Most people think that last weekend’s P-Day 2017 event in Chicago stands for ‘Panerai Day’, and though the ‘P’ stands for ‘Paneristi’, it doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
“P-Day” stands for people,” said Raphael Shin, one of the event organizers.
In 2000, Scotland’s Guy Verbist started Paneristi.com, a website for collectors of World War II vintage Italian Panerai dive watches. The name Paneristi was derived from the nickname for lovers of Italy’s hottest automotive export, the Ferrari, who were known as Ferraristis. In November of 2002, a group of 50 collectors met in Cologne for what has been described as the first German Paneristi meeting.
The following year was Israeli collector, Assaf Burstein’s, first P-Day. As of this year, he was the only attendee who has been to all the P-Days since 2003. Burstein was hesitant to like the brand at first. “From time to time I saw this weird vintage watch,” he said. “It was too big it was awkward. I looked at it. It was a Rolex of some military kind.”
“I just came in very briefly. The whole thing of socializing with collectors was intimidating. You were not supposed share your valuable assets with other collectors. With other brands it was very hush-hush.”
According to Burstein, the big breakthrough came at P-Day 3 with over 100 enthusiasts coming to Germany from around the World. The event soon started moving on to other locations like Florence, New York, Singapore, Hamilton Island and London. Last year’s event was in Berlin.
Paneristis signing posters for raffle (Lewis Franck)
As collectors started sharing their treasures, strong and enduring friendships took hold and the watches became almost secondary. Many Paneristi posts of the time talked about passion and explained that the community was about much more than a watch. Over the years, there have been many fundraisers to support the community and smaller get-togethers of local Paneristi.
Leading up to the main event, Paneristi took side trips to watch shops, bespoke shoemakers and whiskey tastings. On Saturday evening, 162 people showed up for the main event at the Chicago Cultural Center, a landmark building in the Windy City.
P-Day in the ballroom at The Chicago Cultural Center (Lewis Franck)
Perhaps it was fitting that the Panerai president for North America, Giovanni Carestia, gave a moving opening speech where he confessed that 12 years ago he wasn’t aware of Panerai's timepieces. Since taking the helm, he observed there was no luxury brand where he saw such passion, energy and camaraderie among owners.
The back casing of Alan Hammer's P-Day 2017 Hammer. Hammer showcases a new, handmade Panerai at every event. (Alan Hammer)
The unofficial ambassador for the early Paneristi Alan Hammer, a former Australian tennis professional, provided a hand made timepiece for auction to support Sporting Wheelies, Queensland Australia’s foremost sport, recreation and fitness association for people with a physical disability or vision impairment. Hammer, confined to a wheel chair due to a water sporting accident, embodies the spirit, friendship and charity of Paneristi.
It couldn’t be a P-Day without some rare timepieces, including a Panerai 6152 circa 1955, owned by Loris Passeta. While the dial had patina typical of a 60-year-old watch, removing the screw-down case back revealed a movement that was virtually pristine.
Loris Passeta's 6152 (Lewis Franck)
Earlier in the weekend the Italian company offered small groups an up close view of its new, spectacular PAM 600, Radiomir Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon in person. “This piece represents the most complicated movement Panerai has ever produced, incorporating a double-minute repeaters mechanism for local time and that of a second time zone,” said Panerai. “The movement features a three-hammer repeating mechanism with a decimal repeating function, chiming at 10 minute intervals instead of the traditional 15.”
In the closing moments it was announced that P-Day 2018 will take place in Hong Kong.