PAM 183 is the soubriquet assigned to the Panerai HISTORIC Radiomir Black Seal. Panerai enthusiasts often refer to models by the serial numbers assigned by Officine Panerai, a practice shared with collectors of Patek Philippe.
It seems collector and retailer alike become excited with the advent of a new model pre-fixed with the characters “PAM” or become dewy-eyed over obsolete serial numbers of times passed, reminding them of a piece they failed to secure whilst still being manufactured. Indeed I am still haunted by the day I walked away from a retailer not grasping the opportunity to secure a PAM 203 (a Special Edition in 2005).
PAM 183 refers to the Radiomir Black Seal from the HISTORIC collection with a manual wound movement.
An alternative Radiomir Black Seal is available from the CONTEMPORARY collection with an automatic movement and a solid case back. This is referred to as the PAM 287.
I desired the PAM 183 on first acquaintance with its sensual lines. Unlike the CONTEMPORARY version it has a sapphire crystal back exhibiting an enchanting movement with blued screws, rubies, Panerai branded bridges and swan neck regulator.
The movement exhibits charming craftsmanship.
Panerai’s history has often been linked with the supply of instruments and equipment to the Royal Italian Navy and it is the supply of a suitable watch for the Italian Navy that led to the creation of the original Radiomir in 1938.
The case was 47mm and featured the cushion-shaped case and wire loop strap attachments Panerai enthusiasts have loved for decades since.
The Radiomir name is derived from the luminous substance used on the dial which was replaced by “Luminor”, an alternative substance, which also lead to another brand name synonymous with Panerai.
The case is 45mm, stainless steel, 316L and features sapphire crystal to the front and back of the case.
The crown is branded with the Officine Panerai logo and is a screw down type to prevent ingress of water and dust.
The case is often referred to as “cushion-shaped” and its profile certainly resembles a cushion, but with an alluring aspect to its form.
The sapphire crystal back exposes the movement to admiring glances with its elaborate “finissage” being available for the wearer to savour.
The watch contains the Panerai OP XI Calibre manual movement; incorporating 17 jewels (the original 1938 model contained a Rolex movement).
The watch has a 56 hour power reserve when fully wound, a Glucydor® balance with a Nivarox® I Spring and an Incabloc® anti-shock device.
The movement has also been subject to testing by COSC and is supplied with a detailed certificate.
The dial is reminiscent of the aforementioned 1938 original but with the addition of a small seconds hand and reduced dimensions (45mm case diameter, compared with 47mm of the 1938 model).
The dial is referred to as a “sandwich dial”. An upper dial, with numerals and indices cut out, overlays a secondary dial of luminous material giving the characters a glorious three dimensional quality which is truly breathtaking.
The leather strap is fitted with a large, “Panerai branded” pin-buckle and is a mid brown, tan colour, again similar to the 1938 original.
PAM 183 is an attractive, superbly crafted watch at a relatively competitive price point, £3900 (price at the time of wrting 17.8.2011).
The style harks back to a previous era, yet looks applicable to the current time. Some of the subtle modifications to the original such as the wonderful exposed movement and subsidiary second hands enhance the package and do not detract.
Close scrutiny of the movement reveals refined manufacture incorporating Côtes de Genève decoration to bridges, blued screws, swan-neck regulator and rubies. The price may be attractive but do not misconstrue. This level of craftsmanship is worthy of watches costing far more.
It took me a while to source my PAM 183 due to limited supply and this is reflected in robust residual values which make ownership reassuring.
I intend to purchase further Panerai models and regale lists of model numbers to my friends and collectors alike, PAM 183 will not be lonely for long and will have neighbouring siblings in my safe very soon.