If you ask me what is the Panerai’s most “vintage” watch, I’ll probably tell you the 448 California. I may be wrong, but the beauty and simplicity of this watch make me passionate. Let’s see a little more about this piece and its history.
The Radiomir is the first watch designed by Officine Panerai as a prototype in 1936 at the request of the Royal Italian Navy, which wanted to be supplied with “a special luminous watch for divers”
One of the most historically significant and beautiful vintage Rolex made Panerai watches ever made, which had an original Rolex Reference Number of 3646. The Panerai Reference 3646 was made in the late 1930s, and featured an Art-Deco Rolex “California” dial, which is unique in the sense that it lacks any brand designation. This gave the dial and watch a super-clean, streamlined Art-Deco look.
Panerai produced ten prototypes of the first Radiomir watches in 1936, thus, cementing Panerai’s relationship with the Navy. The official production of the military issue Panerai Radiomir began two years later, in 1938, which included some enhances and modifications.
Historical sources indicate that Panerai was probably not the first to use this type of dial for its Radiomir, but rather that it “inherited” it from Rolex, which introduced it in Art-deco period watches with the “Bubbleback”. Thanks also to the privileged relations that existed between the two houses (Swiss Horlogery founded by Panerai was an official dealer for the Geneva based Manufacture).
The nickname California or “Cali dial” seems to have referred to the patent deposited by Rolex for this type of dial in the early 30s and to the fact that its Bubbleback models were very popular from the 30s to the 40s
The “California” dial featured an upside-down pyramid shaped twelve-o’clock marker, as well as horizontal rectangular markers (indices) located at 3, 6, and 9; coupled with Roman numerals markers at 1, 2, 10 and 11 on the top half of the dial, and featuring Arabic numeral markers on the bottom half of the dial at 4, 5, 7, and 8.
The original vintage Panerai 3646 also had wire lugs that were soldiered to the case, so if you wanted to change the strap, you would have to cut-off the old one with scissors and sew on the new one in place!?!? Also, as a model, it’s pretty much identical to a “California” dial Panerai Reference 3646, with just a different dial–same body, different face.
In 2006, Panerai made a special limited edition version of the “California” dial Panerai, and they gave it a PAM 249 model designation. This model was limited to 1936 watches, and this watch was highly praised by enthusiasts as being a the first REALLY authentic looking 47MM modern/contemporary Panerai made. The PAM 249 is pictured below on the left side.
In 2012, Panerai introduced a new stainless steel “Califronia” dial model, named the PAM 448. This new model looked in many ways like the PAM 249, but if you look closely at all the subtle details, you find they are quite different, but in a quiet way. For instance, the five minute markers on the PAM 249 are pad printed much sharper and crisper than on the PAM 448, but even though the markers on the 448 are printed with much rougher edges, it gives it a more authentic, vintage look.
Emphasizing the homage, Panerai engraved “VINTAGE” in the middle of the strap attachments at 6 o’clock. On the opposite side at 12 o’clock, “CALIFORNIA” is engraved on the rehaut. The Panerai-patented detachable wire loop attachments allow for very easy strap switching—perfect for those who like to often change the look of their watch.
AISI 316L 1.4435 stainless steel is Officine Panerai’s material par excellence since it is highly resistant to corrosion and is hypoallergenic, making it ideal for contact with the skin. The Panerai watches created for the Italian Navy were made of austenitic stainless steel, a reliable material that was also resistant to the extreme environmental conditions in which the commandos operated.
Celebrating a historic moment in Panerai’s history, the modern Radiomir California 3 Days PAM00448 is a fitting tribute. What’s more, since this is a limited edition piece, owning one is without a doubt a special treat.
Unique edition of 750 units
Movement: Hand-wound mechanical, P.3000 calibre, executed entirely by Panerai, 16½ lignes, 5.3 mm thick, 21 jewels, Glucydur® balance, 21,600 alternations/hour. Incabloc® anti-shock device. Power reserve 3 days, two barrels. 160 components.
Functions Hours, Minutes
The P.3000 calibre, created entirely at the Panerai Manufacture, presents the main characteristics of the Panerai movements in terms of structure and robustness, accuracy and power reserve. The diameter of the calibre is 16½ lignes, a substantial size which traces its origins from that of the movements which were fitted to the historic Panerai models. The calibre is immediately recognisable by its construction, which is similar to that of a three-quarter plate movement: a large bridge, next to another smaller one, covers the majority of the mechanical parts, and is fixed to the bottom plate by a series of screws of substantial thickness, thus forming a particularly rigid structure. The movement has 21 jewels and it uses two spring barrels connected in series. Such an arrangement enables long, thin springs to be used, which ensure the delivery of a more even force over a longer period of time, with a power reserve of 3 days.
Case: Diameter 47 mm, AISI 316L Polished Steel with Plexiglas® and with removable wire loop strap attachments (patented).
Bezel: Polished Steel
Back: See – through sapphire crystal
Dial: Black with luminous Arabic and Roman numerals and hour markers.
Water Resistance:“10 bar (~100 metres)”
Fonts: Jake Ehrlich / Paul Altieri / Panerai / DS Straps / Gunny Straps / Erwan Grey