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The PAM00424: Asymmetrical Artwork

The PAM00424

Words by Haresh Mehta

Man has no control over time – I am not the first to realize this. Fortunately, though, I have a tool that allows time to manifest as art.

In an industry where watches are increasingly marked by electronic wizardry — they talk, even — one company decided to incorporate beauty as well.

Panerai revived a design — the OP 3646, a.k.a. “The First Watch” — that had been buried in its archives for more than 75 years. The resulting PAM00424 is a fitting tribute that is big, bold and beautiful.

Each Panerai makes itself felt when worn. Its substantial girth is joined with a personalized conical crown, delicate wire lugs, a broad calfskin strap. A unique vintage patina — a slightly serrated painted finish on the hands — adds to its singularity.

But it’s the asymmetry that’s mesmerizing. A sandwich dial illuminates the alternating Arabic and roman numerals and horizontal bar markers. The minimalist train tracks that form the minute circle run along the periphery.

The PAM00424
Each Panerai makes itself felt when worn

Close your eyes and feel the winding — you’ll find yourself longing for 72 hours to pass so you can wind it up again. The watch’s old-world charm is enlivened by a distinctly smooth ticking — that’s from the 160 components tirelessly powering the in-house P.3000 movement.

The translucent crystal back against your wrist molds itself to you like a perfectly crafted, bespoke suit. You feel as if you’ve transcended to a world where men wear ties and carry pocket watches.

In 1936, when the First Watch debuted, only the boldest designers dared imagine such an unusual, simple timepiece. Several watchmakers — including Rolex — have attempted to mimic its California dial, but none of the copycats are remotely as charismatic.

The 424 differs from the original 3646 in several ways. Rather than plexiglass, there are crystal sapphires on either side, bound by a polished steel Radiomir case. The hour and minute hands can be independently set. The inscriptions — “California” on the inner walls and the serial number below the lugs — are subtle, not sensational. But the new model so embodies the minimal and yet outsized Panerai spirit that designers may have decided against branding the company name on the dial.

Creativity and excellence are not accidents. Pedigree, finesse and the courage to eschew unnecessary complications are key to an appealing blend of functionality and art. That’s what makes a Panerai feel like poetry in motion. There’s a recent film out of Bollywood that describes best the emotion between a watch-wearer and a Panerai: “A love that flows only from me to you, albeit unreciprocated, is energizing and unique. Unlike other relations, it is not a bond that can be cleaved between two. I, and only I, can stake a claim to this enigma.