It’s no secret that Panerai has taken some lumps in recent years. From the “old boy network” that seems to govern limited edition allotments, to the seemingly endless rehashing of the designs of said limited editions, to the perceived aloofness coming from the storied brand’s c-suite, many long time collectors have been questioning their allegiance to a brand that, on the surface at least, seems to be losing touch with the needs and wants of its die-hard user base. This is a marked turn from the heady days when the storied Italian manufacture could do no wrong and the Paneristi were legion in collecting circles.
Well, I’m pleased to say that Panerai has been listening. Indeed, if one has been paying attention these past couple of years, they’d see that pricing is falling in line with industry norms, while the portfolio of watches has been expanding in new, and intriguing ways that open it up to new collectors while maintaining the the core design DNA that makes a Panerai a Panerai. In particular, the Due collection has been lighting a path for a new generation of ‘ristis to discover the brand, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
What’s Old is What’s New
One of my favorite pieces from SIHH 2018 was, perhaps, the simplest, most scaled down timepiece that one could possibly imagine. Forget about tourbillon escapements, perpetual calendars or exotic case materials… No, the watch that stole my heart evinced none of these things. The watch that had me thinking bad thoughts with respect to my somewhat limited bank account was rendered entirely in polished stainless steel – no satin finish, brushing or beveling here, had a plain bezel, a flat matte dial and nary more than an hour hand and a minute hand to mark the passage of time. The movement? Manually-wound, and hidden behind a sparsely engraved solid steel caseback. The watch I’m talking about, of course, is the Luminor Base Logo 3 Days, the spiritual successor to the legendary 5128/201A, and, more recently, the PAM 000. For the purposes of this review, Panerai was kind enough to lend me the PAM 774, which translates into a Base Logo 3 Days with a blue logo and canvas/leather strap.
(Dial with a view)
With the new Base Logo and its sibling, the Base Marina (adds a sub-second hand), Panerai has fitted the last of the 44mm “Bettarini” cased Luminors with an in-house movement – the P.6000 – which features Panerai’s now signature three full days of power reserve. Yet, in spite of the new movement, which replaces the mildly reworked Unitas movement of old, the price remains the same as the outgoing model. Okay, so maybe they cut a few corners to keep the cost down… True Panerai aficionados will holler and stomp their feet until the cows come home about the Base Logo’s lack of a proper screwed caseback and screwed lugs – the former being replaced with a custom press-fit case, while the latter have been replaced with a set of fat spring bars – but that’s just the way of the world, people. Panerai giveth and Panerai taketh away. Trust me, I get that there’s absolutely no amount of reasoning or pleading that I can do or make to convince these folks that they’re tilting at windmills with their complaints, but, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, they’re justified – just a bit – in holding these opinions. Sure, the difference in water-resistance – it goes from 300M to 100M – won’t make one whit’s difference in, well, pretty much any circumstance. The same goes for the spring bars, which, truth be told, make it easier to change straps without scratching the polished lugs, but ultimately that doesn’t matter. Tradition is tradition, and the new Base Logos break with that tradition. So be it.
(Press fit case back and spring bars? Heresy!)
However, for those of us who are willing to let go of the past, the end result is a watch that, for all outward appearances, proudly carries the torch forward, but does so with an au currant engine under the hood. (Speaking of said engine, don’t expect me to talk about timekeeping and accuracy – that’s the beauty of having no second hand, you just wind the thing and go.) On the wrist, the Base Logo is quintessential Panerai. And while we’re here, lets talk about that strap, shall we? On the PAM 774 it’s a gray canvas affair with complimentary blue stitching that highlights the blue OP logo on the dial; the backing is leather. It looks for all the world to be a custom aftermarket affair – this is a compliment, mind you – and to be honest, it’s hard for me to imagine a better looking combination for the watch. (For those who are wondering, yes, it can be ordered separately if you wish to add one to your current Panerai, which you definitely want to do).
(So, so good…)
Overall the Base Logo is a lot of watch for $4750. No, it won’t make friends amongst the hairiest, most diehard of ‘ristis thanks to the unforgivable sins mentioned above, but for the 99% of us who love the aesthetics of the brand, this is the most affordable, and, in an ironic twist, the most honest way of strapping a bit of Panerai DNA to their wrist. As a former’ risti myself, with a 112, 243 and 372 under my belt, I definitely look forward to adding this one to my permanent collection someday soon.