I have long envied my friends who could afford a collection of Panerai watches that are equipped with the company's in-house movements. These Paneristi, as the watch world calls the brand's diehard fans, paid for their pieces in troy ounces and would then gather in places like Hong Kong to enthuse over them while spewing a foreign language of caliber and model numbers as if they were trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Now, those of us with thinner wallets may join the privileged set.
At the beginning of the year, Panerai, the watch manufacturer with its origins in Florence, Italy, but now based in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, introduced its automatic mechanical P.9001 calibre, with a three-day power reserve, using an in-house movement, for a more affordable price: $9,800. Panerai had started using its own movements seven years ago, but the watches with the company's proprietary movements—from a sturdy hand-wound caliber with an eight-day power reserve to a subtle tourbillon movement that could be seen only from the back of the case—were far more expensive than the pieces it made with third-party movements.
The new watch, with its Luminor 1950 case, marks the beginning of a much more accessible in-house watch from the sought-after brand. The stainless-steel dial Luminor 1950 3 Days GMT Automatic with its bold 44mm-sized case is masculine and muscular without appearing too military or high tech. Despite its origins as a watch for the Royal Italian Navy, you don't have to be a seafarer or a diver to appreciate it. It's chic and hip in a minimalist way.
This said, the watch, with its see-through sapphire crystal back, is good in water to 300 meters deep. But most of us will probably find its GMT feature, which allows you to set the watch to two different time zones, more useful. It comes with a brown alligator strap or brushed stainless steel bracelet.
The factory at Neuchâtel is an impressive combination of traditional watch making and high-tech manufacturing. The precision watches undergo thorough shock and water-resistance tests before ever ending up on a customer's wrist.
For years, the bold, fashion-forward watch—no matter the model—has been one of the hardest to buy, particularly in the United States and Far East. Perhaps, Panerai's latest development will make it more accessible and I won't have to be so jealous.