Match-Up! Panerai Vs Parnis – The California Dial Battle

Homage or Original?

Welcome to our first Match-Up!  Today we aren’t going to do an in-depth review because quick frankly there are tons of Panerai reviews and I’m not here to repeat what you can already find.  What we are going to do is compare the Panerai PAM00424 Radiomir California Dial 3 Day with date against the Parnis California without date and find out how $200 matches up to $10,000!

I acquired both pieces from fellow enthusiasts on the Canadian Watch Collectors (CWC) forum, first the Parnis on a whim, which introduced me to California dials and 47mm cases, and then the Panerai after I put feellers out for one.

Who’s it for? These watches are for someone who wants a vintage watch but with modern proportions.

TWC Paid:  Panerai $9,800.00 CAD ($7,250.00 USD) & Parnis $200.00 CAD ($150.00 USD)

Panerai
Model: Radiomir, California Dial w/ date Reference: PAM00424  
Origin: Italy  
Case: 47mm AISI 316L Stainless Steel Height:  16mm     Length:   52mm      Lugs: 26mm      
Bezel:  High Polish
Movement: Caliber P.3000 21j, 3-Day power reserve, manual wind, 21,600bph  
Crystal: Domed Sapphire, anti-reflective
WR: 10 ATM – 10 Bar – 100m – 330ft
Lume: Super-LumiNova  
Strap: “Standard” Leather 26/21mm   Website: Panerai.com
Parnis
Model: California  
Reference: N/A  
Origin: China  
Case: 47mm 316L Stainless Steel   Height:     17mm    Length:  52mm       Lugs: 26mm      
Bezel:  High Polish    
Movement: Seagull 6497 17j, 50hr power reserve, manual wind, 21,600bph  
Crystal: Low domed Acrylic Plexi-glass WR: 10 ATM – 10 Bar – 100m – 330ft
Lume: Super-lume  
Strap: Calf leather 26mm  
Website: Parnis.org

Finding this watch…

Ebay.com – $5,495.00 CAD – Panerai PAM00424 w/date – Like the dial with the date? Great choice and it can be had usually at an even greater discount as online preference tends to lean towards the clean look of the no date model.  As above, enjoy the duties (taxes) if you’re outside the freedom zone.

Ebay.com – $399.00 USD – Vintage Homage – so finding the exact same homage as featured here for reference has surprisingly been a challenge so here is an example of a blatant knock off.  Don’t buy this but it could help you find something similar, so I’ve included the link.

The Cross Shop:

Ebay.com – $6599.00 CAD – Panerai PAM00424 w/out date – The PAM424 can be had online currently for a solid discount.  Of course, if you’re outside of the USA you’ll likely have to pay some hefty duties and finding one on CWC or else where is challenging here in Canada.

Rolex – $14,702.00 CAD – ROLEX DateJust II 116333 – want a massive arm cannon but it just must be a Rolex?  Well the Rolex range likes to hover around the 39-40mm range but more recently they’ve been releasing larger sizes like this DJ II.  It offers a similarly clean dial to the Panerai at a 41mm size.   

Comparison…

Since this is my first comparison, I am going to do this using the basic methodology most other reviewers do but with my usual hard eye for consumer details. 

1. Box / Packaging:                       Panerai

Ok, so this one isn’t even fair since it’s box vs no box but even if the Parnis came with a box I doubt it could compare.  Panerai lavishes the PAM424 with a fantastic light wood presentation box with chromed hinges, a felt flap cover and soft fabric roll for the watch to live in all of which is overseen by a “Officine Panerai” plaque.  It’s a really great presentation and even if you’re like most who just toss or store away your watch boxes you should consider putting it out for show.  I personally have kept mine out as I only have so much room in my other cases and it just looks so good!

2. Case:                                             Parnis

The lines of the Parnis are sharper than the softer pillow like curves of the Panerai.  The area for the dial on the Panerai is slightly larger by just 2mm but this plus the domed crystal and the bolder print on the dial itself make the Panerai appear to be a size up from the Parnis.  The biggest physical difference, however, is the thickness.  The Parnis looks flat when compared to the Panerai and personal preference I prefer the comparative thinness of the Parnis.  Everything on the Panerai is bigger; bezel, dial, case, case back, crystal and crown are all beefier in the Panerai.

3. Case Back:                                  Tie

The Panerai is suitably adorned with lots of jewels, a massive bridge, just enough visible moving parts and a massive sapphire window to view it all.  My wife also pointed out that Panerai isn’t going to let you forget the name and has engraved EVERYTHING.  The case, movement and entire watch are each uniquely serialized and because this is a limited run of 1500 pieces it even has that number as well!

However… The Parnis displays large purple jewels, big shiny blue screws, textured steel and lots of gold colored parts all well displayed.  Panerai’s engraving really does add to its perceived value however the adornments and appearance of the movement itself just stands out more in the Parnis.

4. Movement / Functions:            Panerai

For $10K I expect that the Panerai’s movement crush the Seagull within and of course it does.  The craftsmanship of Panerai’s in-house P3000 movement is of course excellent but the Seagull 6497 works as you would expect, which is to say it works and even offers a long lasting 50 hour reserve which for an inexpensive movement is excellent.

5. Lugs:                                             Panerai

I’ll start by saying that I love the wire bar lugs of the Radiomir line and So this is where the discount nature of the Parnis bites it in the butt.  When I first rocked the Parnis I had just come home, heard a soft “ting” of something hitting the floor and picked up a little metal arm.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time and just put it aside but later when I went to take my Parnis off I realized what that little bar was; it was in fact one half of the bar system used to keep the straps in place.  See the Panerai not only uses threaded tubes to keep the screws in place they also have tiny little rubber o-rings as well to keep water out and the screws and bars in place.  The Parnis on the other hand only has the detents in the bar and the screws themselves to do so and the actual case I have read does not actual have threaded tubes, so the system really doesn’t work.  The solve for this was Loc-Tight™ but no strap changes now.

6. Crown:                              Panerai

The Panerai, like any quality watch maker, features a crown that has an engraved “OP” symbol on side and is surrounded with groves in good onion fashion.  On the Parnis side of things I’ve left the blue colored protective sticker on the crown here and would otherwise display a simple high polish crown. 

7. Bezel & Rehaut:             Panerai

The bezels are almost identical and both curve inwards from the mid-point of the bezel.  The Panerai is slightly wider but that’s the only difference here.

However… The Panerai features an engraved rehaut with “CALIFORNIA” engraved at the 12 o’clock.  I’d like to see Panerai expand on this with future projects perhaps mimicking Rolex’s serialized rehaut but I’m happy to see them do at least this.  

8. Dial:                                    Parnis

The Panerai dial is richly simple, with light beige indices and a slightly darker tan seconds / minutes ring around the outside.  The date wheel is unobtrusive and displays the date crisply and on a black background with numbers in a matching font to the rest of the dial, something many other companies tend to miss.  The only observation here I’d say is that the lume parts of the dial, indices and hands, are lighter than the un-lumed numbers on the date wheel.

The Parnis goes way more vintage with a very mid-twentieth century printed dial with vintage-yellow indices surrounded by a white ring of seconds / minutes.  All of this is featured on a matte black dial and it all works well to achieve a very vintage look.

Overall it comes down to preference and each dial tries to achieve something different, the Panerai with its timeless class and the Parnis with its overly vintage appearance.  However, the only flaw of sorts I found was with the Panerai so Parnis gets to have this one.  Don’t agree? Comment below!

9. Hands:                              Panerai

The Panerai features two copper colored hands with lume centers while the Parnis offers two gold colored hands, also with lume in the centers.  While the Panerai minute hand perfect skims the inner line of the seconds / minutes ring the Parnis doesn’t even try to.  The Parnis hands look stubby when compared against the Panerai as well.  Panerai’s attention to detail takes this section and we move on.

10. Lume:                             Panerai

Not even close Parnis!  The Panerai lume is brighter and holds its brightness longer and stronger.  Period.

11. Crystal:                            Panerai

For the use of domed sapphire that to me feels pretty darn close to acrylic without actually being acrylic this section goes to Panerai.  Parnis has a perfectly acceptable acrylic crystal which works with the vintage look they’re going for but Panerai has really gone to a lot of effort to build an aggressively domed crystal here.

12. Strap:                                          Tie

Surprisingly Parnis has put forth a good strap here and I feel like it achieves what they wanted.  It’s thick soft “genuine leather” with a good finish outside and in and the stitching has been very well executed.  This strap doesn’t taper and because of this is much larger when compared to the Panerai, especially when you compare the two pre-V buckles

Panerai being known for their support of strap changing has put forth a very comfortable strap with a suede outer and leather inner.  Unlike the Parnis though we get a taper all the way down to 21mm and the effect is a sleeker appearance that also makes the case look even larger than its 47mm proportions.  We also get a high polish, Panerai engraved pre-V buckle that looks tiny against the Parnis.

Parnis has done such a great job here that I would be happy with either strap depending on the end state I wanted to achieve.

13. Gravitas / Presence:   Tie

It’s funny because I tend to wear the Panerai when I want to be more on the DL (read: not a Rolex) but still have a “real” watch on my wrist.  Both watches’ definitely stand out simply by virtue of their sizes but, at least in the case of the Panerai, the dial hides the brand prestige you would otherwise attract.

With fellow enthusiasts the Panerai makes for an excellent wrist selection however outside of that bubble you will likely receive compliments equally, though likely for different reasons.

14. Wife:                                 Parnis

At the end of writing this I went back to my wife and gave her a choice of the two.  She didn’t like the vintage yellow of the Parnis and felt like the Panerai was a little less simple.  Flipping the two she reiteratited that the back of the Parnis really drew her attention and ultimately she stated that, “I like the open back one without all the metal”.  Bravo Parnis… Bravo…

Keep reading below for her initial detailed assessment of both!

Thoughts…

At this point you may be asking, “if you buy everything yourself how did you end up with the homage California in the first place??” and that would be an excellent question!  I was lurking on the Canadian Watch Collectors (CWC) buy & sell, happened to come across the homage for sale and, seeing the price and the fetching good looks, pulled the trigger on it as I was interested in trying out a large diameter watch without a massive financial commitment.  Very quickly it arrived bundled up in the finest bubble wrap and after a trip to the grocers I feel in love with it and this started my online research and very quickly my hunt for the real deal.  I wasn’t searching for any specific version, just a Panerai with California dial and preferably date (I like having the date on any of my functional watches).  Luckily an awesome CWC member approached me with a deal, as the California dial is rare to find up here in Canada, and here we are today.

Now I took a quick look over what the parts would cost from Ali Express and the movement can be had for around $40-70 USD, the dials come with hands and the crowns come in a bundle.  I feel like the $200.00 CAD ($150.00 USD) that I paid for the Parnis was more enough value for what I received.  Many will disagree with this and I get it, I dislike Miyota movements and that’s my opinion, but I like the Parnis California even if I don’t like Parnis.

Now I like the Panerai Radiomir but I love it with the California dial.  It really blows my mind when I see photos of Panerai’s from the 1930/40’s and I read a really amazing article on Panerai which you can find here.  For someone who wants a great introduction to the California dial or, more importantly, wants to see if a 47mm will work for them without shelling out Panerai money, the Parnis is a great choice!

If I were to track down the Parnis California new I would probably steer right and get the Maranez Layan brass green ceramic California (299.00 USD + shipping & duty).  I’m considering ordering one but what do you think?  Comment below or on one of our feeds. 

Final Score…

Just like in war, sports and history there are only winners and losers.  When I conduct assessments, I find it often useful to let the points talk so with this in mind let’s see how the points added up here today…

Watch for my future reviews of the Meccaniche Veneziane line up and post your review requests in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Match-Up! Panerai Vs Parnis – The California Dial Battle

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