PAMtastic!

I’ve gone through a slightly strange period of change with my watches of late, which I had actually thought that I was very happy with save that I had a few too many (I get quite uncomfortable when the number hits double figures, which probably suggests that I’m not really a collector). Firstly, I acquired a Fifty Fathoms that I had no real inclination to buy until I tried it on one day over a beer. Secondly, I bought a rather lovely two-tone diver (yes, really) that I sadly had to return as it needed to have a small fault rectified; and lastly, I sold four of my watches to make room for the two mentioned above. I therefore had something of a void that I tried my best not to fill, but I fell embarrassingly short in the will power department.

The watch that filled that void – completely unexpectedly – was another Panerai. I say another as I’ve owned a 233, 268, 380 and 337 in the past, and I have to admit I’m a bit of a fan. In fact, the 337 was probably a perfect watch for me in terms of both size and adaptability, but it was that adaptability (whilst not really being one thing nor the other) that proved to be its undoing. Once it had gone I knew that I’d miss having a Radiomir in the collection so I suppose there was some method to my madness in buying its successor – the slightly larger 346. In fact, they’re very, very different watches.

Firstly, then, the interesting bits excluding the movement. The 346 is a gorgeous mixture of materials, textures and colours, all brought together in a 45mm package (with the Radiomir’s small “wire” lugs, though, so eminently wearable even on my sub-7” wrist). The case is made from titanium with a brushed finish. It’s relatively deep (more on that in a minute) and is topped off with a polished titanium bezel. The caseback incorporates a sapphire window to view the movement, and whilst I admit to being a fan of the Radiomir generally I do think the finish – and finished product – in this instance is genuinely beautiful.

Note: as an aside, this is what Panerai say about titanium on their website: “Light, strong and hypoallergenic, the remarkable physical, mechanical and corrosion-resistant qualities of titanium have made this metal one of the most valued in fine watchmaking, as well as a material of choice for the military, aeronautical and aerospace industries. From the engineering viewpoint, its lightness makes it an exceptional material: titanium has the same strength as steel but is 40% lighter.

Titanium is impervious to corrosion by salt water or the marine environment and it has exceptional resistance to a wide range of acids, alkalis, natural waters and industrial chemical products. Although in nature it is the ninth most abundant element, and, after aluminium and iron, the third most common metal used in mechanical applications, titanium is found only in the form of oxides, hence the difficulty of refining the raw material and its consequent prestige.”

The goodness doesn’t stop there, however, because the dial and hands are also a bit special on the 346. The former is the Panerai “tobacco” brown, with the lume in the sandwich green as opposed to faux vintage (shame, that, IMO, as the latter would work beautifully on this watch). However, the hands are 18kt rose gold, and when the light hits them they’re nothing short of spectacular. There’s a sub-dial at 9 for running seconds and a date with inverted cyplops at 3; however, you won’t find a power reserve indicator anywhere on the dial, unlike my old 268 that was otherwise very similar in terms of style and functions.

Now, just a word about the strap that the 346 comes with. It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong – dark brown alligator, 27/22 with a brushed pre-V buckle. However, I wanted a less formal look and have therefore added a lightish brown Assolutemante as well. These are quite simply the best straps I’ve worn in terms of both comfort and looks, but aside from that I’ve opted for a 27/20 taper; this really does work if you don’t have a huge wrist, for two reasons. Firstly, it just gives the whole package a slightly more streamlined and elegant look; and secondly, because a pre-V buckle in 20mm as actually a fair bit less obtrusive than the equivalent buckle in 22mm.

Inside the case there’s yet more of interest, as the 346 is powered by the manufacture calibre P.2002/9 movement, executed entirely by Panerai. The key details are as follows:

• Hand-wound mechanical movement
• 13¾ lignes, 8.2 mm thick, 23 jewels, 247 components
• Glucydur® balance
• 28,800 alternations/hour
• Kif-Parechoc® anti-shock device
• 8 days power reserve provided by three barrels
• Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, power reserve indicator, seconds reset, rapid set hour hand

The P.2002 is the progenitor of the P.2000 series and it takes its name from the year in which the project was launched to supply Panerai watches with movements entirely designed and developed at the Manufacture in Neuchâtel. The P.2002/9 calibre consists of 247 components; it has 23 jewels and a thickness of 8.2 millimetres. Hand-wound and with a power reserve of 8 days with linear indicator on the rear of the movement (which I far prefer to seeing it on the dial itself), it has many of the key characteristics peculiar to all the calibres of the P.2000 series: three spring barrels; seconds reset device; rapid adjustment of local time; free-sprung balance; and balance wheel oscillating at 28,800 alternations per hour.

The three spring barrels in series, the design of which is the subject of a Panerai patent, apparently ensures the delivery of an even, optimal force which remains stable and constant for the full 8 days of the power reserve. The operation of the seconds reset system is also unique to Panerai, it seems, although I don’t have the knowledge to draw comparison with other examples.

There you have it, then. It may be quite apparent that I really do like this watch a lot, but then I really do like Radiomirs in general a lot so there’s no real surprise there. I do think the 346 is a bit special, though, and hopefully a sense of that comes across in these photos (apologies, by the way, but I don’t yet have a polarising filter for my new camera gear, so I had no way of cutting out the glare from my lights).

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The usual year end SOTC

Well, I don’t really want to break with tradition, so here it is… the collection as it stands at the end of 2014. I won’t bore everyone with a long commentary, as my infamous incoming posts will suffice for that. Just a few words, though, to go with the pictures…

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15400: I spent months thinking about this one, and in the end it took precedence over the Aquanaut I’d been planning to buy. I still don’t know whether that was the right decision, but I do know it’s a lovely watch; RO’s need to be handled to appreciate just how well they’re put together, and there’s a good reason why they’re considered by many to be the archetypal sports watch.

Moser Mayu: Quite simply, the nicest watch I’ve ever owned; I’ll go further and say that there isn’t a manufacture that produces watches with a more perfect finish. This one is white gold, and every time I put it on I’m completely gobsmacked.

Christian Van Der Klaauw Ceres 1974: CVDK has won the European Watch of The Year award 3 times in the last 5 years. There’s a good reason for this, and some of the astronomical (by which I mean cosmos-related, as opposed to expensive, although some are very expensive) complications the company produces are awe-inspiring. This is a bit left field for me, which is why I like it.

Dornblueth Kal 04.0: A more wearable size (for me, at least) than the better known models, the 04.0 was limited to just 75 pieces (50 in stainless steel, and 25 in rose gold) and all were produced in 2006. Dirk Dornblueth kindly wrote to me a while ago, clarifying that “the Kal. 04.0 movement includes 50% parts of an old GUB movement and 50% of the ebauche movement AS 1560 from the 1950’s”. Nice!

Glashutte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar: just a wonderfully simple, and wonderfully finished PC that for me ticks all the boxes when it comes to an affordable higher complication. The cleanness of the dial typifies Germanic watch design, and the movement is a wonder to behold.

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Calendar: I’ve had a few JLC’s, but seem to have settled on what – for me – is the archetypal reference. This is the current model, which (like the earlier Master Moon) has dispensed with the power reserve and has the logo back where it belongs. Once again, a very wearable size at 39mm.

Rolex Daytona: I was bloody nuts to sell the white gold Daytona I’d owned previously, but couldn’t find another at the right price and in the right condition. I do enjoy wearing this newer model, though, and find that it’s an ideal watch for pretty much all occasions. In fact, I usually reach for this when I’m not sure what I want to wear.

Panerai PAM337: It would be impossible to overstate how much I like this watch. It’s one of the 42mm models, and being a Radiomir is so wearable on a smaller wrist that it’s easy to forget that it’s actually the size that it is. I can dress it up with an alligator strap, or dress is down as it is in the photo below (on an Assolutemante)… it always looks fantastic and it always flies under the radar.

CWC Royal Navy Diver: This is a great weekend watch, and whilst I didn’t lust after them in a general sense I certainly did lust ofter this specific watch with it’s heat-treated insert. I nagged a chap from TZUK for about 18 months before I got it… but I got it!

Rolex 5513: This is a Mark IV Maxi from 1981, and quite simply it’s the nicest that I’ve seen with an immaculate dial and lovely thick case too. It went to a watchmaker friend for a new crystal to be fitted followed by the usual seal and pressure test, and he reckoned it was the nicest he’d seen too. On the wrist it’s just sublime.

Seiko 7549-7010: I’d had a lovely example of these vintage Tunas previously, and stupidly let it go. When the chance arose to acquire another beauty – this one again from 1978 – I didn’t waste the opportunity. This is another watch that received the highest praise from my watchmaker when he popped a NOS Hardlex crystal on it, and on the shark mesh it’s nothing short of perfect.

Seiko 6309-7040: I’ve had loads of 6309s and never manage to hang onto them for long; then, when I sell them, I always seem to buy another! This one dates from 1984; it has it’s original non-Suwa dial and hands, but is fitted with a Yobokies double domed crystal with internal AR (hence the reflections!). It also has an aftermarket large dot insert on at the moment, but I do have an original insert on a spare bezel too.

Right then – that’s it… far too many watches, really, but I rather like them all and am not planning on flipping anything. I’ve got a nice mix of dressy, sporty, old and new and reckon I’m pretty lucky!

A bit of Sunday (SOTC) fun

I’ve had a few messages suggesting that I haven’t done one of these for a while, and having just moved on my JLC it seemed like a good time to take stock. Eight is a couple more than I’m comfortable with in all honesty, but I can’t see any of these going any time soon so I suppose I’ll have to get used to the it.

The strange thing is that I seem to enjoy wearing the Seiko and CWC more than any of the others, probably because I don’t have to think about it once they’re on my wrist… that should probably tell me something. The Daytona has been the biggest surprise, because it’s just so versatile that it always seems “right” when I put it on; and the AP is as wonderful as I hoped it would be, but unfortunately I have to wait a few weeks for them to reopen in Switzerland in order to get a 1.5 link for the bracelet (it’s very marginally tight at the moment, or alternatively a bit too loose). It’s also quite nice that I’ve got the various bases pretty much covered; old, new, chrono, moonphase, GMT, three-handers, manual, auto, etc.

Anyway, here’s a single montage of all of them.

Officine Panerai Assolutamente

Assolutamente means, apparently “absolutely”. No idea why a strap should be absolutely anything, save that this one is absolutely lovely. I’ve been looking for the right brown strap (and “look”) for my 337 for ages, in fact, and the ironic thing is that I nearly returned this to the seller when it arrived; I’m glad I didn’t and can’t see any of my other PAM straps getting a look-in now.

A birthday SOTC

Yes, it’s my birthday today, so it seemed like a good reason to post about my current collection, as it won’t be changing now for some time, if at all.

The moonphase collection

Yes, it’s a rather pointless complication – I realise that. However, for some reason I love them, and these two are so different in terms of style and approach that I think they offer variety whilst being conceptually similar. The Glashutte Original is of course a Perpetual Calendar so in terms of horological craftsmanship alone it’s worthy of admiration; aside from that, it’s Teutonic magnificence is there for all to see… wonderfully finished movement, meticulous design of dial and overall build quality that’s up there with the very best of them. The JLC MUT Moon (this is the 39mm model) is altogether different in both look and feel, and somehow seems to marry the traditional and the modern in one gorgeous package. Oh, and the movement is a mere 4.9mm thick – amazing really, considering it provides a moonphase complication within a watch that’s so light you barely know you’re wearing it.

I do love both of these watches, and wear them a fair bit (albeit less than any of the others, I have to say).

The vintage collection

I’ve been on something of a journey with regard to vintage Rolex, and am lucky enough to have owned some wonderful watches that have included a McQueen Explorer, a red Submariner and a couple of Great Whites. I’ve also enjoyed sixties vintage 5513s and 1675s but all of these were moved on before I settled on the two I’ll now keep; a 1981 5513 and a 1983 16750. Both of these watches are supreme examples, with wonderfully fat cases and beautifully-aged dials and hands; they’re also (deliberately) both of an age where they’re still pretty robust and don’t have to be babied too much. In retrospect, this seems to have been important in my decision-making process and the consequence is that I just enjoy wearing them (a lot) and don’t have to worry about their delicacy. I also much prefer the 16750, with its quick-set date, to the earlier 1675… it shares all the vintage charms of its older brother without the disadvantage of the date change mechanism (or lack of).

The other vintage piece is an old Tuna 7549-7010 from 1978. I absolutely love Tunas but there’s a real difference between old and new, and I realised having sold one of these before that I really do enjoy owning and wearing them. The replacement I picked up recently is a wonderful example, too.

The “smart/casual” collection

Now, these two took a great deal of thought, as they could easily have morphed into a PP Aquanaut; in fact, the decision was all but made and the Aquanaut I ordered came into stock at Boodles about a week ago. In the event, though, two things happened. Firstly, I realised that the PAM 337 – a 42mm model with all the characteristics of the classic Panerai – really is a fantastic watch; it can be dressed up or down, is very slim in addition to it’s other sensible dimensions, and is an absolute pleasure to wear. Secondly, I was offered a NIB Daytona at the precise moment that a long-drawn out deal for another one finally failed to materialise. I couldn’t quite justify (effectively) trading these two for the Aquanaut, but I’ll be honest and say that it’s still a possibility for the future.

I’ll take some time (by which I mean months) before determining once and for all whether or not I go down that route, though, as a wrong decision could be quite costly and I find both of these watches fit the same bill as the PP… consummately smart, beautifully casual and wonderfully adaptable.

And the beater!

Well, it’s not really a beater, to be honest. What it is, though, is a brute of a watch that – for the money – is near unbeatable in its class. The U1 is a bit marmite in that the hands tend to polarise opinion, but the build quality is unarguable as is the distinctive style that sets it apart from other divers. I find it a tad heavy on it’s bracelet, but on a Zulu (and I have five different colours for it) it comes into it’s own. Is there a more perfect weekend/holiday watch?

So, there you have it then… eight watches rather than the six I really wanted to settle on, but for now and the immediate future I’m perfectly content.

Well, it seems that I CAN do it…

Not long ago I asked, rhetorically, whether or not I could reduce to five or six watches. (Well, I said five, but as every good WIS knows there’s always room for an additional beater 🙂 ). The answer, it appears, is “yes” – the mini-cull is now complete and aside from making a decision on whether the PAM337 gets replaced by an Aquanaut I’m finished with buying and selling. In fact, before today it was definitely going to be the Aquanaut, but the truth is that these 42mm Radiomirs are so sublime on the wrist that I may just put that acquisition on a very long hold.

Anyway, this is what I have left, and it’s what I’m staying with. The only changes from the original plan are that I’ve kept the JLC MUT Moon instead of the Speedy (some will say I’m mad, but others will agree with the choice made).

In fairness, I’ve also kept a more recently acquired Sinn U1. It’s such a fantastic watch for the money, and it’s also the best everyday watch that I’ve owned and perfect for use on holidays, both on the Bach and in the pool. It’s just not worth selling it, frankly.

Can I do it?

I was chatting to a watch-collecting friend over a pint or two on Sunday evening, and was trying to articulate how recent life-changing events have made me look differently at this hobby, and the excesses it encourages. Right now, I feel (for want of a better word) guilty for the time and money I spend on what are, essentially, trinkets and I was suggesting that I may just keep four or five and then push the whole WIS thing to the background. Focus on more meaningful things.

Anyway, I initially suggested that I’d just keep a few new pieces and do away with anything vintage as it would theoretically be a lot less hassle (well, no hassle at all). However, Howard made the logical argument that the vintage pieces – especially those I’m lucky enough to own – are the ones that would be the hardest to replace with similar quality examples. I’ve thought about that, and have decided that he’s right; in fact, I now know the five watches that are my keepers and, consequently, I understand the task ahead. Here they are, and wish me luck… I’ve given myself until the end of the year to get down to these and then kiss the whole “flipping” merry-go-round goodbye.

Oh, and if anyone actually reads this nonsense feel free to share your view via the comments function!