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Panerai - Panerai Luminor Due 38mm aka PAM926: Playing Against Type

Panerai Panerai Luminor Due 38mm aka PAM926: Playing Against Type

It's small, classy, slim and yet, it's a Luminor. The PAM926 is the most out-of-the-box Panerai one can imagine and it is plain fantastic to wear.

I've always loved the aesthetics of Panerai. The shapes, the details, the design acumen with which the current collections have been created resonate with me… up until the moment I put the watches on. Even though size, boldness and an undeniable flair for watch-geek appeal are an integral part of Panerai's identity, they're also a problem because not everyone wants to (much less can) wear a 44mm beast. However beautiful, however fancy, however trendy, hardcore tool watches do not — and should not — constitute the be-all and end-all of Panerai. So when I learned during the 2018 SIHH that the brand's latest collection, called Luminor Due, was to be released in a 38 mm diameter, I literally sighed with relief. Finally, my prayers (and complaints, and advice, and acerbic remarks to members of the brand's staff) had been heard. Finally, there was going to be a Panerai that I could wear.

It's called Luminor Due 38mm and it's one of the very few references of the brand under the 42mm mark. Surprisingly, Panerai has given up on 40mm timepieces, except for the one reference. Unsurprisingly, many of their 38mm timepieces are meant for women, although the indications of this are subtle: an apple-green or lipstick-red strap, a shorter strap, a strange sideways look from a half-informed PR rep seeing me put on the watch during an official presentation. Never mind all of that. This watch was made for me and me only… ok, maybe also for people like me who have a small wrist, who favor smaller timepieces and don't really go for the overkill 45mm type of watches Panerai have made their bread and butter of. The question is: how does it fare on the wrist after several days?

Panerai Luminor Due 38mm aka PAM926: Playing Against Type

Panerai Luminor Due 38mm © David Chokron/Worldtempus

My answer is that you simply forget about the watch. And really, in my mind, there cannot be a bigger compliment. At 38mm in diameter, it feels petite and therefore lets itself be forgotten. Made of titanium, it's light and comfortable. I'm still wearing it as I write these lines and it's sitting exactly where I want it to on my wrist. Comfort and ergonomics are topics often overlooked by everyone except the wearer and it's an outright aberration. Nothing matters more because these aspects define how one lives with the watch. If it's beautiful and doesn't fit, it will be relegated to a drawer and soon sold. Or worse — forgotten. The strap's quick release system is an added bonus, which will allow fitting a NATO or other type of fabric strap in a blink of an eye.

So the Luminor Due 38mm is an oddity within the Panerai range. But it is still a Panerai to the core. The case is a cushion-shaped Luminor, only with a smaller crown bridge and slimmer outlook. The dial is of the sandwich type: the indices and Arabic numerals 6 and 12 are hollowed out, revealing a Super-LumiNova plate underneath. When it's light out, the rose-beige color of the under-dial matches with the rose-gold hands. At night, it shines bright, which makes the timepiece conveniently readable all the time. Many die-hard fans of Panerai love the full caseback, and the PAM926 has one, although it's not for design or historical reasons. It's a price thing, since the Panerai Luminor Due 38mm is meant to attract a more budget-minded crowd while still offering a manufacture caliber. The movement is the automatic in-house P.900 with 3 days’ power reserve and date indication. It's 4.2mm thick, which isn't really slim but case design fixes that issue. After 5 days on the wrist, it ended up being one minute and a half minute fast, which is a lot. Panerai tend to set their watches fast in order to adapt to a supposedly active wearer, a policy that badly needs revising.

Panerai Luminor Due 38mm aka PAM926: Playing Against Type

Panerai Luminor Due 38mm © David Chokron/Worldtempus

What would make this watch not a true Panerai? The brand's fans are very vocal about what it is and should be, sometimes verging on bigotry. It's water-resistant to only 30 meters (but who cares), it's classy and shiny (but who cares) and it's understated (I agree, many would mind about that). And still, every glance tells me I'm wearing a Luminor, because Panerai is first and foremost a style. Forget about history, legacy and all the storytelling. Panerai has always stood out because of design. On top of that came the muscles, the hyperbole, the military attributes and the Italianness. The Luminor was so well designed that it retained its full personality after being transformed into a slimmer version of itself, the Luminor Due. And then one more time when it was reduced to a 38 mm version of itself. That flexibility is ample proof of sheer relevance. 

The case is brushed titanium, but the bezel is polished, which creates a great balance. The hands are rose gold-colored but filled with SLN and therefore, not too shiny. The dial is of a beautiful sun-brushed blue and everything that could feel prim about it is once again counterbalanced, this time by the hollowed-out indices. Same thing with the blue alligator leather strap, which is matte and fitted with a diminutive pin buckle, made of satin-brushed titanium. On paper, the watch is 10.5mm-thick, but this does not translate into feeling, mainly due to the great curves of the cushion case.

You'll say I'm biased because I had been waiting for that watch for a long time, and you'll be right. But still, one must admit that even though unusual, this Panerai does serve a purpose. It will please that larger-than-expected crowd out there with small wrists, for which Panerai has long been a non-starter, a taste for toned-down vintage-looking timepieces and looking for a shape watch with attitude. 

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Every Panerai watch is as unique as the story it tells. Since 1860 Panerai has produced high-precision instruments and watches, developed and created to meet the most rigorous military standards. Today the very essence of Panerai remains the creation of technological innovations and remarkable instruments, that draw inspiration from the epic exploits of past and, at the same time, explore new disruptive paths.

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