ZF factory PAM 389
I wasn’t in hurry to order this watch, especially since Joshua told me the watch is also “in making” in Kuvarsit factory. I read the whole Angus’ thread on RG referring to release of this rep. When it was available from Joshua, I pulled the trigger. Delivery was very slow due to the Christmas time and so on but I got it few days ago
Angus stated the maker (ZF - the final assembly stage owner, I suppose) has the gen. What I think is they had a gen for a while, disassembled it and then had to give it back so some parts were made against maybe photos of gen or measurements taken while the gen was in their possession. I will mention references to this concept several times during this review.
The genuine PAM 389 was the second amagnetic watch from Panerai; the first one was PAM 92, limited edition, and was worn by explorer Mike Horn during one of his Artic expeditions. Basic principle when making any mechanic watch antimagnetic one is to put it’s movement in a kind of Faraday cage, made of soft iron. Soft iron vs hard iron is rather a term describing their magnetic properties. In hard iron, the domains will not shift back to their starting points when the magnetic field is taken away. In soft iron, the domains return to being randomly aligned when the field is removed. So, You cannot magnetize soft iron.
Hint #1 - maker has an access to the gen:
The internals of the watch case is a “cage in a cage” construction. The movement is covered in a soft iron cage, together with snap-on cap on the back and soft iron plate under the dial. The cage is mounted within watch case by rubber bars. There is a groove on internal walls of watch case, corresponding to the groove on the external wall of Faraday cage; rubbers bars are to be put between these two grooves so the soft iron cage is being kept inside watch case, being pressed towards sapphire side the same time. Rubber bars are providing some kind of “G-shock”-like protection to the watch, against bumps from the side of the watch.
This is quite difficult to find detailed description of how it was made in gen 389, that’s why I think the maker had an access to the gen since the rep is made the same way (I am not sure they put soft iron plate under the dial in the rep…. probably not). While having it more shock resistant is fine thing - we need to know that the whole movement ‘swims’ inside the watch case and there is no way to i.e. rotate the movement to align the dial better since there are no metal mounting plates secured by screws. You can rotate the movement quite easy but the moment you snap the crown to the standard position - the whole movement moves to that stress-free position and Your correction is lost in the same moment. It is by design so it is so important to have crown tube at the correct position on the case.
Hint #2 - maker has an access to the gen:
The bezel construction was somehow shown on the photos Angus posted in his thread on RG. The bezel mechanism looks quite complicated and I believe maker tried to replicate gen idea since there are probably easier ways to do unidirectional bezel than this:
How does it function in our rep? Well, it feels cheap. There is a lot of play between steps, like 1/2 of minute (on 60 steps bezel). When You rotating it, the force needed to turn changes, it is not smooth - on my watch it “hangs” at about 6 o’clock and you need to use more force to continue rotating of the bezel. I put some oil into the mechanism but it did not help much…
Anyway, on my rep the “natural position” of the bezel is a half a minute past 12… exactly like on gen photo on Panerai’s site Hint #3 - maker has lost his access to the gen:
The bezel ring has manufacturing problems - the carbs on the edge are different that on the gen. Polished metal pins were too long (were sticking too high above surface of ceramic inlay) but were corrected before final production stage. These things are just obvious when comparing with a gen in the hand - that’s why I think the maker was not having the gen anymore at that stage of manufacturing. The same goes to the dial - according to Angus he was asked to confirm the dial printing - why on Earth anyone would need anybody to confirm such a thing while having the gen? So they were without a gen at that time, too.
The question: is the bezel made of titanium? The problem of titanium is to use titanium grade 5 (Ti-6Al-4V) to be able to polish it (according to Panerai’s explanation of use of materials). It is polished on the rep but not especially mirror-like. So, maybe it is titanium of a lower grade or polishing was just so-so…
The dial shifted printing story
Half of dials have all printing shifted approx. 0.5 mm to the right. Of course Angus took the responsibility by admitting he confirmed wrongly printed dials as correct ones because they were presented to him without hour indexes. OK…. maybe. The real problem is that I have carefully checked all available photos of the rep and the dial has its printings all over the place, to the left, to the right and most of time - at correct position. Regardless the time the rep was delivered. So to me, it is purely quality control thing, or the lack of it…. On my 389 it looks like this:
OK, down to the details of the replication:
- case - good workmanship, good finish of the area between lugs, correct caseback, overall it is great.
- bezel ceramic part - good ceramic inlay replication, good polished SS studs, good 12 pearl albeit the shape of luminova insert is not as per gen. Be careful when QC this rep due to crooked 15,30 and 45 studs.
- bezel ring - poor working, cheap feel when rotating, noticeable loose and with random resistance to be felt while rotating. Carbs on the bezel’s edge are too shallow - and thus of a bit wrong shape. It is not a big issue, just for my “one look is enough to recognize it as a rep”
- crystal - very good with colorless AR on the inside
- dial - good dial with nicely pronounced subdial, QC fails for position of printings, superluminova
- hands - nice ones but somehow not flat - they look like they were polished using electropolishing hence overall ‘roundness’. Nice luminova, with usual “there are luminova on edges, too” mistake
- movement - A7750 with decoration as “P.9000”. I suppose they have a lot of these P.9000-like movements and they sorted nicer ones for watches with display caseback while movements with poor QC of decorative plates installation are to be put in closed caseback watches like PAM 389. Poor printings, crooked decoration plate over balance wheel - just enough to make You hate it when visible. Overoiled movement, there were oil fingerprints visible on the date wheel, even through date window (!) . After regulation it keeps +1 sec/day, and KEEPS it like that Due to rubber bars movement holding method - the dial is crooked a bit and there is nothing to do with that. Anyway, it doesn’t bother.
- rubber strap - soft and nice, better than the one from PAM 243. Really like this one.
Bottom line: it looks like ZF maker uses the same subcontractors like Noob. Maybe it is a kind of successor to Noob, who knows… Anyway, one missing thing is Quality Control during assembly. “What quality control?!” - I may even ask… Even Angus mentioned that he had to return great deal of them back to the maker due to lack of quality. General conclusion is to be very picky during QC process and do not hesitate to reject when You see something wrong.
Am I happy with this rep? Yes, I am. It is truly awesome piece, even with all these replication problems. Great wrist presence, feels light on a wrist, screams “this is tool watch” all the way.
Another question: will I repurchase this rep when it will get released by Kuvarsit? The answer is: 95% for YES. The design of the watch is worth it to have it as immaculate as possible.