Though Panerai has developed an enormous number of different models and complications in recent years, the basic morphology of its watches hasn’t changed at all. Essentially, all Panerai models (and we think this is quite remarkable) are derived from only two designs. These, of course, are the Luminor and Radiomir cases; the Radiomir is the older of the two, and is the case that housed the Panerais fitted with Rolex movements that were first delivered in 1936. The shape of the case, according to Panerai, is something of a transitional form, representing the evolution of the wire-lugged cushion case shape of the Radiomir, to the more rectilinear case of the Luminor watches. The other two significant differences between the Radiomir and Luminor watches are the introduction of the Luminor’s distinctive crown locking system, and the use, in the Luminor watches, of a non-radium based luminous material.
The evolving Panerai Luminor Marina
At 47mm, the Luminor Marina 1950 3 Days, or PAM00422, is a large watch. (The historic model on which it is based was fitted with 16 lignes, so the size of the current model reflects the construction of its antecedent, which was 47mm as well.) The dial of the PAM00422 is a near-perfect reproduction of the original as well, with the subdial for the running seconds hand opposite the locking crown, at the nine o’clock position. (It was necessitated in the original by the construction of the Angelus caliber, which did not have a center seconds hand. Visualize a pocket watch with its crown at 12 o’clock rotated 90 degrees to the right and you’ll see it immediately.)
According to Panerai, the transitional nature of the original watch is indicated by the “pronounced rounding of the cusps of the caseband”, and the PAM00422 does indeed have a shape that, to the eye and in the hand, seems to have one foot in the past and one in Panerai’s future. The original Luminor prototype had a solid caseback, of course, but the PAM00422 has a transparent sapphire window, through which its three-day movement, the in-house Panerai caliber P3001, is visible.
The P3001 is a pocket watch-sized caliber like the Angelus movement which preceded it — in fact, at 16 1/2 lignes, it’s slightly larger and does an admirable job of filling the enormous case that houses it. Such large movements were, of course, used for a reason — bigger is usually better in watchmaking when it comes to accuracy and durability, and the large size also meant a watch that would stand a better chance of being visible in the murky conditions under which the original Radiomir and Luminor watches might expect to be used. The P3001’s construction actually bears a striking similarity to the Angelus caliber 240 used in the original — the entire going train is under a single bridge and the mainspring and winding mechanisms are under another bridge, which takes up half the overall diameter of the movement. Two notable differences, though — the P3001 has a very robust balance bridge instead of a balance cock, and there is also a power reserve indication on the barrel bridge.
Its fidelity to the design of the original, as well as the presence of an up-to-date, pleasingly large, in-house movement should make this a favorite among the faithful — all the more so today, when enthusiasts increasingly favor watches that offer a tangible link to the history of their makers.