In this Sunday Morning Showdown, we will do things a little bit differently than we usually do. We want to put a neo-vintage Panerai — or at least nearly neo-vintage — up against a modern Panerai. Both are from the Radiomir collection but with a nearly 20-year gap in production date.

We see that the popularity of neo-vintage watches (approximately mid-1990s to the mid-2000s) is rising. Even within the Fratello team, we see an interest in buying watches from that era. Thomas added this Panerai PAM00210 to his collection, for example. Watches from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s seem to be undervalued these days, which is good if you have a weak spot for pieces from that era. But how does it compare to a brand-new watch, a Panerai Radiomir Otto Giorni, in this case? Are these comparable in quality and finish, or did Panerai make some improvements in the last two decades? But before we get into it, let’s have a quick recap of last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown.

Last week’s battle

We had the Seiko Prospex SPB379 Alpinist GMT up against the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT. Even though Jorg believes the Christopher Ward punches above its weight, it wasn’t able to defeat the Seiko SPB379 Alpinist GMT. The latter was priced even friendlier than the C65 Dune GMT. Seiko beat Christopher Ward with 66% of the votes versus 34%. The win was for Daan last week!

Panerai Radiomir PAM01348

RJ: The modern Panerai Radiomir PAM01348

Back in the mid-2000s, I had two Panerai watches (not at the same time), a Luminor Marina (PAM00113) and a Luminor Base Logo (PAM00000). They were large watches with a hand-wound movement based on the ETA/Unitas pocket-watch-sized calibers. While nothing special, the movement got the job done. However, it was also the thing that somewhat bothered me a little bit. They were great watches but housed a very standard hand-wound movement that could be found in other watches (without a famous brand name on the dial) that would cost a fraction of the price. In general, the build quality and finishing of the PAM000113 and PAM00000 didn’t strike me as anything extraordinary. But for the €2,500 and €2,800 I had paid for them respectively, it was acceptable.

Higher prices, better quality

Prices have increased tremendously since then, but the quality of these watches has also improved. Panerai has been developing not only new materials but also new movements. Visiting the Panerai manufacture back in 2016 was quite an eye-opener (see it here) and made me realize that it has little to do with the Panerai watches from the mid-2000s I used to have.

For this Sunday Morning Showdown, I picked the Panerai Radiomir Otto Giorni (which translates into “8 days”), reference number PAM01348. Inside is Panerai’s caliber P.5000, a movement that debuted back in 2013. The watch has a 45mm case made of special eSteel and a 100m water resistance rating.

Caliber P.5000

Aside from aesthetics, I think the modern Panerai watch is better today than it was 15–20 years ago. The movement has better specifications, but Panerai also uses more exciting materials for its cases, such as Brunito steel. Panerai also shows that its designers can be a bit more creative with dials, for example, in the newer watches. The level of detail seems to be much higher than in earlier Radiomir models.

You can find older Panerai watches for less, but they’re different from a modern PAM

Even though I like Thomas’s PAM00210, the market prices between €4,000 and €5,000 feel like a bit too much to me, especially for what it offers in terms of quality and its simple Unitas 6497-1-based movement. Sure, it works and gets the job done, but it’s the same as spending that much on a watch with a very basic ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so, even though these movements’ relatively low servicing costs are an upside. To me, these are still sub-€3,000 watches at best.

It’s difficult to compare the PAM00210 and PAM01348, but I prefer the latter

The Panerai PAM01348 has a higher retail price (€9,900), but it’s also a watch that can hardly be compared to the PAM00210 aside from its aesthetics. And even there, the special case material and the level of finishing of the dial, hands, and movement are on a different level. This is not unique to Panerai, of course. We also see an increase in the quality of newer watches from many other brands.

Those looking to buy a watch from a luxury brand like Panerai but who don’t want to drop nearly €10K will find some models from the 2000s that can be had for under €5,000 and sometimes even less. But just be aware that these are not the same breed as the watches in the Panerai catalog today.

Panerai Radiomir PAM00210

Thomas: Neo-vintage Radiomir PAM00210

Let me kick things off by admitting that I agree with RJ’s claim about value. My PAM00210 is too expensive for what it is. I, too, believe that it is a €2K–3K watch. Unfortunately, the watch world isn’t like that anymore. We have to get used to this disconnect between product and price when it comes to established luxury brands. That is a much broader issue that applies far beyond Panerai.

Panerai Radiomir PAM00210 case back

However, my neo-vintage PAM00210 is, in my opinion, much closer to the original spirit of Panerai. In that sense, it feels genuine to me. Yes, the ETA/Unitas caliber OP X is bare bones, but it is also very good. It has a proven track record longer than most and a near-perfect design for a large old-world caliber. It can also be serviced by anyone for next to nothing. Getting your P.5000 serviced probably means dropping it off at a Panerai boutique. The brand currently charges you €550 to service a time-only caliber.

Panerai Radiomir PAM00210 wrist shot

The question is: does that make sense for a Panerai? That, admittedly, is a personal thing. I, for one, don’t look at Panerai for its horological prowess or watchmaking craftsmanship. To me, Panerai is a company with an interesting story and stunning designs. I’ll have a workhorse caliber inside such a watch any day of the week. Some brands really don’t have to go down the in-house road.

Custom watch strap Panerai Radiomir PAM00210

The Panerai designs have gone astray

Speaking of those designs, this is where modern Panerai goes south for me. Everything that is a so-called “upgrade” on RJ’s watch is, to me, a cheesy embellishment. Let me start with the Brunito steel. Is that really a superior, updated material? Or is it just an aesthetic gimmick? The super simple polished steel of my PAM00210 is perfect for the shape of the watch. Why would you coat that with PVD and then tumble-dry it? To make it look like you have been on adventures with it? Please…just go on adventures.

Panerai Radiomir PAM00210 dial close-up

The dial may be simpler, but it is certainly not of lesser quality

And then there is that dial. I am not sure which I find uglier, the blue vignette or the faux patina. No, wait, I do know — the blue vignette! I don’t know why seemingly every new watch needs a vignette dial. I guess some dial maker bought a new machine and wants the investment back as quickly as humanly possible. This is purely personal, I admit, but I have yet to see a vignette dial I prefer over a beautifully lacquered and even alternative.

Panerai Radiomir PAM00210

While we’re talking about aesthetics, let me go back to those calibers one more time. Mine may be basic, but I am confident that many will prefer its looks over the P.5000. The latter’s sandwich architecture puts everything behind one massive plate. And yes, an eight-day power reserve is cool and historically significant, but don’t you wonder why this €9,900 watch isn’t even a certified chronometer? My guess would be because of the low beat rate and small inertia of the balance wheel.

Time to cast your vote

That’s it for this week! Do you prefer a more affordable neo-vintage Panerai Radiomir, even with a relatively simple Unitas movement? Or do you want to have the latest and the greatest? Vote below for your favorite of these two. Alternatively, if you don’t like either of these specific models, just vote for the PAM00210 if you prefer the previous generation of Panerai watches over the modern ones and for the PAM01348 if it’s vice versa.

Panerai PAM00210 vs. Panerai PAM01348