10 Year Review: Panerai PAM000 ‘Logo Base’

Sure, there are other reviews of the Panerai PAM000 online. However… show me one where it’s been worn for 10 years on a reviewers wrist, and not just as a daily time-keeper but as an adventure beater year by year.

by | 11, Aug 2016 | Piotr Ma, Review | 16 comments

DISCLAIMER: This is just my point of view. I don’t take any responsibility of any damage or loss if you follow my way of spending your holidays in the outdoor. However, you should have a lot of fun if you do it!

So… this will be more than just a review. It’ll be a testimonial after extensive, decade-long testing in good and bad conditions. Enjoy!

I’ve been a long time Paneristi and I can still remember my first one (PAM 112). During more than last 12 years I’ve played with couple of different models (including such icons as the 243 or 372) but still the one that I decided to keep and use was PAM000, known also just as ‘Zero’ or ‘Logo Base’. For those of you who are not familiar with Panerai, here’s a short history lesson. Officine Panerai (official name, which means ‘workshop Panerai’) was founded in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai. For decades, led later by founder’s grandson Guido Panerai, it supplied precision instruments to the Italian Royal Navy. Officine Panerai as a true watch brand started life in 1936 by delivering the first ever purpose-built military diving watches to the Italian Navy.

The watch was oversized (47mm case, which was considered a behemoth watch in 30’s), equipped with simple dial of extremely good underwater visibility both day and night (thanks to Radium-based radioactive glowing markers) and it was actually built in co-operation with Rolex. Yes, for years Rolex was one of the key supplier of cases and later also movements for Officine Panerai. So basically it was not just a watch – it was a tool of war, an essential part of the equipment for some of the best combat divers of that time – underwater demolition commandos of the Marine Nationale. That watch is known today as the Panerai Radiomir.

Over time Panerai produced other military diver’s watches, and one of them was a Luminor model introduced in 50’s, with the dial now painted with a safe tritium-based compound called ‘luminor’ (hence the watches name). What’s important and worth remembering is the fact that Officine Panerai has always been more than just a watch company – they issued many more marine tools of war for the Navy, including special purpose underwater torches, compasses, depth gauges, marine helicopter lights, signaling lights and even torpedo aiming devices with luminous sights. In fact it was only in the late 80’s when Panerai also opened sales to civilians. So, that’s how you should see the so-called ‘historical line’ of Panerai watches – as straight forward instruments with direct combat heritage and which are made to be easily readable in any conditions on land, sea or in the air, and should be able to survive more than other models in Panerai line. It’s not fashion-ticker, it’s a combat proven design which was never created with fashion in mind. Just remember that about it. There is a hell of a heritage in the DNA of an Officine Panerai watch.

PAM000 is quite a simple instrument – as simple as a tool watch can be. Just two hands – hour and minute. No second hand, no date, no distraction. No single minute indexes. Just a flat black dial, luminous markers separated by 5 minute intervals and 4 hour numbers (3, 6, 9, 12). Even though it’s still called Luminor, the paint used on the dial today is not the self-luminous Tritium-based Luminor paint, but a modern Super Luminova glowing material, which has to be charged with light first. It glows vigorously and lasts through the whole night. So yeah, the dial is as basic as it gets and also carries the Panerai logo… so now you know why this watch is nicknamed ‘Logo Base’.

It’s not a small watch by any means, but it still wears surprisingly well on most wrists. Some people think it’s just too big with the massive 44mm case but again – it has never been a dress watch. It’s an underwater combat instrument (by genre) with a clear intent: to tell the time underwater, even in the most critical conditions – so not just in crystal clear waters of the Bahama islands but also in the dark muddy waters of naval harbor stations on the European seas. As a consequence it comes at a certain size and I believe 44mm is really the bare minimum for such kind of a watch. If you’d be looking for a watch to wear with a tuxedo, I’d recommend one of the sublime H.Moser & Cie dress pieces – actually I really like it’s clean design a lot.

The stainless steel case measures 44mm in diameter and it follows the shape of historical Panerai Luminor watches. Quite simple, with no fancy elements in it… just what a tool-watches case should really be. The sapphire crystal is almost 4mm thick and slightly domed. Yes, I know, the first Panerai watches were equipped with Plexiglas back in the day, but today a scratch resistant sapphire option is more logical for me.

The hand wound movement (modified Unitas) is hidden behind a full stainless screw down case back. All the descriptions on the back are quite technical, without any decorations etc. just name, numbers, technical specs like the max depth rating. Thanks to the case and crown construction (more on that later) PAM000 is capable of diving all the way down to 300m below the see level. Did you know, that there are only TWO divers, who officially crossed 300m when scuba diving. 300m is a serious technical dive depth. There is only handful of people, who really dive that deep, and they do it in special suits on several-days-long missions. It’s much deeper than ANY military diver is going to dive down to. Ever. So 300m is surely good enough for me and you.

Inside the Zero you can find a true workhorse of the watch industry – Unitas 6497 with some important modifications vs. standard specs. As far I was able to find out it’s been reworked by Panerai for a better finishing of the gears, barrel and baseplate, which in the end gives much better accuracy and also a serious 56 hours power reserve. Of course it’s not a chronometer COSC certified watch due to the simple fact that second hand is not there – it’d be kinda hard to measure if the daily differences stay within COSC specification. Does it matter to me? Not at all! During the last 10 years I can’t remember a single instance when I really missed a second hand. And I’m talking about 10 years of actual use of the watch.

Another good point about that particular movement is, that it can be easily serviced anywhere in the world as it’s one of the easiest to service, most common and robust mechanical movements around. It is simple and it works. Workhorse indeed.

That famous crown guard. This absolutely iconic feature was introduced in the 40’s on the Marina Militare watch, supplied to the Italian Navy frogmen. It’s function is quite obvious – it keeps the crown-to-case connection watertight. There are several other benefits of the crown guard but for me the most important is convenience. The PAM000 is a manual wind watch, which means you have to wind it (preferably each day, at similar time) by hand. These days screw-down crowns are just as reliable as the Panerai bridge construction, but that was not the case in 40’s and 50’s. And even today unscrewing and screwing back the crown every day (as it’s not an automatic watch) wouldn’t be the quickest and easiest method to keep a watch ticking.

During last 10 years I must have wound it about 3,000 times and believe me – a quick flick of the lever is so much more convenient! Also such a crown guard allows the crown to be bigger in diameter (so easier to wind), protects the crown from possible damage (hence the name) and thanks to rounded shape prevents it from catching on diving equipment, which just slides on it. And yeah, it looks cool as well! Did you ask about reliability? 100%! After 10 years of daily service it works as smooth as on the first day.

It’s as tough as the watch itself. The lug width on the Zero is rather serious at 24mm, the lugs are really massive and integrated with the case. The strap is held in place not by fairly fragile spring-bars but by a heavy duty threaded steel bolt on each side, which goes through stainless tubing, which reinforces the strap-to-watch connection. It’s tough as nails, period! There is NO WAY such a strap attachment gives up, the strap itself (or even your wrist) would give up first.

The buckle construction depends on a strap (yeah, strap changing is a daily routine for a true Paneristi, lol) and vary from screw-on with stainless bolt (as a standard) to sewn-in thick one-piece buckles in an iconic Pre-V shape, which are historically most correct and MUCH stronger vs. any other buckle. My personal preference? 4-5mm thick impregnated ammo pouch leather, fully hand stitched (double needle saddle stitch) with heavy duty historical 3mm thick sewn-in 1-piece buckle (straight of course). PAM000 comes originally with tapered leather strap (used it couple of times with suit) and additional diving rubber strap, superbly soft and comfortable. But, as I said – an ammo strap for me please.

Another strap option which works for me is the TedSu diving rubber strap with a diving clasp-buckle. It looks cool and works great. And it can be adjusted for a perfect fit thanks to the ingenious buckle design, which locks on the strap in any position, so you won’t be ‘between the holes’ anymore with this one.

As usual, quality comes at a price and in case of Panerai it’s rather serious one. The official 2016 pricelist says the PAM000 costs $4,850. It’s more or less in line with other top quality watches on the market (and still less than a Rolex SUB). But you should consider that there is also a healthy second-hand market for Panerai watches.

It’s always a matter of calculation, especially for long term use, just like a car. I could sell my watch today at about $2,800-3,000, which translates into about $185-$200 for yearly use or just $15-16 monthly. BUT a decade ago the price was also considerably lower than today… $3,300 to be exact!!! That would make it JUST a $4 monthly cost of ownership… so the equivalent of ONE BEER in a pub. For all the fun and function of my Logo Base as my adventure watch it’s a well justified price, no doubt. It’s been an awesome 10-year-long journey with the Panerai on my wrist and it’ll surely continue for years to come… and hopefully continue on the wrist of one of my kids.

Here we come to the key point – real world usability. I got my Logo Base about a decade ago, just before my daughter turned 1. Perfect, shiny, untouched. I can’t remember when exactly it happened but one day I decided to keep it and to make it my everyday watch – at home, the office and the great outdoors. The first scratch was the most painful (of course). The second one was easier. But after the first holidays with my daughter in a baby carrier on my back and highlands trail ahead, after the first bonfires, fishing, swimming in streams, and with 100’s more scratches on the shiny metal, well, I concluded it was perfectly fine. The Logo Base is a watch that just begs to be used hard.

The following years I was using it for any kind of outdoor activities, which included swimming, skiing, hiking and mountaineering. Kayaking? Sure! Mountain biking? Absolutely! Camping! Of course!

I’ve also climbed snow and ice with the Zero on my wrist in severe winter at 8.000+ ft. and in alpine-type mountains (many times actually). It has never let me down, even in -30°C in a winter blizzard on top of the ridge.

I really like it as a camp / sailing / fishing watch – Panerai’s fat luminous markers applied on a dial are known to be the longest glowing Tritium-free markers in the industry. When charged in the evening they glow for the whole night till sunrise, so if I wake up in the middle of a night, or when I’m fishing before sunrise, I always know the time without alerting the surrounding with a flashlight. It really works so well. It’s particularly useful when I’m practicing astrophotography and don’t want to compromise my low light vision capabilities with any illumination tools.

Panerai has always been a true combat tool, it’s in the Panerai’s DNA, so yeah… we both like to feel a bit of recoil from a decent boomstick, from time to time. My Zero smelled gun powder not just once or twice… but always at a proper shooting range of course. And that includes pistols, carbines, and even full-auto assault rifles. Add to the equation a well-made ammo strap, especially with gunpowder scent in the leather from long time ammo storage, equipped with pre-v sewn-in buckle, and it’s a match made in heaven.

There is a healthy number of adventure marks on my Panerai, but actually none of them are really deep and heavy. It is all mostly surface lines, which could actually be polished off if needed. Of course I have no such intention – after all, why should I be hiding all my ‘battle scars’? Instead I wear them with pride!

The Logo Base doesn’t attract immediate ‘that must have cost a hell of a lot’ kind of attention, which is also good. However, each scar tells a story, so by definition it’s the best ‘conversation starter’ watch ever. And when I start talking about all the good and bad things we went through during our long term relationship… I can tell you, people do listen. And that’s how more than one friendship started for me, worldwide. The only part of my 000 which is clean is the sapphire crystal – still untouched! But even if it’d earn some scratches it’d still be fine with me – just another story to tell… and here are just some of them:

The Bottom line.
I consider my Logo Base to be a daily time-keeping tool, suitable for any condition and any of my activities including outdoor sports. It’s almost like a ‘mechanical G-Shock’ to me. I’m not afraid to take it to any adventure, it’s always been an awesome outdoor companion to me. I can’t even imagine leaving it at home when I go out exploring nature. He’s a tough guy.

Piotr Ma Contributor & Edge Specialist

Adventurer, outdoorsman, mountaineer, sailor and gear enthusiast from Poland. It all started for Piotr when he was 10 and went to the high mountains with his father. Now he’s transferring his experiences and knowledge to the younger generation, together with his wife. His perfect vacation is not an all-inclusive hotel but a nothing-inclusive mountain shelter. More…