The Rarest and Newest Modern 'Marina Militare' Watches
While it may seem odd that in our past stories on the ‘Marina Militare’ watches (read them here and here), that two very significant reference points were missing from the action, we assure you that we’ve kept the best — that is one of the rarest, the PAM 267 and the newest the PAM 673 — for last. But first, a bit of Panerai history.
When Panerai first started making watches in the 1930s and they created the monumental 3646 — the Radiomir — the Italian navy then was known by the name, Regia Marina. Remember now that these were years leading right into World War II.
In 1945, when the war had ended, as a way of saying that Italy had come out of the war, no longer the country it was when the war began — the nation changed its name from Regno d’Italia (the Kingdom of Italy) to Repubblica Italiana (the Italian Republic). A year on in 1946, the navy, too, followed suit to renew its identity by doing away with the name Regia Marina and taking on the newly christened name, Marina Militare.
Such is the significance of the words: Marina Militare. They represented hope anew and a sense of fresh possibilities for the navy in a time when it was trying to rebuild itself physically and, no doubt, psychologically.
In shared spirits, Panerai, too, began including this name on the dials of the watches they were creating for the Italian navy, alongside their own name and the indication of the type of luminescent material used on the dial. Prior to this, the name of the Italian navy had never been included on Panerai’s watch dials.
We fast forward now to the year 1997, when Officine Panerai was bought over by the Richemont Group. As part of the acquisition, it wasn’t just the name that was bought over but all of Panerai’s present and old inventory. Inventory that included (ballpark figures, of course) 60 or so, quarter-bit Rolex caliber 618s and around 160 pieces of the Angelus 240 SF caliber (again, ballpark numbers).
In the same year (i.e. 1997) modern day Panerai made its first watch, the PAM 21, under the new ownership and the steadfast hands of, Angelo Bonati. The PAM 21 was a platinum cased watch powered using the 618 movement and bore all of the aesthetic signatures of the first watch that Panerai made in the 1930s. 60 pieces of the watch were made. And as confirmed by Mr. Bonati in Wei Koh’s earlier published interview, the PAM 21 was so loved by the collecting circle, that it helped recoup the entire investment the Group had made when purchasing Panerai. So, no more NOS Rolex caliber 618s on hand.
Bear with me now, we’re going to talk about one more reference before the math I’m attempting to illustrate, shows itself. Next, the PAM 203.
The PAM 203 was the next period correct watch that Panerai made since the PAM 21. The PAM 203 mirrored the historical ref. 6152/1 in that it had a steel case and it was fitted with the Angelus 240 SF, which introduced the small seconds hand into Panerai’s watches of the 50s. And, of course, it also had the most iconic feature of all — the crown protection device that has now become a signature of the brand.
The PAM 203 was produced in a run of 150 limited pieces. If you do the math now, that left Panerai with just 10 more pieces of the NOS Angelus 240 SF caliber. Which means to say that Panerai had to keep the last handful for a very special project, namely — the PAM 267.
With its Luminor 1950 steel case, ‘Marina Militare’ dial and the Angelus 240 SF movement fitted, this was, without a doubt, a very special watch for modern day Panerai. And because there were just the handful of 240 SFs that remained, the 267 was produced in an incredibly limited run of just six pieces.
Sidebar: Ask now, why the combination of those elements that were put together to create the PAM 267 are so important. You see, when the order for the ref. 6152/1 was put in place, the vast majority or about 85% of that order was filled with the Rolex 618 movement. The remaining 15 percent of that order was fitted with the Angelus 240 SF. This 15 percent amounted to just about 16 pieces known to exist. How do we know this? We know this solely thanks to the brilliant research findings of Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann of vintagepanerai.com. And of those 16 pieces, only 10 came in Luminor 1950 style cases, meaning with the crown guard. And how many of those came with the words ‘Marina Militare’ on their dials? Just three. Which then makes the PAM 267 a throwback to one of the rarest known examples of vintage Panerai. Semplicemente incredibile.
So, now that we are all aware of the significance and the draw there is for the ‘Marina Militare’ watches, what’s one to do if one should hope to own one? You could very well search the secondhand market for the 1999 PAM36B, the 2000 PAM 82, the 2005 PAM 217 — forget trying for the 2008 PAM 267 — the PAM 339 from 2010 or the PAM 587 from 2014. However, be prepared to pay the premium. These references were mostly, if not all, small limited runs and are by nature highly sought after. Seems like we’re out of luck then?
Well not exactly — because there is now the 2016 PAM 673 with a Luminor 1950s case and the coveted ‘Marina Militare’ inscription on the dial produced in a larger limited run of 1000 pieces, which is a very real current production piece worthy of any serious collector’s consideration.
A point to note for anyone wondering why the 673’s face is so easy on the eyes — we’re told that it’s all in the hour and minute hands. Particular attention was paid to the hands so they obey the Golden Ratio. And it shows. The hands seem to be quite perfectly well proportioned in relation to one another and how they overlap the indices on the watch dial.
However, the best part is that — as is the instance most of the times with Panerai’s most important and significant production pieces — the 673 is as well a very reasonably priced piece. And, what, with the new in-house manual winding P.3000 movement — the significance of the watch is even more so heightened as it represents a brilliant tie-in for Panerai of its post-World War II resurgence and its present day excellence under the masterful guidance of one, Angelo Bonati.
A special note of thanks to our friend, Alan “Hammer” Bloore for pointing out pertinent information included in this article.