[SIHH 2012] Officine Panerai, after the bomb.


World Poker Tour. Last year, I had announced flat out (no bluff at PifPaf’s) that it would be the Officine’s best year.
Incidentally, the title of the article was « the apogee ». Unless there‘s a miracle (but it is just a business), one would inevitably be disappointed.
This year’s disappointment is relative, because we are far from the perigee, and it is even the most interesting SIHH of Panerai since 2006 (except for 2011, of course).
This Panerai presentation at the SIHH 2012 stays within the continuance of last year’s, with many neo-vintage pieces.
This content knocks a hole in the theories about some Officino-Paneristic conspiracy like “Reopen 1940”, theories stating that frustration would be used as a marketing technique.
Because, for the second consecutive year, the beautiful Italian spreads her legs widely, totally offered to the unsatisfied desire of Paneristis.

One could even conclude that the Officine’s product policy is the result of random factors (how we could explain the avalanche of Radiomirs?). But also of political factors, linked to an internal shake-up in Neuchatel headquarters.

For the « Laboratorio Di Marketing », it is also an in vivo test for the fabulous PAM399 « 1940 », the last big paneristic fantasy, which could trigger a frenetic debate among auto proclaimed historians, for many days, in order to determine if the watch looks more like the 6152 V1 or less likely the 6154…
It does not matter; the essentials are here, a vintage Luminor watchcase, without crown-guard and featuring the inscription « Radiomir ».
It is an almost perfect synthesis of the most arousing vintage codes, the missing link between the Pithecanthropus-Radiomirus and the Lumino-Sapiens-Sapiens.

But all this verbiage would be to no avail if the song did not match the plumage. On the wrist, it is to die for, it is the perfect mix between elegance and savagery.
The dial, even if it is not conforming from an historical standpoint, is perfectly balanced : the large “small second hand” perfectly matches the bold font and the large indicators.
The choice of hands is perfect, the OP has clearly utilized the same “double pencil” design as the Radiomir from last year , and it is just as well, as the hands fitted on the PAM372 are downsized.
The dial is dark brown, which leaves some room to dream about an ochre one, in the same vein as the 6154’s, burnt by radium. Regarding the crystal, it is made of Plexiglas; I prefer sapphire, but again, all the better as it leaves some room for the future.

The watchcase, with its edged middles, almost as thin as that of a PAM232/2499 (hence far thinner than the PAM372’s case), its full but nonetheless thin lugs, and above all the absence of the plain (and notoriously uncomfortable) crown-guard, with the crown from the 40-50’, is of course the highlight of this PAM399, difficult to forget it since the design is such a success!

The design is almost perfect (with an ochre dial, a different font and without the small second hand, it would have made it), but because of the price, the number of copies available, the caliber and the poor waterproofing, one stands in the realm of the “Officine di Umorismo”. The announced 30 meters discredit the piece as a real sports watch (let’s imagine a Watchonicar clamped to 50km)..
But most of all, the Minerva caliber (large balance, 18,000v/h, 55h Power reserve), does not feature the level of finishing that could justify the outrageously high advertised price (about 20k€).
The profile turning is excellent (on the brass wheels), but the lack of interior angles, or the average finishes of the Cotes de Genève and of the beveling in general, cannot justify a price three time higher than that of very similar models from the OP.
Obviously, a caliber by Karsten Frässdorf would be a better match for the price of this beauty…

The watch will be delivered with or without the PAM398, depending upon the local market.
With 100 copies (why not 1940 ???, damn !) and a entry price of 20k€, as with the PAM300, the watch might not be seen very often in the Paneristic GTG, a vault PAM to be stored beside the 300, that’s too bad.
However, the toughest part of the psychological work is performed by the Officine, and one could (and will !!) speculate for months or even years on the future mass market version, fitted with a P.3000 and featuring a waterproofing worthy  of a diver.
The Panerai PAM399 for a buzz lasting 1000 years !!

This PAM399 is also available in rose gold, still in 47mm, still without crown guard, still featuring the Minerva caliber.
As much as I adore the rose gold Radiomirs, this one barely made me aroused; maybe I didn’t wear it for long enough.
Nonetheless, it is very attractive and costs about 35k€ (it stings, compared to the price of an American 1921, 20k€  at Vacheron). 

To go on with the Radiomir (which should be an easy task regarding this SIHH2012), the PAM449 « 2533 » is the other unforgettable Rad of this year’s event.
It outshines the PAM373 (by the way, I heard some teeth grinding for distributors, there obviously were cancellations regarding the PAM373 and 376).
The 449 offers magnificent blued hands, which are a better match for the « prototype » design and the fineness of the indicators, for far cheaper (thanks to the 47mm stainless steel case).
The contrast between the beige Luminova, the blued hands and the font borders on (reaches ?) perfection.
When one wears this PAM449, one realizes that the gold hands previously fitted on the « 2533 » dial were a bit too-much.
The watchcase still features the ungraceful thickness of the 2011 Radiomir’s middles; and, as a general tendency with the Radiomir, the case back looks even thicker…

However, the overall design is a total success, the watch looks furiously vintage, and for a short while, I thought I was trying on a collector’s piece pulled out of a hat at Christie’s.
It is even one of the nicest vintage-like Radiomir in the history of the Officine since the 232.
Its only flaw: only 500 copies are available, chronicle of fights in boutiques foretold.

The PAM448 « Cali », its twin sister, ironically named, because since it follows the 249 and the 349, one would legitimately expect it to be named PAM449 “Cali”, but no.
This new Cali looks a lot (too much?) like the PAM249, featuring a similar black dial and large blued hands.
On this model, the Plexiglas crystal is not domed (but “Top Hat”, like the one fitted on the PAM449) and the waterproofing is increased up to 100 meters; the watchcase swells up like all the Rad fitted with a P.3000 (and yet, the slight extra thickness of the P.3000 compared to the Unitas 6497 does not justify this plumpness).

It is a new launch window for those frustrated with the PAM249 and who do not want to pay top-dollar (about 6800€ for these PAM448-449).
Panerai is currently the only watchmaking brand where buying from the catalog is more attractive than from the second hand market!
However, with only 500 copies available, you will have to be in good terms with your dealer (I emphasize this last word).

If these SL fit into a certain logic the OP as been pursuing for quite a long time, the mind-blowing pieces of this event are the PAM424 and 425 (about 6500€).
Producing  “Historical” Rad on a regular basis is a first in the history of this brand recently relocated to Neuchatel.
It is quite disconcerting, because after many lean years, the Officine presents four historical Rad simultaneously;
It seems that the commercial  “cannibalization” of the PAM232 by the 249 in 2006-2007 does not frighten the OP at all.
Indeed, it is a surprising strategy. Scandalmongers would think that the PAM449 and 448 could serve as bait for the PAM424 and 425.
Using the SL as a booster for a catalog series , only the OP could have dared to do it ! « Memento audere semper » is more than ever a hot topic !

I will have the Paneristic fundamentalists howling. Nevertheless, I liked the PAM424.
Then, it is indeed a pure product of transgenesis by the Officine-Montsanto laboratory. Of course.
I will go even further; I find this watch more attractive and efficient than the PAM448.
Prior to the stoning or even the stake, let me argue:
I never liked the blued hands of the previous California…. Even if the PAM349 was superb, the titanium case spoiled the piece a bit.
Furthermore, my favorite Cali is unquestionably the PAM376 in white gold presented last year; the combo of the chocolate dial with gold hands provides the indicators “Cali” with the warmth they needed.
Now, with these gold hands, one finds a lot of this combo in the PAM424 (only two people in the back of the room may still be following ☺).

Finally, when the watch is on one’s wrist, the date that causes such a stir blends into the décor.
As for the logo, it is impossible to miss it; But finally I like this juxtaposition of vintage+modern, there is a touch of Californian bad taste to it, a watch that Mr. Lebowsky would not disavow.

Let’s talk about the other one, the PAM425, which killed the orders on the 373 at Panerai dealerships.
It is well designed, it is attractive, and it satisfies tremendous expectations from the Panerists.
However, the watch did cut little ice with me. When compared with the PAM449, it agonizingly suffers, go figure.
The final version will feature a pig in the dial, at the usual location.
To compensate for this omission on the prototype, our team of graphic artists hammered away, “nightanday”, to create a rendering conforming to the final product; it is L'Ard (and Pig).

Now, let’s talk about a singularity, the PAM395, Radiomir, rose gold 45mm.
It belongs with this line of generational descent of dressed up Radiomir, and like all its precursors, it is almost a complete success. This PAM395 almost made it.
It is fitted with a P.2002, of course. But with a P.2002/10 featuring an extensive openwork.
Aesthetically, the result is excellent, even though the finishes are far from academic. It somewhat reminds us of the famous PAM348-350 Tourbillon.
In short, it is beautiful, a little messy and very original. A real achievement for a movement made in OP.
The watchcase is also a nice surprise, the thickness of the middle is moderate despite the height of the P.2002, thanks to a good work performed on the bezel, which features a somewhat  « Top Hat » shape.
Panerai managed to improve the Rad 45mm cases just as the model is about to exit the series? The Rad 45mm’s swan song, so to speak…
The third surprise is the dial; indeed, it is iridescent, a style more commonly seen with Chopard or Piaget.
Finally, this highly dressed up dial is very coherent with the stated purpose of this watch.
The stumbling block is the linear Power reserve indicator. This military layout has nothing to do with a dressed up watch.
With this PAM395, Panerai almost managed to achieve the perfect dressed up PAM…

Last I'd widely speak about the PAM372, the 422, is less or more a 372 but nicer, cause of the great second and the saphire... In fact, I'd love this 422 a great achievement.

The fronter between the perfection and the heresy is thin. The 423 is undoubtly the biggest joke of this 2012, its a 372 with a face power reserve like in the old Betarini case, why not a great second? To finalize the joke we could hope a striped dial, like on the PAM028... Cheesy. That's barely work on the 424, absolutly not here.

The other main theme of this SIHH2012 is the ceramic, a technique the providers of the OP seem to have mastered at last (Still Bangerter?).
First reactions: astonishment, stupor, disappointment.
But why, oh why, “billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles of ten thousand thundering typhoons”, why is there no ceramic vintage Radiomir??

The big novelty is of course the PAM438 « Tuttonero ».
If the case is the same as the new « 1950 » 44mm, the watch is different in that it is all black, from the wristband entirely made of ceramic (and not ceramic + steel or rubber, as usual), to the bridges of the P.9000/B, also blackened;
However, the treatment of this caliber looks more like electroplating than the PVD featured by the PAM317.

The watch revisits the PAM359’s « instrument » dial, with aged indicators, and like the “automatic” inscription and other superfluous letterings dear to the Officine, the label “ceramic” is soon forgotten.
The result is really convincing thanks to the wristband, whose extreme lightness is puzzling (ceramic is about one third as dense as stainless steel). Only regret, the crystal is not domed.
It is such a shame, owing to the fact that ceramic is expensive to produce and that it would only have added an extra 1000€ to the current price, of about 9000€…  

The other « ceramic » presented this year is the PAM396, which comes on the sly to stop the torrent of rumors and speculations that struck the Paneristosphere a few years ago.
At last, a 1950 47mm case made of ceramic! John Rambo’s watch finally embodied!
And like the Pre-V PVD (the other Panerai from the movie « John Rambo »), it will remain relatively unaffordable (95000€), because it is fitted with the fabulous and costly P.2005 movement.
A cost that is relative, since this Tourbillon features the best technicality/price ratio of the watchmaking industry.
Akin to the 438, the bridges seem to be electroplated.
The contrast between the brass wheels, the escapement block and the blackened finish is tremendously beautiful and efficient.
The dial features aged indicators on a black background, which is classic enough; one could talk at length about the “Tourbillon”, using literature, but Patek or Parmigiani do the same… Of course, the watch is fitted with a domed crystal.
It is one of the few clear rounds of this SIHH Panerai (yes, I like the rotary Tourbillon from Panerai).
Moreover, it opens a conjecture about a possible skeletonized version, like the PAM348-350.

The title of the article comes after “The Bomb”, because: the SIHH2011 was such a relief, such an explosion of post-neo-vintage creativity, after dreary years of Betarrinistic case, that the novelties from the Officine will never taste the same.
Obviously, the Paneristis’ high standards, irradiomired like a vintage dial by the presentation of 2011, underwent the same growth rate as the imperishable Hulk.
Hence, this SIHH almost entirely composed of Radiomir 47mm is a bit indigestible.
It feels as if one were hiding in a bunker after the Bomb, locked down with eight tons of canned foie gras, as an appetizer, main-course and dessert, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


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