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Review: Panerai Luminor 8 Days

The Luminor has been a staple of Panerai’s collection since the Italian company first opened its doors to the public in 1993, this Base the purest and simplest iteration. It’s been discontinued now—and cost around £4,000 before it was—by something that looks exactly the same but costs over £1,000 more. Why would anyone want to pay that?

The Luminor has existed as we know it today since 1950, when Panerai swapped out the deadly radium-based paint called Radiomir for a more friendly tritium-based alternative—Luminor. It was also an opportunity for the company to give its dive watch a bit of a makeover, shedding the flimsy, soldered wire lugs in place of beefier items, and adding the now-famous crown lever for additional water-resistance and knock protection.

It’s not a pretty thing; it was never built with aesthetics in mind. The brief came from the Italian Royal Navy after all, a simple requirement for a watch that could be worn underwater and be readable in difficult conditions. So, all you get is a big round dial, a big thick case and big glowing numbers.

But, as the Italians have a habit of doing, the watch inadvertently ended up inheriting some of that classic Latin charm and style. By all accounts, it should be an eyesore, but there’s something about that has earned it one of the most loyal fanbases in the world.

But there’s a problem. Panerai watches have commonly used someone else’s movement—I mean, early Panerai watches were built entirely by Rolex—and for a long time the Luminor Base has drawn power from the ETA 6497, an appropriately hand-wound ticker with a big balance and old-school bridge layout.

That was considered acceptable for a very long time, but modern watchmaking has recently assumed a condition whereby a manufacturer must justify its credibility by offering an in-house movement. This is despite a history of just about every brand imaginable outsourcing its engines, and that includes big guns such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Heuer, Breitling, etcetera, etcetera.

And as nice as the idea of having an in-house movement is, a price hike is always going to be an inevitability. That’s the case here, Panerai having ditched the ETA and made something of its own, bumping up the retail price to £5,100. Welcome the Panerai Luminor Base 560.

You’ll note that the ETA-powered Base here is a left-handed Destro model, and that’s so you can easily tell the difference between these two watches—because otherwise, there’s not much else to go by without some serious scrutiny. So, let’s do that.

You probably wouldn’t notice the wider font used for the numbers, but you should see that the word ‘Panerai’ has been shifted up to the top half of the dial to make way for a new line: ‘8 Days’. That’s not a reference to the Fab Four, rather a tally of the stint it lasts for on a full wind. This is because the ETA 6497 hasn’t just been replaced like-for-like; Panerai has seen fit to give the subsequent calibre P.5000 a bit of a spec boost for good measure.

When a watch is as fiddly to wind as this—and remember, there’s no rotor weight doing the work for you—only having to do it once a week is something of a blessing. Gone are the days of winding your Luminor Base every other day—all you have to do now is remember you’re not wearing an automatic and top up the reserve on a Sunday night before bed.

Panerai has managed to squeeze this additional power out of the available space by using dual mainspring barrels with thinner, longer springs—which has the additional benefit of giving a smoother torque curve as the springs unwind, making the watch more accurate closer to empty.

It’s a similar setup to IWC’s Big Pilot; the intention is that the watch is wound on the seventh day to maintain the best accuracy. The IWC’s movement is actually mechanically limited to seven days, despite holding eight, for that very reason.

Is it worth the extra? The large three-quarter plate and small balance wheel makes the P.5000 a bit less interesting to look at than the 6497, but the increased power reserve is pretty useful—as well as being a historical nod to the monster Egiziano—not to mention the obvious smug-factor that comes from having a Panerai-exclusive movement.

The 560 is a big change in an almost identical package to its predecessor, one that many will say finally brings Panerai on a level with its competitors. The cost implications are less positive, however inevitable, and the budget ETA alternative will be missed.

Or will it? Because if you’re disappointedly learning about the discontinuation of the ETA-powered base, don’t worry—Panerai has followed up the Base 560 with the in-house, three-day Base Logo 773. The best bit? It’s priced the same as the outgoing ETA model. Can’t say fairer than that!

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