Panerai Radiomir Egiziano PAM00341
You may have noticed the trend for larger watches growing in recent years. Case sizes have been expanding from 40mm to 45, 50 and even 55mm. These watches are coming from brands like Hublot, Audemars Piguet, Panerai, and here's the biggest of the lot: the Panerai Radiomir Egiziano PAM00341 at a whopping 60mm. Only this watch is different to the others; this watch set standards in size before it was cool. Way, way before.
Watch our video review of the Panerai Radiomir Egiziano PAM00341
If you're not familiar with the origins of Panerai, here's a crash course. Based in Florence, Italy, Officine Panerai made business by manufacturing diving instruments—depth gauges, compasses and the like—which had dials painted with the brand's patented radioluminescent paint, Radiomir. Panerai was contracted to provide this equipment to the Italian Navy, and as wartime hit, the Navy requested an additional piece of diving equipment the brand could not produce without external help: a watch.
The whopping 60mm 1956 Egiziano is the inspiration for this equally whopping PAM00341
Despite Switzerland's neutrality in the war, Rolex agreed to supply Italy—an Axis nation—with cases and movements for the Radiomir-painted dials Panerai had developed. This watch was, of course, the Radiomir.
From there, Panerai made a further two developments, the first being the switchover from radium-based paint to tritium—because of radium's incredible toxicity—and the second being the locking crown guard, which further aided water resistance and protected the crown from knocks.
The Egiziano was the first Panerai watch made without the help of Rolex
It wasn't until 1956 that Panerai developed a watch without the help of Rolex, and that was the 60mm GPF 2/56—known as the 'Egiziano Grosso'—a commission for the Egyptian navy. Panerai stuck to what it knew, basing the case design on its depth gauges, all the way down to the lug screws that went all the way through the strap. And where the crown guard had previously been an add-on to an existing Rolex case, Panerai was now able to design a proper mounting point for it to sit square against the Egiziano.
Another new addition was the rotating bezel, whose mechanism was actually screwed to the case from behind, through the case-back, by six long screws. This design, much like the later Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, clamped the case together for increased underwater performance. The slab-of-a 6mm crystal even had a step in it that allowed the bezel to clamp it down, rather than relying on the standard push-fit approach to crystal water resistance.
An Angelus eight-day movement was fitted in place of a Rolex ticker to reduce winding and extend the longevity of the crown, prompting the 'Otto Giorni Brevettato' script on the dial, the first time it was seen on a Panerai.
The original had an Angelus 8-day movement, the 341 has an in-house 8-day movement
Only 100 Egiziano's were produced, with some sources quoting as few as 60.
This is the 341, Panerai's homage to that whopping great Egiziano. Panerai has done a good job of sticking to the original design, however there are a few differences: the first is the dial text, which was engraved into the dial in the same way as the contemporary 372. The hands, they were originally a golden colour for the hours and minutes, with white for the seconds. The bezel should be flatter on top, with a sharper step. The case was originally made in steel rather than titanium, although with the sheer amount of material involved, that weight saving is a bit of a blessing.
But everything else is spot on. There's the red text on the bezel pips, a rare feature on the original, the flush-mounted crown guard with blended facet. The crystal retains the Plexiglass material and is still thick enough to ride well above the case. The movement, while an in-house calibre P.2002/7 rather than the original Angelus, still holds eight days of power, earning the stamp on the dial.
On the back of the buckle is a nod to the origins of the watch, 'GPF Mod Dep', which stands for Giovanni Panerai Figlio Modelo Depositato, which means Giovanni Panerai—the founder—and Son, Registered Design. There's even some of that faux-aged lume colouring on the dial and bezel pip too, for good measure.
Even details like the tritium-filled bezel pip have been accurately reproduced
And, most importantly, it's still a beast, still the same 60mm it's always been. It's only when you see it on that you realise just how big it is—and thick, especially when compared to something else. It's a collector's piece for sure. You'd need wrists like tree trunks to pull this thing off.
This probably won't be said very often, but the 341 being 60mm is a good thing. While it won't make a great daily wearer, and will probably end up sat in a safe gathering dust and value, the 341 stands as an example of how things really were. It's important to remember where these watches came from, what they stood for, to learn from the mistakes of the past rather than burying them.
Perhaps the least insightful lesson—but a lesson that can be learned nonetheless—is that watches can simply be too big. The question is, where is the limit?
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