By OJ Whatley
Panerai PAM 580 – Q series made in only 500 Pieces The standout visual signature of this watch is the electric blue chronograph seconds hand. In previous Panerai practice, blued hands and accents were reserved for the Regatta Special Edition models, but here they make a welcome appearance on the PAM 580 in combination with the ‘dirty brown’ tinted luminescence. The aesthetic tandem lends this contemporary chronograph a vintage look and feel. The 580 has a super clean open dial—so much so that the absence of chronograph sub dials makes this watch easy for the uninitiated mistake for a time-and date-only watch. Thankfully the dial is stamped “Flyback,” and the pushers on the left side of the case at eight and ten o’clock beg the question, “what happens when I push these buttons?”
This watch features an imposing Luminor 1950 44mm case in black ceramic with slightly domed sapphire crystal. Prior to the release of the PAM 580, the only way you could buy a 44mm black ceramic cased Panerai with a chronograph was to buy the mono-pusher chronograph PAM 317. That was a great watch, but it has a manual winding movement with sub dials and a horizontal 8-day power reserve indicator. This complication crowded the the center of the dial and really stole much of the thunder from the mono-pusher chronograph complication. Moreover, the nature of the 8-day proprietary “manifattura” movement along with the mono-pusher chronograph complication elevated the PAM 317’s retail price to more than $20,000. Even in today’s secondary market, you can’t buy one for less than $16,000.
The PAM 580Q is a welcome contemporary release which pays homage to the vintage DNA of Panerai with its “dirty” brown luminous material on the dial and hands housed in the Luminor 1950 case complete with oversized crown protector. Although this watch has an overwhelmingly vintage-style patina thanks to the simulated aged brown accents on the dial and hands, its heart and soul beats pure “contemporaneo” being powered by Panerai’s newest 3-day in-house automatic movement, the caliber P.9100, complete with add-on “flyback” complication. Located on the left side of the case, the chronograph triggers remain unobtrusive to the user when setting the time and date. Simultaneously, this arrangement makes the chronograph function very accessible to operate. The same logic obtains on the Graham Chronofighter’s oversized left-hand chronograph trigger; thumbs are quicker and more agile when actuating a chronograph.
Aside from the eye catching blue seconds hands, my favorite feature of this watch is that it is a chronograph for the visually challenged. I cannot tell you how many enthusiasts I know who love the sportiness of their chronographs – and swear by their chronographs, will not wear any other watch other than a chronograph – and lack the faintest idea of how to work them or the ability to discern the markings on those tiny sub dials. Well fear not, the PAM 580 is a chronograph that is made for the visually challenged and is virtually idiot-proof for good measure!
Instead of straining to read chronograph sub dials, the user of a PAM 580 can rely on center-mounted chronograph seconds and minute hands. The first is the highly visible, almost electric blue chronograph (sweeping) seconds hand that measures 60 second increments. As long as the chronograph is in operation, this hand is constantly moving. As such, many people may mistake this hand for the constant seconds hand. When the blue hand is moving, it reveals a very subtle, skinny stainless steel chronograph hand. This is the minute counter of the chronograph. Its broad sweep relieves the effort normally required to read a sub-dial minute counter. Best of all, the lack of sub dials gives the PAM 580 a super clean look while leaving room for a date indication at three o’clock and minute markers around the edge of the dial.
Best of all, the PAM 580 is virtually idiot proof to operate --No matter which buttons you push. The logic is simple. If the chronograph is in operation and you push the button at ten o’clock, the chronograph stops; if you push that same button again, it restarts the chronograph from where you left off. If the chronograph is in operation and you push the button at eight, it stops, resets, and restarts the chronograph’s “flyback” function. As long as you push both buttons at least once in any sequence, you will always either stop, reset, and restart the chronograph, reset the chronograph, or start the