” Inside, a manual-winding ETA 6497-1 base Panerai caliber OP I ticks away for 56 hours.
The watch weighs 84 grams without a strap and about 96 on a leather strap with the OEM titanium buckle. Compared to my Seamaster, it’s a real featherweight and extremely comfortable on the wrist. But don’t be fooled by its weigh-in; the watch feels incredibly solid on the wrist. It has the same GADA effect as my 2254. Something about it makes me want to put it through its paces. A couple of days after I got it, it came with me to Zermatt and tagged along for a hike near the Matterhorn. So far, I’ve taken turns wearing it on a custom Kudu leather strap from Hasnobounds and a black sailcloth strap with gray contrast stitching from Artem. As you read this, it’s in the hands of a watchmaker who will check the watch for water resistance. My mission? Take this titanium Panerai diving before the summer is over.
Whether you say coffee, burnt toffee, chocolate, cocoa, or just plain old brown, it’s all fine by me. Just don’t call it tobacco. You can rest assured I won’t be sparking up stogies with this one on my wrist any time soon — sorry, Arnold! But for now, I look forward to putting plenty more miles into its odometer and a few more dings and dents into its bumpers. I think the first step, though, will be to get it on an OEM rubber strap, either in khaki green or black. With that new set of tires, it will be ready to hit the road for many an adventure to come. For now, the watch has opened me up to appreciate the vast, exciting, and historied world of Panerai, one which was previously a bit of a blind spot for me. And that alone is worth more than its weight in the precious metal of your choice.
By the way, if you think you’re experiencing déjà vu, you’re not entirely wrong. It’s likely because, a little while back, Lex wrote about Gerard’s Panerai Luminor PAM00116. I just thought I’d note that for the more observant souls out there. The main difference between that watch and mine is the former’s exhibition case back, which allows you to look at the more aesthetically pleasing Panerai caliber OP X. Other than that, these are two PAM peas in a titanium pod.
What do you think of this neo-vintage titanium Panerai? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.