Decoding Panerai Reference Numbers To Navigating The Brand’s Progression And Product Categorization

THM Desk
2 Apr 2024 |
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Panerai timepieces, often dubbed as "art in motion," have captivated the most discerning watch connoisseurs. The brand remains a hallmark of distinct and instantly recognizable watchmaking, cherished by aficionados, particularly those whose wrists effortlessly carry the weight of its sizable cases.

Any enthusiast worth their salt acknowledges the iconic Luminor and Radiomir models from this distinguished brand. Yet, the mosaic of tales that reflect through Panerai's triumphs and trials across its extensive and occasionally tumultuous history often lies in the shadows, waiting to be discovered.

The Panerai History - An Amphibious Essence

The brand we know today as ‘Officine Panerai’ has cemented a few many innovations in the watchmaking world and has itself experienced a shift of existential essence, with its inception as a watchmaking school cum repair workshop to metamorphosis as an affluent point of sales for Swiss timepieces in Italy. The progression continued and the transition to a watch manufacturer from what was a war-era supplier of naval equipment was observed later and all this ran parallel with the development of their proprietary ‘Radiomir’ luminescent paste in 1916, marking the migration of the practise of adding lume to watches.

Panerai Radiomir

Left - Patent document for the Panerai ‘Radiomir’ lume paste. Right - The first Radiomir prototype from 1935, the Ref. 2533

In 2005, an inevitable eventuality came to fruition with the launch of Panerai’s first in-house caliber, the P.2002. Also in the same decade, a sense of community prevailed within the Panerai collecting group and the ‘Paneristi’ came into being. In this vivid tale of the manufacture, one timepiece that deserves a special mention is the PAM382, the beloved ‘Bronzo’.

Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo, the PAM00382

Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo, the PAM00382

Simplifying Panerai’s Progression with Nomenclature and Classification

At the heart of exploration of the living world, lies the fundamental framework of biology nomenclature and classification, a sophisticated system that serves as the compass guiding scientists through the labyrinth of biodiversity. This system not only provides a language for communication but also unveils the interconnectedness of all living beings, offering profound insights into the history, evolution and relationships that bind them together. Hence, it forms the foundation upon which our understanding of the living world stands.

This intricate system that transforms the diversity of entities into a comprehensible narrative is perfectly transposed into the watch world as ‘Reference Numbers’ and in the case of Panerai, allows us to appreciate the beauty, complexity and unity that define the notion of ‘art in motion’.

Let us delve deeper into the realms of reference numbers for Panerai.

What is the difference between Model Numbers & Serial Numbers? 

Panerai timepieces bear two distinct sets of alphanumeric codes: model numbers and serial numbers, each serving a specific purpose.

Panerai Model Numbers:

These codes identify the particular design or style of a Panerai watch. Rather than being engraved on the watch itself, model numbers are typically displayed on the dial, case back, warranty card, and official documentation. Model numbers often comprise a combination of letters and digits, with a "PAM" prefix (short for Panerai) followed by a numeric sequence, e.g., "PAM00246." These codes help enthusiasts and collectors distinguish between various Panerai models and their distinctive features, such as case shape, dial layout, and special attributes, within the brand's extensive catalog.

Panerai Serial Numbers:

Serial numbers serve as unique identifiers assigned to each individual Panerai watch during production. These codes are typically engraved on the watch's case back, along with other markings, and may also appear on the warranty card, watch box, and official documentation. Panerai serial numbers often begin with letters like "BB" or "PB," followed by a numeric sequence, e.g., "BB123456."

These chronological and sequential numbers are crucial for tracking a Panerai watch's provenance and authenticity. They provide information about the watch's production year and its place in the production sequence. Panerai maintains a database that allows owners to register their watches using serial numbers, confirming authenticity and providing additional details.

Panerai Reference Numbers - A Complete Breakdown and Understanding

Every Panerai watch model typically produced over the course of one or more years is identified by a specific reference. The complete nomenclature begins with ‘PAM’ followed by a 5-digit number, such as PAM00389. Until 2015, Panerai exclusively used the last three digits, leading many Paneristi to omit the initial two digits, resulting in references like PAM389, or simply the digit 389 instead of PAM00389.

The acronym "PAM" stands for "Panerai Model," and due to its frequent appearance in Panerai watch references, many enthusiasts affectionately refer to a Panerai watch simply as a "Pam."

Based on the production limits and sales strategies, Panerai references can be categorized into four groups:

Reference Classes

Sales / Volume Attributes

Standard Reference (SR)

Manufactured in volumes ranging from 500 to 8000 pieces annually.

Limited Edition (LE)

Produced in smaller quantities, approximately 500 to 2000 pieces, for a limited time, typically 1-3 years.

Special Edition (SE)

Manufactured in predetermined fixed volumes, ranging from around 2 to 2000 pieces.

Boutique Edition (BE)

Created in fixed volumes, often very low, from approximately 20 to 200 pieces. Many Paneristi references fall into this category, with attributes linked to specific boutiques or their customers, such as names or pictures on the case back.


These categories have additional subcategories with unique features for increased exclusivity:

Reference Sub-Categories

Features / Exclusivity

Boutique Exclusive (Only)

Exclusively offered at Panerai boutiques initially.

Online Exclusive

Available through Panerai's e-commerce platform initially, without involving any retailers.

Event Edition

Offered exclusively at Panerai events for invited guests since 2019.

Experience (Xperience) Edition

Introduced in 2019, some LE references are offered in conjunction with adventure events.

On Request

Starting in 2016, highly exclusive references are being produced only upon customer request.

Concessionaire Edition

Special references, mostly LE, exclusively produced for prominent retailers.

Panerai Collections - Naming and Attributes

Within the above-stated reference groups and encompassed in their categories and sub-categories, the following collections have been incepted at Panerai:

Panerai Collections

Highlight Features


The most classical Panerai watches, equipped with wire lugs.

Radiomir 1940

Introduced in 2012 and replaced the wire lugs with standard watch lugs.


Evolution of the Radiomir 1940 but with the iconic crown protector.

Luminor 1950

A modified Luminor with lettering ‘REG. T.M’ mentioned on the crown guard.

Luminor Due

A dressier interpretation of the Luminor 1950.


Collection featuring a rotating dive bezel atop a Luminor or Luminor 1950 case.

Mare Nostrum

Omits the cushion case and poses as an independent design entity.


Panerai Collections and their timepiece examples

Panerai Collections and their timepiece examples

Crafting Legacy with Numbers and Defining Desire

Every alpha-numeric linkage to Panerai connects the brand’s offerings in a chronological and for the Paneristis an emotional frame. With the references, we can derive insights into the eras, evolution and progression of Panerai's portfolio while offering valuable information about the products themselves. Panerai is a brand steeped in a captivating narrative. Although, the debatable aspect of whether Panerai is a true watchmaker remains, the allure of owning a Panerai timepiece is undeniable, a testament to the brand's grip on our desires and emotions.