Hero illustration by Andy Gottschalk.
Italy’s most renowned watchmaker (now very much Swiss) has a reputation for releasing supersized cases, which are then strapped to the bulging arms of action-movie stars. These watches are not just masculine. They’re so brawny that they should come with a complimentary Gold’s Gym membership and a bottle of creatine.
So imagine my surprise when I encountered the Luminor Due Luna PAM1301, which announced itself in a very un-Panerai presentation. A diminutive 38mm case? A stainless steel bracelet? A freaking moonphase?
If you are like me – which is to say, smaller than Jason Momoa – you’ve probably beheld your share of Panerai watches over the years and thought, “That’s nice, but I could never.” I tried this one on and thought, “I could – and I would.”
It’s a tidy little package which, by Panerai standards, seems positively miniaturized. The power reserve is 72 hours, which is nice. The water resistance is 50 meters, which is less nice. But if you want a Panerai to go diving on the Amalfi Coast, that’s what the Submersible line is for. Some of them are 47mm, with a display big enough to be seen from sea to shining sea. Have a ball.
Me, I’d rather be topside sipping a spritz and wearing this 1301.
The watch has an automatic caliber, which is appropriate because la dolce vita does not entail winding a crown. Manual movements, with the exception of the Speedmaster, make most sense on serious watches – the kind you scrutinize under a loupe and discuss in a scholarly library while wearing tweed. This ain’t that. It’s a watch that begs to be snapped on in the morning and then worn all day, without a thought or a care, as you swan from one fabulous recreational opportunity to the next.
I like how it’s both sporty enough and dressy enough to go pretty much anywhere I want to be – especially in the summer. I like the cleanness of the white dial, with so little text. I like the polished center links. I like how the small seconds hand is shaped like a canoe. I like the decision to forego the practical (but ugly) date window in favor of the impractical (but charming) moonphase. I like that the moon in the moonphase is 24-karat gold and dotted with craters. I like the specific shade of indigo chosen to represent the gloaming sky, which is sprayed with pinpoint stars.
I like that, in the dark, the lumed numerals turn a wicked shade of acid green.
Most of all, I like what this watch suggests about Panerai design – which is to say, a willingness to evolve. Yes, it’s still a Panerai (you can tell at a glance by the sandwich dial, plus the signature crown guard jutting off the side of the cushion-shaped case) and yet it’s an inviting gesture to those of us who’ve been intrigued by the brand but lacked the requisite body mass.
What’s more, Panerai found a way to expand its reach without chasing a corny aesthetic fad. The dial is not some trendy color, and the case is not rejiggered to resemble a Nautilus. The watch is not engineered for Instagram or the red carpet. It did not arrive with a bang. It just quietly slipped into Panerai’s lineup, waiting to be discovered.
So yes, it’s officially the Most Underrated Watch of 2022: a piece no one was checking for, from a brand constantly fighting for respect, with a look and feel that could’ve come from nowhere else. I totally get that many collectors would rather see a Zenith or Hamilton earn this distinction, as they are perpetually overlooked by the mainstream, but to my mind those brands are both – deservedly! – quite highly rated by enthusiasts. Go to a meetup. Go to an auction. Go anywhere that Watch People congregate, and you’ll see your share of Zeniths and Hamiltons. What you won’t see are a lot of modern Panerais.
When I was young and obsessed with music, I used to worry that my favorite bands would get too popular. Then they would no longer be mine and I’d have to – ugh – share them with a bunch of latecomers who weren’t real fans, who didn’t pay their dues when the artist was obscure. Who weren’t in it for the right reasons. This is a hoarder’s mentality, and I’m so glad I’ve grown out of it, and I would love for the Luminor Due Luna PAM1301 to become a crossover hit. This is the kind of watch that could turn a lot of collectors on to Panerai. And it could encourage the brand’s designers to explore more in this direction.
So here it is, folks. Come and get it. We don’t sell it in the Hodinkee Shop, but I sure wish we did, because it is a corrective to the fatigue that many collectors feel about seeing the same brands over and over in the market. Everybody wants what nobody else has. Well, here’s one hidden in plain sight.
All that said, I do think it’s funny that the price is $10,100 – as if that hundred bucks were some kind of dealbreaker. One day I’d love to be in the room when watch executives set the prices on their products. Who was the person lobbying for that extra hundo?
In any event, the watch is not cheap. But Italian style never is.
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The H Shop carries a variety of pre-owned Panerai watches. For more information about Panerai, visit their website.