By Eric Yang
on 6.28.12
Photo by Panerai

Depending on who you ask (or read), there’s a good chance you might walk away with a handful of stories behind the origins of the “California” dial. This writer humbly admits to not knowing the truth. Some attribute the widespread knowledge to a California-based company that refurbished a large number of Rolex Bubblebacks in the ’80s with the dial (the dial’s origins actually date back to the 1930s). Others may point to a company, also in California, who created dials with both Arabic and Roman numerals as a demonstration of the differences, later capturing the dollars of a buyer who wanted his watch made with the dial. And others, even claim the dials were simply used as cover-plates when Rolex shipped movements to other manufacturers.

The stories may be the stuff of legend, but a recent resurgence in its popularity, which has nothing to do with another Italian California special, makes an undebatable statement in the Panerai Radiomir California 3 Days.

Though the announcement of the Panerai Radiomir California 3 Days (PAM448) is not entirely new — Panerai announced it earlier this year at SIHH 2012 — the watch has certainly managed to strike its place in our mechanical heartstrings. Blame it on some recent hands on time with the reference thanks to our friends at Hodinkee and Panerai.

The PAM448 strikes a balance between hellion-like dimensions and undeniably classic design. Like its forefather from the 1930s, it measures a whopping 47mm in diameter. Touches like the use of Plexiglas crystal (a spare is included), train track second ring, and blue hands lend further to its vintage-inspired design. In our humble opinion, the California dial is one example of art-deco at its horological finest. At its heart beats Panerai’s in-house P.3000 manual wind movement.

Additionally, we love the total absence of Panerai marks on its face. This is a watch to be worn and admired by the Panerai devotee. Panerai hasn’t left out all reminders of this special edition Radiomir though. Look carefully and you’ll discover subtle engravings of the word “vintage” and “California” on its lower strap loop and flange respectively. Of course, if you need further reminding, you may simply need only look back on your quest to find one. Only 500 pieces will be made worldwide and made available only in Panerai boutiques, of which there are two in, yes, California.

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