Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Panerai background from

I found some great information about the history and maintenance of Panerais from that I want to share with you.  Please find the original article here.

1. General Panerai Info

Since its inception in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai in Florence, Italy, Officine Panerai has produced precision instruments for use by the Italian Navy, migrating to watches made specifically for these Navy Commandos as early as the 1930's. With the revival of Panerai - kick-started by the Vendome Group, before Richemont taking over in 1997 - the firm has taken their patented design to a new level.

Today, Panerai produces a relatively small number of watches, approximately 35,000/year, for collectors, historians, enthusiasts and celebrities alike. The key characteristics of the brand include the large size, cushion shape, and unique crown lever. Panerai produces several models over a variety of different model lines. For more information, check our new Panerai Model Information page. (link to Aurelio's page)

2. Buying A Panerai

a. Which Panerai should I buy?

This question is nearly impossible to answer. There are so many things that make us love our watches, that to have a blanket answer for this would just not be right. Here are a few of the relevant questions:
- how big do you like your watches? Panerai range anywhere from 40 to 47mm
- what complications are you looking for?
- Is there a specific dial color you want to add to your collection?
- Do you prefer the Radiomir or Luminor case shape?
- What is your price range?
After you think about these questions for a bit, please check out the Panerai reference section to get a little visual stimulation for your search.

b. What kind of discount can I expect?

At the time of writing, I think it's safe to say that discounts are few and far between on Panerai watches. The reality is that they make only about 35,000 watches a year and that they do pretty darn well selling them. Generally speaking, it is easier to get a dealer to throw in some extras like another strap or buckle than it is to get a blanket discount. This way, you are saving yourself the extra $130-250 that you WILL eventually dump into more straps and buckles.

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly discounts to be had, but they will often depend on a variety of variables like location of the dealer, the model in question, the perceived popularity of the model, and your relationship with the dealer.

c. What about buying from the Boutiques?

The Italian boutiques are becoming especially attractive options for many Panerai fans in the USA. Not only can one expect the VAT (euro taxes often up to 15%) to be refunded, but the watches are often shipped earlier due to the direct connection of the shop to the brand. Similar gains against currency differences can be had at the Hong Kong boutique, where many Paneristi report having a wonderful sales experience. Information on the boutiques including their address, email contact and telephone numbers can be found on the website.

There are a few key points of information to know about buying from a boutique:
- discounts are rare
- purchases from the USA require either a bank wire transfer or payment via AMEX with photocopy proof of identity via passport.
- There is often a surcharge added by the shipping company for import duties. Many people ordering the PAM195 collectors edition were billed for about $150 after the fact due to this duty.
- There are occasional troubles with the strap materials making it through the US Fish and Wildlife department. This processing lag can often be avoided or at least expedited by calling ahead and speaking with the agent in charge of your package.
- The boutiques tend to get bombarded with requests for watches as soon as the information hits the internet. Please be patient with the staff, especially around April and the SIHH show.

3. Understanding my Panerai

a. What are all those numbers on the caseback?

The numbering system on Panerai watches has changed a bit over the years. As it currently stands, the information found on the back includes:

Series, individual edition number, edition size- C283/500
The series is identified by letter, with the earliest Vendome Panerai models getting the prefix "A" back in 1997.
The edition size is something that has changed over the years. From the "A" through the "E" series all dial variations of a particular complication were lumped together. Hence, an "A" series PAM002 Base model numbered xxx/1000 would not necessarily mean that there were 1000 black dialed Base models produced. This is the total number of all base models, including the PAM10 white dial base, and the PAM9 PVD base. This changed for the "F" series onward such that each model does indicate the amount of that particular model produced. For example, an "F" series PAM88 might say xxx/2200, and that WOULD mean that there were 2200 PAM88's produced that year.

Serial Number- BB999960
This is simply a sequentially ordered series of numbers that began back in 1997 with BB97xxxxxx.

Case Number- OP6537
Information on the case numbering system is still a bit of a mystery. It seems odd that a PAM9 would have a different case number than a PAM26 given that they use the same movements and have the same dimensions. There was some work being done to try and uncover the real use of these numbers, but it is as yet unknown.

b. What should my Panerai come with?

This question depends in part on which model, from which year you are buying. In general, a post-vendome (see the Panerai Glossary) Panerai should come with:
- a Pear wood box, with a black sueded or leather insert
- the Instruction manual (different for different models)
- the libretto di garanzia (warrantee book)
- the silver credit card sized International Guarantee Certificate
- the COSC certificate (for most non-Base models)
- a beige polishing cloth
- a blue outer box with a Styrofoam interior protector
- a corregated cardboard outer box with a sticker listing the model, and edition size/number
Depending on the model, it might also include:
- a second strap and screwdriver (not included on bracelet models)
- a date adjustment tool (on the Valjoux based chrono models)

The boxes for the special edition models are traditionally done in the same pearwood finish, but are nearly twice the size of the standard issue box. These boxes often have a key hole on the front, and come accompanied by a small key for locking the box.

c. How do I change my strap or bracelet?

Panerai is known for many things amongst collectors, but the unusually easy method of changing straps, and the huge 3rd party strap industry that sprung up around these watches, is easily a central theme. To change the strap on your Panerai, just use the included screwdriver and remove the two screws through the lugs. You will notice that the screws are passed through a tube that adds to the tensile strength of the strap attachment, and it is recommended that you use these tubes with each strap that you fit to your watch. On occasion, the lugs or screws have been dabbed with a little loctite, which will make it a little tougher to remove the screw. Rest assured that it is quite normal to take out these screws and change straps, but if it feels too precarious, don't hesitate to pass the liability on to your local authorized dealer.

If your watch came on a bracelet, you can still put a strap on the watch. Just pick up an appropriate sized screwdriver (I use an inexpensive "Helping Hand" set that I found in my local grocery store- the 1.2mm head seems best for the lugs, and the 0.8mm head seems to work on the bracelet link screws) and carefully remove the screws between the lugs. You might need to order a set of strap tubes for your new strap, but once you've done that, you can enjoy all the same benefits of a non-bracelet owner.

Unfortunately for 44mm Panerai owners, the opposite is not entirely true. Although Panerai will sell the bracelet for these watches separately, you cannot simply add a bracelet to a non-bracelet model (ie. You can't take the bracelet from the PAM106 Sub and put it on a PAM177 Ti Marina). There is a problem with the way that the lugs attach to the bracelet, and you would require a special aftermarket adaptor to remedy this problem. So, in short, it is POSSIBLE to add a bracelet to a non-bracelet model, but it will cost you the price of a bracelet (~$2200 USD) and the price of the adaptors (~$500)…not a cheap undertaking. For 40mm Panerai models, the straps and bracelets are fully interchangeable…so a PAM49 can easily become a PAM51 with the addition of a bracelet.

Once you have mastered the strap change, a whole new world of aftermarket and OEM straps opens up to you, and you're likely to be hooked. Feel free to post and as questions about members preferred strap pairings on your particular model of Panerai….this is the kind of subjective fun that many of us love to chat about on the forum.

4. Service and Maintenance of a Panerai

a. Winding your Panerai

This is one of the most commonly asked questions on the Timezone Panerai forum. If you have purchased a historic model Panerai, you will need to wind it roughly every 56 hours to keep it running. Some people swear by the habit of winding it at the same time every day, while others find it more convenient to let the watch run down on occasion and to simply set it and wind it up again. Neither method has proven to be either advantageous or deleterious to the watches, so feel free to pick the method that suits you best. In terms of winding amounts, there is no specific number of turns of the crown that works universally on a Panerai watch. The good news is that you can safely wind until you feel an obvious stop in the winding motion, which will indicate that you have fully wound the watch. Don't be afraid to wind the watch to a full charge, most people find that the stopping point is quite easily noticeable…unless you have Arnold like proportions. : As for the automatic watches, you can generally keep these wound by constant wearing, or you can choose to wind them as well….although there will be no way to tell when the watch is fully wound (you cannot overwind an automatic Panerai).

While you can wind the watch with the lever closed (this is how the old school Italian frogmen did it), it is not recommended for two reasons- 1. it might wear out the seals on the crown that assure water resistance 2. you're not at war, so take the 2 seconds to flip the darn lever.

b. Polishing the case

Many Paneristi swear by a small pink polishing tool called the "Cape Cod Polishing Cloth." These can be ordered online, or found at many local hardware stores, and they provide a nice and inexpensive way to keep your polished steel Panerai shining like the day you bought it. Be aware that this compound works by removing a very thin layer of the metal on the watch, and that repeated or obsessive polishing will probably dull the case over time. Also note that these cloths seem most effective on small "swirl" type scratches and other minor markings on the case. If you have a deep scratch, a dent or a ding, it is probably best left to the pros at Panerai.

c. Routine Servicing

After a few years of regular wear, most watch companies recommend a "routine servicing" of their watches. For Panerai, this typically includes a polishing of the case, checking of the water seals, and lubrication and timing of the movement. Of course, any of these steps could uncover a larger problem with the watch, but in general, this is what is included during a routine service. Prices for this service will be quoted to the customer at the time of need. Follow the instructions under section d. "emergency service" for sending in the watch to your local service branch.

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