In 2011, Panerai, an Italian brand, ventured out of its comfort zone with the goal of crafting a watch using a new, virtually untested material: bronze. When the brand unveiled the Panerai Bronzo under its Submersible collection, the watch became an instant hit, gaining an incredibly favorable response from the horology community. In fact, Panerai is actually considered the pioneer the bronze watch fad. Its creation of the trendsetting Panerai Bronzo was the trigger that urged other watchmakers like Tudor, Bell & Ross, and Hublot to start offering bronze timepieces of their own.
To this day, the Panerai Bronzo continues to be one of the brand’s most well-received watches. Since its launch, this diver watch has remained one of the definitive watches in the Panerai catalog. Without further ado, let us take a look at the Panerai Bronzo, including its history, specifications, and everything that makes it so popular with the watch community.
In this section, we will be reviewing the latest version of the Panerai Bronzo — the Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968. As a bronze watch, the Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968 shows off a warm, gold-toned appearance. Although it lacks the lustre of a typical gold watch, the Panerai Bronzo’s almost chocolate-y exterior is extremely appealing in its own right. It exudes an air of cosy comfort that blends especially well with casual and semi-casual styles. This watch also comes with a brown ceramic disc inserted into a bronze rotating bezel, a brown dial, and a dark brown leather strap, making for a very unified look overall.
Crafted out of high-end materials, this watch guarantees top-notch robustness. Panerai’s use of this copper alloy is also a natural fit for the Bronzo’s military-inspired, almost steampunk-like style. If you are searching for a truly unique, hardy diver watch, then the Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968 is definitely a worthy grab.
Up Close with Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968
Case, Bezel, and Crown
The Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968 is a visually striking dive watch that comes in a bulky 47mm case, made out of phospor bronze. This is a high-end bronze alloy composed of 92% copper and 8% tin. This patented alloy is incredibly robust and demonstrates a strong resistance to corrosion and scratches.
Unlike the typical aluminum-bronze alloy used in watches like the Tudor Black Bay Bronze and Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph, which has a more gold-bronze hue, the Panerai Bronzo’s phosphor bronze case has a more reddish tinge when brand-new. Over time, the Panerai Bronzo’s case augments verdigris, which is the vibrant blue-green patina that will develop on the surface of the case due to oxidation. In addition, this case also shows off a linear, brushed finish that highlights the patina as it develops, since oxidation tends to expand within the granule of the brush.
On the right side of the case, you can find Panerai’s signature oversized crown and crown guard. The crown of this watch is incredibly thick and stout. It also comes with gear-like edges that give wearers a better grip, so they can hold and turn the crown more easily. Protecting the crown is a massive crown guard in the shape of a semi-circle. It curves over the top of the crown, protecting it from any scratches or impacts. Both the crown and crown guard are also made of phosphor bronze.
Another top-tier feature of the Panerai Bronzo is its dive bezel. This bezel is made of phosphor bronze, with an elapsed time scale insert made of ceramic in a warm, matte brown tone. Unlike traditional elapsed time scale bezels, this watch does not have printed indicators all over. Instead, it only has printed indices on the first quarter of the bezel, followed by bronze applique indices in five-minute intervals. This gives the watch a more stylish, minimalistic look. This bezel is also highly scratch-resistant and has grooved sides like that of a coin, so that wearers can grip and turn the bezel with ease.
As a top-tier dive watch, the Panerai Bronzeo Ref. PAM 968 follows a very simple dial layout that prioritizes legibility above all else. Its dial comes in a gorgeous shade of matte dark brown that perfectly matches the bezel. This dial comprises round applique hour indices, a compact date aperture at 3 o’clock, a small seconds counter at 9 o’clock, and hollowed-out hands with lume-filled tips. The hands and indices, which are a distinctive feature of the brand’s Submersible line, are all coated in lume which glows bright blue in the dark, allowing for optimal legibility even in poor lighting conditions.
The Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968 is driven by a robust Caliber P.9010. This is an in-house self-winding movement, equipped with double barrels that give it its extensive 72-hour power reserve. This means that you can leave the Panerai Bronzo aside for a whole weekend and it will still continue to tick even without being wound or reset. Held together by 37 jewels, this caliber beats at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4Hz) and has an impressive accuracy rate of +6/-6 seconds per day.
The Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968 is coupled with a supple natural leather strap in brown with beige stitching. A large pin buckle, made of brushed titanium, is used to keep the strap securely fastened around your wrist.
One interesting thing is that Panerai also includes an extra rubber strap in the packaging of the Panerai Bronzo. This rubber strap comes in military green. It also pairs well with the watch overall design and is a sportier, more casual alternative to the Panerai Bronzo’s standard brown leather strap. You can simply pick whichever strap best suits your style and change it whenever you want.
The Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968 comes with an excellent 300-meter water resistance capacity, which far exceeds the standard 100-meter depth rating that most dive watches come with. Indeed, if you want to go snorkeling or on a scuba diving adventure, this watch is more than equipped to handle the journey.
As a luxury dive watch, the Panerai Bronzo Ref. PAM 968 sells at around $17,000 USD. While this is a little pricey, considering the Panerai Bronzo’s unique styling, superior performance, and reputation as one of the first bronze watches, ultimately, this watch is more than worth the price.
A Brief History of Panerai Bronzo
The Panerai Bronzo was first introduced in 2011 and instantly created a huge buzz in the entire watchmaking scene as the first bronze-cased watch to be developed. The popularity of the Panerai Bronzo led to a so-called bronze fad in the horological scene, prompting other brands to deliver their own takes on the bronze watch. Panerai itself started out with the green-dial Bronzo Ref. PAM 382, followed by the Bronzo Ref. PAM 507 in 2013, and then the Bronzo Ref. PAM 671.
Most recently, in 2019, Panerai released the Bronzo Ref. PAM 968, which quickly became one of the most desirable dive watches in the brand’s entire catalog. It is also notable for being the first Panerai Bronzo watch to carry a ceramic bezel.
Alternatives to the Panerai Bronzo
By every measure, the Panerai Bronzo is an excellent dive watch. However, it might not necessarily be an option for everyone, whether that is because it falls outside your budget or because you simply are unable to find a Panerai Bronzo piece to purchase. Fret not, however, for we have curated a list of three of the best alternatives to the Panerai Bronzo that you can find on the market.
1. Tudor Black Bay Ref. 79012m-0001
Tudor is among the distinguished brands that have released their own versions of bronze watches. Under its popular Tudor Black Bay line, the brand introduced the Tudor Black Bay Ref. 79012m-0001, popularly known as the Tudor Black Bay Bronze. This is a stylish, high-class diver watch that boasts a bronze case similar to that of the Panerai Bronzo.
The Tudor Black Bay Bronze comes in a 39mm satin-brushed case and three-link bracelet, both constructred from a special aluminum bronze alloy. Like the Panerai Bronzo’s phospor bronze case, the case of the Tudor Black Bay Bronze boasts an exceptional resistance to corrosion and scratches. Fitted on top of the Black Bay Bronze’s case is a bronze unidirectional rotating bezel, bearing a 60-minute graduated anodized aluminum disc in chocolate brown. On the underside of the watch, you can also find a solid steel caseback that has been coated in a layer of bronze-colored PVD, further bolstering its resistance to scratches.
The dial of this watch also shows off a chocolate brown hue that perfectly complements its lighter bronze exterior. This dial is very straightforward, consisting of just luminous hour indices in various geometric shapes and the Black Bay collection’s signature snowflake hands.
Underneath this simple yet striking watch face, you can find an in-house Tudor Caliber MT5400. This movement has a beat frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4Hz) and an excellent 70-hour power supply. Furthermore, it is also equipped with a handy water resistance rating of 200 meters. Although this is not quite as good as the Panerai Bronzo’s 300-meter depth rating, it is still more than enough to tackle most watersports activities.
Despite being a reliable luxury dive watch like the Panerai Bronzo, this Tudor piece comes at a much more inexpensive price. The Tudor Black Bay Ref. 79012m-0001 has an estimated price tag of $7,169 USD.
2. Bell & Ross Instruments Ref.BR0392-D-R-BR/SCA
Next up, we have the Bell & Ross Instruments Ref. BR0392-DR-BR/SCA. This watch is instantly recognizable, thanks to its stunning square-shaped appearance and striking colorway. This Bell and Ross timepiece utilizes a 42mm square-shaped bronze case coupled with a dark brown leather strap. It also has a unidirectional bronze bezel with an anodized aluminum ring in metallic red, setting a striking contrast against the bronze case. Indeed, one of the best things about this watch is how it uses a gorgeous interplay of lighter bronze and vibrant red hues, setting it apart from other, plainer bronze timepices.
The dial of this watch also showcases a deep red finish that is incredibly satisfying to look at. This dial is furnished with luminous gold-tone indices and broad blunt hands, along with a compact circular date window between the 4 and 5 o’clock markers. On the elevated rim of the dial, you can find printed indices in white for the minute track. Protecting the watch face is a layer of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
This Bell & Ross Instruments watch is driven by a Caliber BR-CAL.302. Held together by 25 jewels, this movement beats at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4Hz). It also has a substantial 40-hour power reserve and a depth rating of 300 meters, which matches that of the Panerai Bronzo.
If you are looking for a rugged, reliable, and distinct bronze watch, then this $4,949 USD dive watch is definitely a worthy grab. What makes it even better is that this is the most affordable bronze timepiece on this list.
3. Omega Seamaster Ref. 126.96.36.199.10.001
Finally, we have the Omega Seamaster Ref. 188.8.131.52.10.001. This timepiece stands out as a luxury dive watch that is presented in a combination of bronze and gold, boasting a grandiose, vintage-looking appearance.
This Omega Seamaster piece is housed in a 41mm bronze-gold case, paired with a supple calfskin leather strrap in brown. This bronze-gold case features alternately brushed and polished sides, ensuring a dull lustre on every inch of the case. It also comes with a black elapsed time scale bezel made of bronze gold and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that provides the watch face with additional security.
The dial of this watch flaunts a dark brown, almost black hue that goes well with the bronze case. It is adorned with triangular hour indices, luminous arrow-headed hands, and Arabic numeral markers in a rounded typeface. The hands and indices are all coated in a muted orange lume, adding to the watch’s retro look.
Inside this watch, you can find an in-house Omega Caliber 8912. This movement has a solid 60-hour power reserve and beats at 25,200 vibrations per hour (3.5Hz), which is quite unusual for a watch movement. Held together by 38 jewels, this movement is also incredibly durable, as it is resistant to strong magnetic fields of up to 15,000 gauss. Finally, it possesses a 300-meter depth rating, which is perfect for most water activities.
Be prepared to shell out around $11,749 USD before you can get your hands on this Omega watch.
On the whole, Panerai did an amazing job with the Panerai Bronzo, especially since it was the first-ever attempt at a bronze watch in the market. Not only is the Panerai Bronzo a memorable and incredibly reliable luxury dive watch in its own right, but it is also responsible for kickstarting a remarkable trend in horology, giving this watch a prestigious history as well. With all these cool features, it is no wonder why the Panerai Bronzo remains so popular in the watch community.
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Featured image courtesy of (u/0-o-o_o-o-0) on Reddit.
Still searching for another top-tier diver watch in the market? Why not spare some time to read our article on the Oris Aquis Date.