In late 2020, Panerai customers started noticing that their latest P.9010-powered watches no longer had “hacking seconds”, a feature that stops the seconds hand for accurate adjustment. Since all of these movements were now hidden behind closed casebacks, people could not help but wonder what else had changed. A picture which surfaced a few days ago on an Italian Panerai forum reveals the extent to which the P.9010 movement was downgraded. Gone is not only the “hacking seconds” feature but with it all the finishing one would expect in a Swiss-made watch starting at around US$ 8k. What is left of the movement – which ironically is called P.9010 “Evolution” – is a unit that looks like one of those loveless, mass-produced calibers made in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. But the P.9010 is not the only caliber that was downgraded without notice. Latest examples of the smaller P.900 lost their “hacking” mechanism as well.
The P.9010 is an automatic movement made by Richemont’s movement supplier Manufacture Horlogère ValFleurier but claimed to be an in-house caliber “executed entirely by Panerai” or as it has been rephrased following my highly critical article Panerai In-House Movements – A Pam Of Worms, “created by Panerai”– whatever that means.
The P.9010 is the successor of the thick P.9000, and was first introduced in 2016 with the PAM1312 which replaced the chunky PAM312. Although nowhere near “Haute Horlogerie”, the P.9010 had the kind of finish one could expect in watches of this price range. Rotor and bridges featured a satin-brushed finish, all bridges had polished chamfers (anglage), all holes in the main bridge had polished countersinks, the main plate was snailed around the edge and the area underneath the balance bridge was nicely decorated with a circular graining known as perlage. Decorated were of course only the visible areas. Other brands in this price category decorate their movements also in places that are not visible to the eye, for instance underneath the barrel as in the image below. It is called the art of watchmaking.
A closer look at the dial side of the P.9010 reveals there is no decoration at all. As can be seen in the picture below, the Rolex 3235 has full perlage on the dial side, a place not visible to the eye. The surface of the P.9010 is just micro-sandblasted. All plates are micro-sandblasted after machining get rid of burrs and tool marks.
The hour hand of the P.9010 can be adjusted without interfering with the minute hand, which is convenient when you travel between time zones. In addition, there is also a mechanism known as “hacking seconds” which stops the seconds hand when the crown is pulled all the way. The picture below is a screenshot taken from the current P.9010 video on the Panerai website and shows the very moment the “hacking seconds” lever enganges with the balance wheel to stop it from oscillating. This is a standard feature which can be found in many mechanical watches that cost less than USD 1,000.
In this rendering, you can see the polished chamfers, the perlage on the mainplate and the satin-brushed bridges. Note the sides of the plates. Those are micro-sandblasted surfaces. After machining, all plates are micro-sandblasted to remove burrs, tool marks, etc. Please keep this in the back of your mind for later.
Panerai P.9010 “Evolution”
In late 2020, a number of Panerai customers started lamenting the seconds hand on their P.9010-powered watches would not stop when they pulled the crown. Expecting it to be a manufacturing defect, the watches were sent back to Panerai. It was not a flaw though. Panerai had quietly downgraded the P.9010 in June 2020, in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century. Neither was the website updated nor were the distributors, namely Panerai boutiques and ADs, informed. In mid January 2021, news about the missing “hacking seconds” broke on TRF (The Rolex Forums) after an impacted Panerai customer shared the following reply from Panerai:
Please be advised that the P.9010 movement used in the PAM01313 has been updated as of 2020. This movement no longer features the hacking seconds or seconds reset function. The aesthetic of the movement has also been changed from horizontal brushing to a microblasted finishing.
The news spread like wildfire through major watch forums and Panerai facebook groups. Faced with countless inquiries and hit by a barrage of negative feedback, Panerai was forced to update the online description of the movement but refrained – until today – from publishing an actual picture of the new movement featuring “microblasted finishing”. What followed was a veritable paper chase for pictures of the actual movement but it would take more than a year before the first image surfaced. I must say, Panerai did a tremendous job at keeping the full extent of the downgrade secret.
The following picture (left) was provided by an Italian Panerai customer who had the watch opened by a watchmaker just recently. Gone is not just the “hacking seconds” function but also all the finishing one would expect in watches that cost at least USD 8k but can go up to USD 30k.
Interestingly, most Luminor watches featuring the P.9010 – including bestsellers like the PAM1312 – received closed casebacks in 2020 so with very few exceptions, the P.9010 is now almost completely out of sight. Panerai claims the new movements has a “microblasted finishing”. Let’s break this down, shall we? After machining, all plates must be micro-sandblasted anyway to get rid of burrs and tool marks. Micro-sandblasting is not a finishing, it is a mechanical necessity. Calling it a finish is a stretch. The sad truth is, Panerai dropped the finishing altogether to save cost and hid the movement for as long as possible. Add details like the Soviet-style pallet fork bridge, a punched and press-formed part of the cheapest possible sort, of course bare of any decoration, and you start understanding what you are getting for your hard-earned money.
All Panerai models powered by the P.9010 that have close casebacks are now equipped with the new movement. Without “hacking seconds” and decoration however, this can no longer be considered a P.9010 and calling it an “evolution” is simply audacious. It is rather the opposite, a devolution. It is a lesser variant of the caliber and must receive a new reference number so that prospective buyers know what they are dealing with. To this date, Panerai has not provided a picture of the movement to the public.
The P.9010 downgrade is reminescent of one of the biggest deceptions of the Swiss watch industry. In 2009, Panerai released the PAM318 “Brooklyn Bridge” Special Edition which as was later discovered, featured the most basic ETA 6497 one can imagine, a movement that costs barely USD 50. According to the Panerai catalogue, the watch was supposed to have a nicely decorated OP II (ETA 6497 COSC) with Côtes de Genève and heat blued screws but when someone opened one of the watches in 2011, what they found was a raw ETA 6497 instead. The movement did not even have an Incabloc shock protection.
Speaking of decoration, as shown earlier the original version of the P.9010 is only decorated in areas that are visible to the eye. This was already the case with ETA 6497-based movements. Perlage was only applied where it could be seen through the gaps between the bridges.
Yes, this is done by other “luxury” brands as well but it is a sad development nevertheless. Real luxury is abundance, it is going the extra mile as a creator.
The P.900 movement was downgraded without notice as well. As with the P.9010, the “hacking seconds” mechanism is gone and with it most certainly all the finishing. A picture of the P.900 installed in the Panerai PAM01225 “eLAB-ID” surfaced a few days after the publishing of this article and shows an extremely crude movement.
The bridges of this particular version of the P.900 are made from EcoTitanium, a recycled titanium alloy provided by the French arms industry. With titanium components instead of brass, this is basically the “luxury” version of the P.900. Ladies and gentlemen, PAM01225 “eLAB-ID” has a price tag of USD 60k. If this is the movement you get when you put that kind of money on the table, imagine what the movements that are installed behind closed casebacks in the new 44mm Submersible line “QuarantaQuattro” look like.
The Panerai P.900 is a Manufacture Horlogère ValFleurier caliber originally developed for Baume & Mercier (Baumatic). It is used by other Richemont brands as well. You can learn more about it in the “PAM of Worms” article linked further below.
Prices for Panerai watches keep going up but the quality seems to diminish with every new release. Laughable water resistance, fake screw-down casebacks (pressure-fit with dodecagonal shape), spring bars, ETA movements passed as “in-house”, opaque “display” casebacks to save precious material and now closed casebacks to hide completely undecorated calibers. These are not necessary cuts to secure the survival of a struggling company but rather tweaks to make even greater profits at the expense of their customers. Keep in mind, the average production cost for non-precious metal Panerai watches, including material and movement, is around USD 350. That is right, three five zero! The profits Richemont is making off all of their watch brands is exorbitant and yet, they keep squeezing the lemon. Cutting costs is one thing but trying to fool people and keeping substantial downgrades secret is another. Never mind the fact that historically, Panerai is not even a real watch brand but just a made-up Richemont hoax producing replicas of old Rolex Oyster watches. Panerai’s dishonesty and willingness to deceive their customers is staggering. Something is rotten in the canton of Neuchâtel.
Meanwhile, the current Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué doubles down on liking Chinese super replicas on social media, from fake watch accounts like “the_icon_watch” (ex “panerai_dna” aka Erwan Grey) which were pointed out to him on numerous occasions. Fake watches from said source are to this date still online on Panerai’s official Instagram. Talk about a complete and utter disrespect for the very people who spend their hard-earned money on his watches. What was the saying again, “the fish rots from the head down”?
Thank you for your interest.
Read more: Panerai In-House Movements – A PAM Of Worms
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