Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fascination with watches -- Panerai

I have never really been a big watch person until the past couple years.  Let's face it, most of these items fall under the category of "toys".  Don't let anyone confuse you otherwise and tell you they are an investment.

Owning a watch as an investment is like buying a random car or painting and hoping it will go up in value.  Unless you spent a lot of money to begin with to acquire something limited, chances are they will depreciate.  In addition, a lot of the value for these luxury items are very dependent on the overall economy.  In this financial market, the value of these items are very depressed.  On the other hand, there is relatively low maintenance associated with these timepieces vs. a car, and quite honestly they also depreciate a lot less if you choose to sell one later on.

The first nice watch I owned was a James Bond style Omega Seamaster.  That watch was a college graduation gift from my parents given to me, a bit prematurely, during my senior year Christmas holiday.  That was the only nice watch I owned for a good 5 years of my life after college. Before college, the only watch I had of value was my Casio G-Shock.

In the past 3 years I have purchase a couple more timepieces to add to my collection.  My favorite watch is still my Panerai Luminor Base Logo PAM000.

The company was started back in 1860 and became mainstream when they were chartered by the Italian Navy to make their diving watches.  A lot of the trademark features of their watches were developed during that time.

Fast forwarding to the mid-1990s, Sylvester Stallone, on one of his trips out to Italy, discovered the boutique in Florence.  Sly loved the timepieces and championed their product back in the States.  More recently, you can see many celebrities wearing their timepieces from Tom Cruise to Brad Pitt.  Panerai's are very masculine timepieces, fairly heavy for it's size and usually around 44mm or larger in diameter.

One of the reason they are so coveted is because of their limited production.  Each piece is numbered and they only produce a set quantity of each model per year (for example, only 900 total of my model was made worldwide in 2008).  For some special edition watches, they may produce no more than 50 in total.  Because of the increasing demand (as more celebrities wear them) and purposely set limited supply, the value of these watches do not decrease.  Even in this economy, it's hard to find dealers who will cut you a deal.  Those that do, they sell out quickly. 

I was introduced to this brand by the local car enthusiast community.  For those, like myself, who wanted a specific model, it was very difficult to find them in local boutiques without a significant mark up.  I was fortunate enough to actually go to their first boutique in Florence, Italy and pick out the watch myself.  It was a great purchase experience as the associates working there spoke perfect English and was very helpful during the transaction.

If you are considering a Panerai, I would strongly suggest doing your research on aftermarket leather strap makers.  OEM straps from Panerai are not worth the money ($700-$1,000).  Although very nicely constructed, for the price of this easily worn item, you can find many aftermarket leather-smiths that can make you a custom watch strap for a fraction of the cost.  Because the straps can be easily removed (via screws on the sides of the crown), this is also an economical way to change the look of the timepiece.  The strap pictured above was custom made for me by Rob Montana for ~$250.

When I am ready, I will definitely be expanding my Panerai collection with a Radiomir.  For more information about their current and past models, including est. prices, please see here.

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