The Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days GMT, inspired by a vintage watch used by the Italian navy, features the brand’s P.9001 in-house movement. WatchTime put both wristwatch and caliber to the test in this feature originally published in the magazine’s print edition. Scroll down for the full report, accompanied by Nik Schölzel’s stunning original photos.
Caliber family P.9000, which debuted in 2009, is the second line of in-house movements developed by Panerai. Though their power reserve is shorter (three rather than eight days), these offer the convenience of automatic winding at significantly less expense than their predecessors in the P.2000 family. Caliber P.2003, in fact, holds a full 10 days’ worth of power, but the watch that it powers, the Panerai Luminor 1950 10 Days GMT, is nearly twice as expensive as the one we test here, the Luminor 1950 3 Days GMT.
Despite its lower price tag, the 3 Days GMT provides almost everything the 10 Days offers: a second time zone (but without a day-night display for the 12-hour hand), a power-reserve display (but positioned on the back and nonlinear) and a return-to-zero mechanism for the seconds hand, which is triggered when you extract the crown into the hand-setting position. Along with Caliber P.9001, which powers the watch in this test, the family includes the basic P.9000 (with no second time zone or power-reserve display) and the P.9002 (with power-reserve display on the front).
Typical characteristics of this Swiss-made, Italian-designed brand include a satin-finished and pillow-shaped case with a polished bezel, a protective stirrup with a lever used to press the crown firmly into the case, and a distinctively styled dial with large Arabic numerals and hour indices. The 3 Days GMT watch is a faithful interpretation of the original Panerai Luminor model, which debuted in 1950 as a watch for Italian Navy divers. but it isn’t essentially different from other Panerai watches. The unmistakable family resemblance of its products is both a strength and a weakness of this brand: if you aren’t fond of this one’s design, you probably won’t find any other Panerai model to suit you. On the other hand, every Panerai watch is immediately recognizable to the brand’s many fans. And judging by the staying power of Panerai’s retro design, the Luminor 3 Days will probably be just as appealing to collectors 10 years from now – which cannot be said about every contemporary watch.
Furthermore, the 3 Days GMT does boast several details that distinguish it from other Panerai watches. The color of the lettering on the date disk isn’t pure white, but slightly beige. Also, we were pleased to note that the 3 Days makes do without the magnifying lens found above the date displays of some other Panerai watches. Though this model has a variety of functions, its dial doesn’t look cluttered: the hand for the second time zone can be concealed under the hour hand for the local time, and the power-reserve display is positioned out of sight on the back. The crystals above the dials in other members of this collection are highly domed, but this one is only slightly curved, a difference that we appreciated.
The sandwich-style dial, another Panerai trademark, is as beautiful as ever, with an underlying layer of glow-in-the-dark Super-LumiNova topped by an opaque dial pierced with apertures for the numerals and indices that mark the hours. This gives the watch greater depth, keeps it faithful to its historic predecessors, and also explains the open, “stencil” design of the digits 6 and 9. This type of architecture guarantees that the numerals and indices glow uncommonly bright, which makes this watch very legible in the dark. The hour hand for the second time zone is coated with luminous material, as are the small seconds hand and its four accompanying indices. The time is also easy to read in daylight, though the lack of a minutes circle on the dial’s periphery means it cannot always be read as precisely as one might wish. The power-reserve display on the movement side uses a disk that rotates under a window; its color changes from black to red shortly before the energy is exhausted.