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Cage Match Part II/III - 5002 vs 233

by Jason 19 October, 2010 View Comments

This week, we continue the bout between the teutonic IWC Big Pilot 5002 and the suave Panerai PAM233

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Round Two: Legibility and Function –

The IWC is one of the easiest watches in the world to read. Big numerals, big hour markers, big hands, and a white sweep seconds hand, all on a plain black dial. The simple elegance is marred a bit by two things – the addition of a power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock and a date window at 6. The original Flieger had three hands, a big dial and nothing else. The IWC, while not complicated, looks busy in comparison to an original Flieger. And (imaginary) points deducted for a white date wheel on a black dial, which just looks weird on anything other than a Rolex.

The Panerai features their signature dial layout – sandwich numerals, running seconds at 9 o’clock, date at 3 o’clock.  The sandwich dial has become a Panerai favourite since it was introduced around 1938, and it still looks the business. Only the hour markers are present, no minute track to be found here. The sub dial for the seconds is a classic touch, harking back to the days when Panerai used pocket watch movements (and they still do, in the Historic line). It has a few complications but they are well integrated and don’t shout complexity; there is the nice linear scale power reserve above 6 o’clock, a date window, an AM/PM indicator (the small disc inside the seconds dial), a seconds hand that hacks and instantly resets to zero, and a simple GMT hand. Note that this GMT is a shadow hand; it follows the path of the hour hand rather than rotating once every 24 hours like traditional GMT watches. This is less technical, but easier to read at a glance.

Round Three: Case and Finishing

 

Case design doesn’t get much simpler than the IWC. That’s not a bad thing – it’s simple, and it works. This isn’t a small watch by any stretch (unless you wear a U-Boat) but despite the hefty size and weight it wears very well, even a small wrist such as mine. If I can wear it on my pencil wrists, anyone can wear it. The finishing is sober, the traditional mix of brushed and polished surfaces that don’t distract. After all, this is a military tool at heart. If you want flashy, look elsewhere - this is a bold, simple statement of a watch. The giant screw-down crown is a great addition and looks perfect in proportion to the rest of the watch. The sapphire crystal is slightly domed and antireflective, and totally unobtrusive. The case back is closed on the IWC for a reason - this is an antimagnetic watch with a soft iron Faraday cage inside to shield the movement, should you be working in a fridge magnet factory or spending too much time around computer monitors. Like in many IWCs form follows function. After all they are the only Teutonic watchmaker in Switzerland, based in Schaffhausen and exhibiting traditional German sensibilities and technical obsession.

 

 

The Panerai, being Italian, is a little more artistic in execution. The lines of the case are a nice mixture of soft curves and hard edges. The case and lugs are brushed while the bezel is a high polish. Unlike a regular Luminor, the back of the case is rounded and the sides are tapered into a cushion shape. Even though it is smaller than the IWC in diameter, it wears bigger, probably due to the square shape and thick lugs. The nicely finished movement is shown off through a sapphire exhibition back. The sapphire crystal is heavily domed to look like an old hesalite crystal. Everything is done with a bit more flourish, more pizzazz - odd for what was originally a military design. But that is the enigma of Panerai – they began as hard-core military equipment, and since becoming popular in the 1990s their styles have become classics. The looks haven’t changed, only the perception of the public. When they first hit the scene, everyone thought they were enormous and unwearable. Today they are one of the most elegant of the big watches.

 

 

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Next week we rap up the fight with comfort and the final round, where we (I) will declare a winner. Stay tuned!

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