Walter Shillington is an avid collector of mechanical watches. His reviews focus on inexpensive but often intriguing Chinese timepieces.
While browsing eBay, I discovered a great deal on a Panerai watch. This slightly used timepiece was on offer for 1,000 dollars. While that might seem excessive, these luxury watches normally sell for six times that amount.
The low price should have been a warning sign, but common sense is not my strong suit. Greedily, I selected the buy button.
Three days later, the item was shipped from Hong Kong. That was disappointing as Swiss watches don’t normally originate from China.
I immediately contacted the seller, asking him to cancel the sale. He ignored my request, and, two days later, the watch arrived. I attempted to arrange a return. When this failed, I requested assistance from eBay.
Since this watch’s stated location was my own country, not China, eBay asked the vendor to pay return shipping and refund my money.
Within two weeks, the purchase price and shipping costs were returned. I retained possession of the replica. I have no right to it, but, obviously, the vendor felt the cost of return shipping exceeded the watch’s value.
My new replica Panerai arrived on schedule, protected by a layer of foam.
Inside what appeared to be legitimate Panerai packaging, I found a wooden watch box. It measures eighteen centimeters by eighteen centimeters (6.80 inches) and is ten centimeters (3.80 inches) deep. This box weighs 862 grams (30.4 ounces) and is covered with a light brown veneer. The hardware consists of a pair of stainless-steel hinges. The bottom is covered with a protective layer of felt.
The inside of the box is well appointed with a felt-like material. Accessories include a jeweler’s screwdriver and a rubber strap labeled Officine Panerai Italy. The timepiece was secured around a soft black cushion, its face obscured by a form-fitting silicone cover.
Strangely, the metal tag attached to the inside of the box identified the watch as an Officine Panerai Firenze.
I removed the timepiece, slipped off its silicone cover, and, out of habit, gave it a shake. To my surprise, the replica began to tick.
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Quickly I pulled the watch free from its cushion and examined its back. An Officine Panerai labeled rotor slid into view behind the glass observation window. Someone has slipped an automatic movement into a manual winding watch.
This replica Panerai Luminor Marina is a heavy watch, weighing in at 134 grams (4.74 ounces). Its diameter reaches 51.7 millimeters, and this timepiece is 18 millimeters thick.
The brushed stainless-steel case is topped by a bezel, which is either polished stainless-steel or plastic.
While most Panerai timepieces utilize a sandwich-style dial, the Pam 563 employs a simpler design. It is white with Arabic numbering to identify the hours. The subdial, located at the nine o’clock position, functions as the second hand. A generous dollop of luminous paint marks each hour, and a thick layer covers all three pointers.
This watch features a crown protector that looks identical to those used on Panerai timepieces.
Its band is composed of thick black leather and includes a brushed metal buckle labeled Panerai.
In 1860 Giovanni Panerai opened a watchmaker’s shop in Florence, Italy, and, by the end of the 19th century, had established ties with many leaders from the Swiss horology heartland.
Panerai morphed into a research and development orientated company, specializing in component fabrication, instrument design, and mechanical engineering. They won many contracts with the Italian Navy and developed a radium-based paint for use with navigational equipment and watches.
During the 1920s, Panerai began to work with Rolex, modifying the Swiss manufacturer’s waterproof Oyster case for use in military diver’s watches. These timepieces were very popular during the second world war.
In 1956 Panerai and Rolex ended their cooperative venture and the company’s instrument line entered a period of decline. By 1972 Panerai had discontinued its watchmaking activities, concentrating on the development of dive tools, aerospace components, and radio equipment.
Panerai changed direction in 1993, offering a selection of consumer watches. The luxury market, however, is extremely difficult to enter, and, with their lack of an effective distribution base, Panerai appeared destined for failure.
Luckily, Sylvester Stallone discovered the brand while shooting the action film Daylight in Rome. Stallone liked Panerai so much, he placed a succession of mass orders for custom “Slytech”-branded Luminors. These watches were soon seen wrapped around the wrists of many of Sylvester Stallone’s friends—including Arnold Schwarzenegger. And a watch worn by both Rocky Balboa and The Terminator is macho enough for any man.
By 1997, Panerai’s fortunes were improving, and a strong market had developed for large diving watches. At this point, the Vendome Group—now Richemont, S.A.—decided to purchase Panerai. For approximately $1.5 million U.S., Officine Panerai joined the larger company and, in doing so, gained access to significant marketing, product development, and distribution resources. Richemont International S.A. was incorporated in 1972 and is based in Villars-Sur-Glane, Switzerland. It operates as a subsidiary of Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA.
The popularity of Panerai timepieces has increased significantly over the years. Between 1993 and 1997, they sold an estimated 2,000 watches. In 2013, they sold over 70,000 units.
The watch under review today is a replica. Most internet stores avoid selling replicas because these watches are produced without regard to copyright laws. The factories that manufacture them steal both the originating company’s design and their branding information. These timepieces are generally of lower quality than the original and, when they fail, the company whose name is featured on the watch is the one whose reputation will suffer.
Brand: Panerai Luminor Marina (Replica)
Model number: Pam 563 Luminor Marina 8 Days Acciaio White Dial (Replica)
Place of origin: China
Movement: Chinese manufactured automatic
Features: Crown protector
Functions: Time of day
Band material: Leather
Band width: 24 mm
Dial color: White
Dial window material: Glass
Case material: Stainless-steel
Case diameter: 51.7 mm including crown
Case thickness: 18 mm
Weight: 134 grams (4.74 ounces)
Water resistance: Unknown; probably splash-proof only
I appreciate the contrast between the smoothly polished bezel and the brushed stainless-steel case. Although it might be considered gaudy, the huge crown protector that arches over the crown fit well with the timepiece’s overall design. The dial is simply constructed and easy to read.
This watch includes a caseback inscribed with official appearing Panerai trademark information. A large window allows a view of a handsome automatic movement.
The plain black leather band with its Panerai inscribed buckle goes well with the overall appearance of this timepiece.
I timed this replica over a ten-day period. It gained 1.8 seconds per day, which I consider incredibly accurate for a mechanical watch in this price category. Measured power reserve tested to 46 hours.
A lever attached to the crown protector is used to push and hold the crown fully closed. The tiny roller that presses firmly against the crown ensures this mechanism will enjoy a long life.
About three weeks after I received this replica, the rattle of gears whirling far faster than they should drove my eyes toward the face of the watch. I expected to see the second and minute hands revolving at helicopter blade speed and detaching from their pinions. This was not the case.
I removed the watch and gave it a shake. The mainspring unraveled further, and the rotor circled around in a counter-clockwise motion.
This is not good. Some part of the automatic winding assembly is malfunctioning, allowing the mainspring to unwind partially. This action will quickly wear down the gears within this assembly and degrade the replica’s ability to self-wind. As these components deteriorate, fine bits of metal dust will spread throughout the watch, gravely affecting the timepiece’s accuracy. At some point—probably within one year—this mechanism will lose its ability to prevent the mainspring from completely unraveling.
The leather strap is quite durable but, during assembly, a shorter than necessary pin was used to attach its buckle. I was able to replace the pin but, for many customers, this repair would include an expensive trip to the jeweler.
This replica Panerai is a beautiful and surprisingly accurate watch. However, it appears to have been assembled from whatever parts were available, and, unfortunately, the quality of the included movement is very poor.
If you like the Panerai style, you might consider the Marina Militare Automatic. This homage watch, manufactured by Parnis, is equipped with a Seagull St2530 movement. While I have not reviewed the Marina Militare, I am familiar with both Parnis and Seagull. I consider them to be quality manufacturers.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you know anything about the movement of the Panerai watch? I'd like to know what factory/type it is.
Answer: It is a nice looking movement but often the rotor will spin counter-clockwise with a gnashing of teeth. That cannot be good. I have no idea what factory manufactured this movement but my expectation is that it is of Chinese origin.
Question: Do you buy these watches just to review them, or do you wear them on a regular basis?
Answer: I mostly buy them to review them. The better replicas are later gifted to friends and family. There are a couple I really like; I wear them from time to time. Always keep in mind that most of the effort in manufacturing a replica goes toward making it look authentic. The result is usually a nice looking watch but one that is not very accurate or is prone to failure. Sometimes, though, you get lucky.
© 2017 Walter Shillington