In 2006, Panerai introduced their PAM00249 (Radiomir 1936) that featured a California dial. Limited to 1936 pieces only, and collectors jumped on it. Before I head over to my review of the PAM00424 (Radiomir California 3-Days), a few words on the dial first.
The term California dial is said to be coined by dial maker Kirk Rich, who did dial restoration and refinishing in the 1970s and was located in Los Angeles. In short, the California dial is a combination of an Arabic and Roman dial, as can be seen on the images. According to this story, this dial layout was at some point referred to as California dial because clients of Kirk Rich found it easier to use that name than talk about a combined Arabic and Roman numerals dial. The history of the California dial goes back a long time though, in a period when Rolex took care of the production of watches for Panerai. The first ‘Panerai’ watch with a California dial was their reference 3646. So the 2008 California dial Panerai Radiomir 1936 wasn’t the first but inspired by that reference 3646 that Rolex created for them.
There is quite a bit of noise in the story of the California dials and when it was used for the first time, that I am going to skip that part. There are a number of sources out there who claim different things, but you will find quite an extensive write-up on this topic here.
Panerai Radiomir California 3-Days
The Panerai PAM00424 isn’t a new reference, so we are not bringing you any new scoops here. We just liked the California dial and wanted to give the 47mm a try. The PAM00424 is as old as 2012, but received an update later on that made the date aperture disappear. Both watches are still in the current collection, with the same reference number. The price difference between a pre-owned 424 with or without the date can be disregarded though, it seems it is a matter of preference and not about collectability.
Big But Not So Big
The PAM00424 has a diameter of 47mm, which you could consider to be very large. However, since the lug-to-lug (52mm) size is very modest, it wears very well on a normal (or even smaller) wrist. In the past, I’ve owned several 44mm Luminor (Marina) watches and I happened to find those taking more space on the wrist than this Radiomir. Since the design with the wire lugs is so different, and the lack of a Luminor crown guard also helps, the watch is very wearable on a day-to-day basis. And so I did for a while. What I found interesting is that this watch resulted in me getting comments from complete strangers about this Panerai. They were drawn by the large dial with the Roman and Arabic numerals, as they told me in a short conversation. It was an interesting experience, as normally, besides the occasional watch geek I meet in the wild, nobody ever comments on my watches. At least not that I can remember.
The strap is sized 27mm between the lugs and 22mm at the clasp. Although the similar looking PAM00249 also had a diameter of 47mm, the strap size was 26mm on that one. Again, 27mm sounds huge (especially if you’re used to 18-20mm straps, but visually I would never have guessed it is 27mm), but the strap was comfortable and felt in proportion with this Radiomir California Dial watch.
The California dial was the main reason to give this watch a try and Panerai was happy to supply one. Somehow it gives a bit of an extra touch and I can fully understand why the 249 was so popular and perhaps a few steps further back, why the California dials were so popular on the Rolex bubble back watches. The faux-patina of the hour markers match nicely with the gold coloured hands and the beige strap. The date disc is black and the colour of the numeral is also in the faux-patina tone, like the rest of the printing on the dial. Italians have style for sure.
On the dial we also find the Officine Panerai logo printed above 6 o’clock, where there’s no numeral (just like 12 o’clock, where there’s only a triangle). The hands are quite wide and are filled with Super-LumiNova. The watch is perfectly readable during the day, and the lume does its job very well in low-light conditions.
Basically every element of this Panerai PAM00424 California Dial is an eye-catcher: the case design, California dial, the strap, the buckle and of course the large winding crown. The whole ensemble has been designed and put together with great care. The only ‘deal breaker’ might be the date aperture, and there’s probably a reason why Panerai decided to create another PAM00424 w/o date two years after the introduction of the PAM00424 (with date).
Since years, Panerai developes and manufactures their own movements. We reported about the new manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds in this article, where these developments and the production takes place. In this Panerai PAM00424 we find the caliber P.3000 movement, with a power reserve of 3 days. The PAM00249 for example, from 2006, still had the OP X caliber that was based on the ETA/Unitas 6497-1 movement. The caliber P.3000 is also a hand-wound movement, but part of the in-house collection. It is 5.3mm thick and ticks at 21600vph. It consists of 161 components, of which 21 are jewels. The energy is stored in two barrels, good for 72 hours. As written above, the development and production are done in-house, as well as the finishing. From what I’ve seen during the manufacture visit, the finishing is done by machines that have been specially developed for Panerai, creating this beautiful brushed finish on the main plates.
Below, the P.3000 movement inside the PAM00424 case. The design of the movement is very appealing with those curves of the main plates and double balance-wheel bridge.
Verdict On The PAM00424
This PAM00424 California surprised me in a very positive way. Although our glam watchmaker Paul is often rocking his PAM00190 when he visits the Fratello HQ, I never really gave it a spin. It is smaller though (45mm) and has a different movement. I don’t mind the extra 2mm and it actually looked and wore very well on the wrist, but the movement of his PAM00190 has one big advantage: it has a power reserve indicator. Now, I don’t need a power reserve indicator on the dial or perhaps in general, but Panerai markets this watch with ‘3 Days’ in the model name even, so I want to know what the remaining power reserve actually is. Three days is long enough to forget after two days (or even before) when you wound the watch for the last time. It is no biggie, but I feel that it would have given the watch a bit of extra. And for €7500, it wouldn’t be a bad feature, to be honest.
But that’s basically the only (minor) thing that I can come up with when it comes to the Panerai PAM00424. The watch wears great, looks great, and I feel that it is a classic that belongs in the core collection of Panerai. To come up with the PAM00424 only a few years after the 47mm PAM00249, which looks very identical might have put off some hardcore collectors of Panerai, but for those who don’t have this history or simply can’t be bothered with it, buy a stunning watch with an in-house movement for less than the current market prices of the PAM00249.
Personally, the date isn’t necessary for me on a wristwatch (I see it on my iPhone in the morning and can remind it for the rest of the day), but I also know that a lot of people appreciate this small complication. The PAM00424 watch is available for the date camp and no-date camp.
Retail price: €7500 includig VAT.
More information via the official Panerai website.