The Panerai Luminor California 8 Days DLC is undoubtedly a stunning watch, both for its historic California dial and its titanium case in DLC and the eye-catching “wraparound” strap.
Panerai presents a new reference that brings together three very specific characteristics: titanium case, DLC coating and California sphere. Certainly, the Luminor California 8 Days DLC (PAM 779) is not the first watch in the collection that implements them. This honor falls on the PAM 629, a Luminor 1950 of 47 mm that, despite its spectacular size, is less striking than the new reference of 44 mm. Keep reading: Summer decorations: what to take on vacation?
This is due, in part, to the precious blue hands of the Luminor, a detail that also sported the first reference recovered by the historic California sphere, the Radiomir 1936 – PAM249, a splendid special edition limited to 1936 units launched by Panerai in 2006. This peculiar dial design was part of the first Radiomir model manufactured for the Italian Navy in 1936, the reference 3646 type E, and exhibits a configuration that combines Arabic and Roman numerals.
Panerai Luminor California 8 Days DLC
Along with a chemin de fer perimetral scale, the indices in beige are complemented by the two bluish hands of hours and minutes to be offered as the only elements present in the black background sphere, thus dispensing with the name of the brand, model or even of the logo to recover the same original aesthetic of 1936.
The other particularity that defines this Luminor is the unique leather strap that accompanies it, which can be used in its basic version or as a one-piece strap, with the supplied accessory. Originally designed for military use, at the time it was the solution to prevent the back of the watch from coming into contact with the skin, thus avoiding two problems: the corrosion caused by the sweat on the watch and the skin problems caused by the metal of the backs on the skin of the wrist. Personally it is not an accessory that I would wear: if I were the owner of this precious watch, (almost) I would always wear it with the “normal” strap.
Both straps are personalized with beige contrast stitching and with a thermal print of the OP logo. The box also includes a black rubber strap.
The Luminor California 8 Days DLC uses the P.5000 manual winding caliber released in 2013, a movement with a large eight-day power reserve. It has a diameter of 15¾ lines and a thickness of 4.5 mm, characterized by a large satin finish plate with polished bevel that almost completely hides the gear mechanism, but lets you see the steering wheel oscillating at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour. Compare it with the P.2002, the first Panerai manufacturing caliber, a mechanism also for manual recharge and 8 days of power reserve. The main difference between the two is that the P.5000 implements two kites and the P.2002 goes up to three. And how do you manage to maintain the same number of power reserve? Easy, by reducing the oscillation frequency from 28,800 to 21,600 vibrations per hour of P.5000.
Panerai Luminor California 8 Days DLC – caliber P.5000
The two brands most associated with the California sphere are Rolex and Panerai. Rolex started manufacturing watches with this dial in 1934, the Oyster Perpetual Ref. 3595 Bubble Back. In 1936 the Italian Navy requested Officine Panerai, one of its instrument suppliers, a watch for its team of combat divers. It was a turning point for Officine Panerai, who had specialized for many years in the manufacture of an impressive series of instruments with an exceptional technical content under military secrecy: among them, mechanical calculators for launching torpedoes, luminescent devices for artillery night, underwater compasses or mechanical depth gauges.
Rolex Oyster Bubble Back with California dial
In addition to being resistant to water and pressure, the watch should have a visible sphere in both low visibility conditions and underwater. For this, he contacted Rolex, which was the manufacturer of the box, movement and sphere of reference 3646, the first watch launched by Panerai. Ref. 3646 used a 47 mm Rolex Oyster case with welded wire handles, inside which the Rolex 618 gauge was beating. Panerai’s great contribution was Radiomir, the patented luminescent substance consisting of zinc sulphide, radio bromide (the source of the name ‘Radiomir’) and mesotorio, a radioactive isotope of the radio.
This Ref. 3646 was manufactured from 1938 to the 1950s with different design changes classified from Type A to Type G. Very few of them wore a California sphere, which was only present in some pieces of the Panerai 3646 Type E: the 27 watches of type E that are conserved, only 17 of them implement it.
Rolex applied for a patent for this half Roman and half Arabic sphere in 1941, and finally, it was granted in 1942. The patent says that the thicker numbers facilitated the application of luminescent paint, but says nothing about the reasoning of using two types of different numbering.
Why is it called California sphere?
The quick answer is that nobody knows, but it is worth compiling the three most widespread theories:
Theory No. 1: Californians loved mixed numbers in the 30s and 40s.
The Rolex Bubble Back with these spheres were very popular in California. The Rolex dealers realized this and, as it became a fashion icon in high demand in the State, these dials adopted the nickname of California.
Theory No. 2: dealers in the state of California in the 80s sold many watches with this sphere.
Vendors of vintage watches in the 1980s based on Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, were selling many Bubble Back watches with this dial. Given the demand, these dealers began to look for these areas among other merchants from the rest of the country, which over time, nicknamed them California.
Theory No. 3: a California restorer specialized in this type of spheres in the 70s.
In the 1970s, when the vintage clock boom began, Kirk Rich Dial Corporation, a sphere restorer based in Los Angeles, made some spheres with this design. His works became very popular, so many vintage watch stores in California sent their spheres to Rich to restore them with this design. Its repercussion was so important that the distributors of the rest of the EE. UU and from the world they began to call them California spheres. Kirk Rich himself answered the following about it: “yes, indeed, we coined the phrase for this type of sphere. Around the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s, customers asked us for this configuration when bringing their watches to restore.
Basically, it was because it was easier to say “Roman Arabic” when describing the impression of mixed numbers, Roman numbers at the top and Arabic numbers at the bottom. We worked so hard on it that people from all over the world simply asked for the California spheres when they sent us their watches.
I am the third generation in this company born in 1926. We are and we have been the oldest and most important spheres restoration company in the world. We have always been very proud of our California spheres. Not many people know it and very few ask us about it. “
So there it is, the mystery of the California sphere is solved. The number three theory is correct: the name comes from a popular restaurateur of the 1970s. At least this is the version of Kirk Rich, and surely there will be other parallel stories in which other people will swear that they were the ones they coined the term “California sphere”, not Kirk Rich. Surely we will never know for sure, but this is also the grace of history, right? You might also like: http://dressonline.info/2018/07/17/wear-t-shirt-self-respecting-wardobe/