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Historical Review of the Panerai Luminor Marina PAM 104

Historical Review of the Panerai Luminor Marina PAM 104

panerai pam 104 review

Every self-respecting watch aficionado has a special place in their heart for Panerai, especially the Luminor and Radiomir models. Today, we are looking at arguably the most popular watch in the Panerai lineup, the Luminor Marina PAM 104. A watch that respects both the core values and impressive history of the brand.


Panerai is a famous, distinct and instantly recognizable luxury watch brand whose history extends more than a century.

A gentleman by the name of Giovanni Panerai founded Panerai in Florence, Italy, in 1860, just one year before the formation of the modern Italian state.

At that time, Panerai was established as a watch retailer, repair workshop, and watchmaking school. Not before long, the shop become an influential point of sale for Swiss watches.

During the late 19th century, Panerai saw a transitional phase thanks to Giovanni and his son, Leon Francesco. Giovanni and Leon felt there was a considerable opportunity in designing their own watches. As they did not have the resources nor the funds to produce in-house calibres, they partnered with Swiss suppliers, of which Rolex was the main one, and began experimenting with mechanical engineering and the production of instrumentation.

Panerai’s Connection with the Royal Italian Navy

By the early 20th century, the Panerai firm became the official supplier to the Regia Marina (Royal Italian Navy). However, they produced timing instrumentations rather than wristwatches. We are talking about timing and contact triggers for mines, mechanized computing devices, and submersible navigation tools. This was a very critical time for Panerai’s growth and the development of their identity as a military watchmaker.

panerai history


From 1915 to 1916, Panerai took charge as a pioneer in the realm of self-illuminating material. They researched and developed a self-sustaining source of illumination for their military equipment thanks to the discovery of radium a couple of decades prior.

Panerai’s proprietary radium compound for their military instruments, trademarked “Radiomir”, was comprised of zinc sulfide, radium bromide and mesothorium, and it would become central to the firm’s military business model.

Partnership with Rolex

Around the same time, Rolex was making big waves in the watch industry with their waterproof “Oyster” case. As they made a partnership with Rolex, this allowed for a new sales proposition for Panerai’s number one patron, the Italian military. With the success of Italy’s combat swimmers in WWI, a new class of maritime combatants had spawned. They were known as “frogmen” or underwater demolition specialists. As you probably suspect, waterproof timers were essential for these guys, and with both Radiomir and the Rolex Oyster at the ready, Panerai had everything the Regia Marina needed.

It wasn’t before long that WWII was becoming a looming threat. In fact, it was an undeniable inevitability. So, in 1936, Panerai put out their first prototype for an incredibly self-illuminating waterproof watch for the Italian Royal Navy. It took the same name as their proprietary lume, Radiomir.

From 1936 to 1938, Panerai, Rolex, and the Italian military were in cahoots for the refinement of the definitive Panerai military tool watch, reference 3646. The actual production took place In 1938 and over the following decade or so, these watches were the backbone of Panerai’s involvement with the Italian Navy.

Rolex actually assembled the watches but the Panerai office in Italy gave them modifications to suit military requirements.

When World War II started, Panerai’s legacy as a military watchmaker was forged in steel. This legacy remains intact to this day with their minimal militaristic wristwatch designs.

Luminor > Radiomir 

Panerai watches continued to evolve over the years, becoming more sophisticated in every way. Possibly the most memorable development was Radiomir being replaced by the more superior Luminor (a new proprietary lume by Panerai). 

In 1956, Panerai’s partnership with Rolex ended. From that point on, until the early 70s, the company was in an unfortunate decline due to the wars being over.

When Giuseppe Panerai (who was the great-grandson of Giovani and the one running Panera at the time) died in 1972, Panerai was passed on to the first non-family member, an engineer and formal Navy officer by the name of Dino Zei.

With the void of the post-war era, Dino put the company’s focus on the remaining opportunities in the fields of dive tools, radio equipment and aerospace components, for which there was still demand. Watches were put on the back burner.

Much of Panerai’s opportunities in the aforementioned fields eventually ceased, so a pivot was in order…

panerai watch review

1993 – The Resurgence

1993 was the dawn of Panerai’s modern era. Realizing that Panerai’s rich history with the military could secure them a niche in the ever-popular upscale mechanical watch market, Panerai put out three models for civilian consumers – the Luminor, Luminor Marina, and the Mare Nostrum. These models drew inspiration from the watches created during the Second World War. Because of this, they were immediately coveted by collectors and enthusiasts.

While these models were successful, it wasn’t exactly overwhelming. Panerai had to work hard the first few years to really put the brand on the public map.

Thanks to endorsements with Sylvester Stallone, and then Arnold Schwarzenegger, the company’s public profile grew and so did the demand for Panerai watches.

By 1997, Panera was thriving. To help with the growth of both Panerai and the colossal diver watch market, Panerai joined the Vendome group, which is now Richemont, S.A.

From 1997 to the current day, Panerai has continually grown and put out amazing luxury wristwatches. A lot of their growth comes from the company’s online buzz. Panerai utilized the internet almost better than any other high-end watch brand. Their watch community, Paneristi.com is clear proof of this.

The company went from making around 2,000 watches per year to 70,000 by 2013. They do everything in-house now and their watches have such a unique design to them, which makes Panerai instantly recognizable. One of those features is a very sizable case. Panerai watches are often big, as well as minimal, sophisticated, and militaristic.


Since we are doing a review of the Panerai Luminar Marina, let’s breakdown the most popular variations:

  • PAM-104 Automatic
  • PAM-441 Ceramica
  • PAM-289 GMT
  • PAM-005 Logo

Note: The PAM (PAnerai Model) number relates to the specific model. Think of it like Rolex’s reference numbers. They use these because so many variations have been made over the years.


The Panerai Luminor Marina PAM 104 was an instant classic when it was released in the early 2000s. It had a long production life but it was discontinued as of 2018. As such, you can only get this watch on the secondary market.

panerai luminor marina history


The Panerai Luminor Marina PAM 104 you see here is now for sale at Diamonds By Raymond Lee in Boca Raton. It is in like-new condition and it comes with its original box and paperwork.

Contact us if you are interested in purchasing this watch.

Now, let’s take a closer look at this iconic Panerai timepiece.


Panerai (or Officine Panerai as it is formally known) uses AISI 316L 1.4435 stainless steel for their wristwatches. This watch, which includes both the case and bracelet, is of that construction.

Panerai’s steel is as excellent as it gets. It is marine grade steel that you find in aerospace, high-tech, and chemical industries. This is because it is extremely resistant to corrosion. 

What’s more, AISI 316L steel it is hypoallergenic so it’s perfect for rocking on the wrist day in and day out.

To top it all off, literally, Panerai’s finishing technique is on par with the best in the industry. This high-grade stainless steel will keep its stunning finishing for the long haul.


The bezel on the Panerai PAM 104 is simple yet sophisticated. It is a domed smooth bezel with a handsome high polish finishing. It beautifully matches the case, which also features a high polish finishing. The shine is absolutely magnificent and the two are integrated so seamlessly they appear almost like one.

If you know anything about Panerai, then you know they are famous for crafting large watches. This dates all the way back to their military days. The bigger the watch, the easier it is to use.

Most of Panerai’s watches range from 42mm to 47mm, with 42mm actually feeling pretty small in the realm of Panerai.

The Panerai Marina Luminor’s case is the classic 44mm size, which measures across the round of the case.

As for thickness, it is pretty damn beefy, so it’ll sit high on the wrist.

Overall, this is a big boy watch. Therefore, you’ll need a sizable wrist to pull this one off in good proportion.

For men, we always recommend 44 millimeter Panerai’s. While it is big, it is still very comfortable and elegant thanks to the wonderful ergonomics of its design.

We are also seeing a lot of women opting for the 44mm Panerai’s these days. So, women can heed the same advice above.

All in all, even though oversized watches are not as “in” as they were a few years ago, when it comes to Panerai, it’s the way to go, without question. The 44mm’s always have the best resale value and they just work best with the overall design.

Trademark Crown Guard

What’s more to love about this watch is the unique and ultra-sleek trademarked crown guard, which is wholly Panerai and something we all appreciate as collectors. Not only does it give the watch even more wrist presence, but it has a cool functionality. Rather than pulling the crown out and twisting it to change the time and date, the Panerai Luminor Marina’s crown guard has a lever that you pull down and out from the crown guard, and then you can pull the crown into one of two positions to make the changes to the time and date. It’s very simple and easy to use, and as the running seconds hand stops in the second position, you can set the watch to the exact time.

Is the Panerai Luminor Marina waterproof?

As the name “Marina” suggests, the PAM 104 Panerai Luminor Marina is not only waterproof, it is very waterproof. It has 300 meters of water resistance thanks to the special crown guard construction. This makes it optimal for any kind of water activity.


You’ll see a lot of PAM 104s with leather or rubber straps, but this one has the more versatile steel bracelet option. The steel bracelet can be worn for water activities, whereas the leather strap isn’t ideal for water settings, obviously. The steel bracelet is also more durable and long lasting than the rubber strap, especially this one with its solid links. This bracelet will still be as sturdy in decades as it is today. Furthermore, the steel bracelet is more year-round, perfect for summer, fall, winter and spring…not to mention, any occasion. The bracelet goes with any outfit, sporty or casual fresh.

Besides the steel bracelet being superior to leather and rubber bracelets versatility-wise, it creates more wrist presence. The finishing is very eye-catching.

You can see the bracelet integrates with the case perfectly. In our opinion, it works even better than the leather and rubber straps (although those are great options too and you can always switch it up). The only downfall of the steel is, it costs a little more.

Note: We also have the leather and rubber straps. So, if you buy this watch, you can have all three to switch things up at your leisure.

panerai reviews


The black dial is truly the face of this watch. It makes up nearly the whole top view of the watch and it stands out on the wrist in an amazing way.

The hour markers, the hands, and the running seconds sub-dial are painted white with Panerai’s Luminor luminescence. As Panerai is known for their “lume-ability”, it almost goes without saying that the watch glows like no other in dark settings. It’s absolutely stunning to see this watch on the wrist at night.

In the day, the legibility is just as superlative. This is all made possible thanks to the white on black contrast, the big hour markers and Arabic numerals, and the clean, no-nonsense design on an overall mammoth dial.

A few words describe this dial – clean, minimal, legible, militaristic, and undeniably Panerai.


The movement behind the case is an in-house Panerai OP3 calibre automatic movement. The movement is COSC certified, so it is highly precise and accurate. It comprises 21 different jewels and it has a 42 hour power.

panerai luminor marina review


Although the Panerai Luminor Marina PAM 104 has been discontinued, it was $7,000 plus tax at retail.

Now, on the secondary market, pre-owned PAM 104s typically sells for around $5,000-$6,000.

As for the resale value, it is guaranteed to hold strong and it will likely increase in value over the years now that it is discontinued. Panerai doesn’t have nearly the same production rate as Rolex so these watches, while not exactly rare, are less common. The point is, it’s without a doubt a good investment for those who like big watches with a powerful military-rich history.


You can buy the Panerai Luminor Marina PAM 104 at Diamonds By Raymond Lee in Boca Raton. It is in perfect condition, all around, and it comes with a leather strap, rubber strap and its original box and paperwork.

Contact us for pricing


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