What to Look: Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio 42mm

As long as I’ve been into watches, I’ve loved the Panerai aesthetic. From the svelte lines of the Radiomir to the boyish charm of the Luminor and the dive-themed Submersible, I have a soft spot for that instantly recognizable Panerai vibe. Unfortunately for me, Panerai watches are, generally speaking, quite large. True to both form and legacy, many of Panerai’s most interesting designs are 44mm or larger, which is simply too much watch for my wrist.

Case in point, the Luminor Submersible is readily found in both 44mm and 47mm sizes, and while I think they are immensely cool watches, I’ve tried them on and found them far too large for my tastes and wrist. In an unexpected turn at SIHH earlier this year, Panerai announced a new 42mm Submersible, offering the same lovable and chunky shape but with less bulk on wrist. Its full name is the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio 42mm (PAM00682), aka the 42mm Submersible. Man, what a difference 2mm makes.

 

Panerai Luminor Submersible

 

As a previously benched fan of the Submersible design, the appeal of a smaller version was undeniable and I still recall picking it up off the desk in Geneva, the smile growing on my face – it’s a Submersible, and it fits! Diehard Panerai fans may not care for this more casual expression of their beloved rough and tumble Submersible, but I was on board from the moment I tried it on.

Put simply, the PAM 682 is a more accessible expression of the Panerai dive watch design and the main selling point here is, unsurprisingly, the smaller size. Rendered in brushed steel and measuring 42mm wide (without the crown and guard), 14.5mm thick, and 51mm lug to lug, the PAM 682 will fit a wide range of wrists. For reference, it wears not unlike a Seiko SRP777 (which is wider, but also shorter lug to lug, sharing a similar overall footprint). Comfort is also aided by the lug design of Panerai’s 1950-style case, which has downward sloping lugs that exit from a lower position (closer to the wrist) on the case.

 

Panerai Luminor Submersible

 

To my eyes, the PAM 682’s proportions are excellent. The dial is balanced and not too busy, with large luminous markers, a nicely integrated and matching date display at three, and a pop of bright blue in the sub seconds hand at nine o’clock. Dial text has been kept to a reasonable usage and everything combines to make for a very legible and distinctly Panerai time display. While the hands may appear to blend into the dial, this is mostly a by-product effect of minimizing reflections for the photos. In day-to-day use, the brushed finish of the hands provides a strong contrast against the flat black dial.

Like most Panerai models that don’t feature a chronograph, the 42 mm Submersible does not have a full minute track, relying solely on the main hour markers for reference. My assumption is that this is the sort of design element that will feel normal if you’re well versed in Panerai, but may bother the uninitiated who are drawn to the smaller case size. I really only missed the minute markers when setting the time, after which I barely noticed their omission. Overall it actually gives the dial a bolder, punchier look that I appreciated. This is a no-fuss watch and the dial definitely gives that impression through and through.

 

Panerai Luminor Submersible

 

What I did notice during the course of producing the photos for the review is that this example’s bezel does not perfectly align with the dial markers. In normal use, I didn’t notice the alignment, but once I saw it in the photos it’s hard to miss. General placement of the bezel markers seems on point, but the bezel markers are off by perhaps one third of the distance between the click points. Matching the case back markings with those in the photos I shot at SIHH, it’s clear that this specific PAM 682 is a pre-production prototype and not a final retail product. Just to be sure, I compared it to a model in my local boutique and that watch was spot-on.

Alignment aside, in use, the bezel is excellent. Offering 60 clicks with a very tight mechanical action that is nicely weighted and sounds great. Being a 60-click mechanism, perfect alignment is difficult, but it’s also in no way too much to ask from a watch at this price point.

Prototype teething issues notwithstanding, the PAM 682 really nails the details for a quality and fun niche model from Panerai. With sapphire crystals both front and back, 300m water resistance, and the Luminor’s signature lever crown guard, the 42mm Submersible covers all the Panerai bases. One interesting element that may not be known to those outside the Panerai community is the strap quick-change feature. Common to many Panerai, including those using the 1950 case shape, the PAM 682 has a tiny button on the underside of each crown-side lug.

 

Panerai Luminor Submersible

 

When swapping in a new strap, one can use a pusher tool to depress this button and another pusher to apply light pressure to the bar via the drilled lug hole, easily releasing the bar with minimal force. The bar itself has a small indentation in the locking side that is secured by the lug mechanism. This system is clever, easy to use, and will prevent the nasty scratches that can result from digging around the lugs with a conventional spring bar tool. Panerai fans love to change straps, and this system makes it simple and straightforward, and has the added benefit of working with any conventional strap.

On the topic of straps, the 42mm Submersible is good on just about anything. With a total weight of 132g, the included 22mm black caoutchouc (natural rubber) strap is comfortable, vented for diving, looks great, and matches nicely with the casual versatility of the Submersible shape. Should you get bored, the 682 works really well on a vintage leather, dresses up a bit on a croc strap (a classic Panerai look), and actually wears and looks great on a NATO (especially in grey).

 

Panerai Luminor Submersible

 

Offering up to 72 hours of power reserve, the 682 uses Panerai’s P.9010 caliber, which is common in many models, including the similarly-sized PAM 1523 and the 47mm Submersible models (to name only a few). Ticking at 4Hz, with twin barrels storing that long power reserve, the P.9010 is an in-house design, in keeping with Panerai’s move towards manufacture status following the launch of the P.2002 in 2005.

My favorite feature for the P.9010 is that the hours are jump set, so whether you’re traveling or just want to change 12:10 to 10:10 for a quick Instagram photo, you can very easily adjust the hour in either direction, without stopping the movement. This may seem like a trivial feature, but every time I have a watch with jump set hours, I really appreciate the added practicality and flexibility. Much like the bezel and the crown guard, crown functionality feels great, with a large wheel-shaped crown offering a strong interface for time setting and easy access to hand-winding.

[ Further Reading : Introducing: CWC 1980 Reissue Royal Navy Diver ]

All cards on the table, I love this watch and for me, it’s all about the size. While the idea of a smaller version of a watch known for its large size is a bit odd and certainly niche in its appeal, I think it works so well on wrist. Furthermore, I think a small Submersible is a clever move on Panerai’s part, as the audience likeliest to find the PAM 682 appealing, are those in the same situation as me; that is, fans of the Panerai aesthetic, but not the size.

This is far from Panerai’s first 42mm model, but it is the first 42mm Luminor 1950 Submersible and, almost like a Defender 90, its size is an asset that doesn’t diminish or cannibalize the effect and appeal of the larger models. People tend to like choices, and this is a choice that might just bring some new eyes to Panerai.

As with most modern Panerai watches, the PAM 682 is certainly not cheap. At $8,700, it’s resolutely a luxury and an undeniably expensive watch. Any watch priced around $9,000 has to be prepared to compete against the king, the Rolex Submariner Date. To its credit, I think that the PAM 682 is no less appealing, assuming you dig the Panerai aesthetic. If so, the 42mm Submersible’s niche look and more accessible sizing make for a casual, easy wearing, and really enjoyable spin on classic Panerai fare.

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