In the 1930s, the men in the Italian Royal Navy’s Gamma Group, carried out their maneuvers astride human torpedoes a.k.a. “pigs” or indeed “black seals”. The first modern Panerai Radiomir watch honoring from the late 1930s was launched in 2004 with a 45mm —the original Radiomir watches had a case measuring 47mm in diameter— stainless steel cushion-shaped case with detachable wire lugs, display case back, black matte sandwich dial with superluminova, onion-shaped crown, gold calf strap with beige contrast stitching, large pin buckle and the OP XI hand-wound movement —based off of the ETA 6497/2 but with a swan neck regulator. This Panerai, was released under the ‘Radiomir Black Seal’ name and usually referred to by Paneristi as the Panerai PAM. Today, the PAM 183 includes the ‘Black Seal’ writing at 12 o’clock under the word ‘Radiomir’ instead of at 6 o’clock as it did when it was launched in 2004.
In 2012, Panerai decided to upgrade the PAM and released the Radiomir Black Seal 3 Days Automatic Panerai PAM watches. Also fitted with a cushion-shaped stainless steel case measuring 45mm in diameter and with detachable wire lugs, the 388 maintains the historical look of the Panerai watches but with a date function, an in-house 3-day power reserve automatic movement and a black alligator strap with beige contrast stitching.
The dial just like on the PAM 183 is a matte black sandwich dial composed of two layers with and ultra bright and long lasting superluminova disc at the bottom. The dial features Arabic numerals at 12, 9 and 6, a small seconds indicator at 9 and a date aperture at 3 o’clock. While Panerai shrunk the Arabic numerals on the dial in order to make space to fit the date aperture, we feel that the dial could’ve been developed without the number 9 next to the seconds indicator to maintain better balance and a somewhat less cluttered look. Regardless, this is a beautiful watch with a great appearance. Another big difference between the 388 and the 183 is that the hands on the first one are made of polished stainless steel while the hands on the latter are black for the hours and minutes and white for the seconds hand.
Just as on the Panerai PAM watch, the 388 is fitted with the same personalized large polished pin buckle, detachable wire lugs, onion-shaped crown and highly polished cushion-shaped case. The overall look of the watch gets perfectly accentuated by the black alligator strap that is somewhat stiff when new. Just as the 183, the 388 is waterproof rated to a depth of 100 meters.
While most paneristi are OK with the lack of date function or seconds indicator on their historical Panerais, we feel that adding an automatic movement and a date function were excellent upgrades to an already amazing timepiece. The beating heart inside this timepiece is the newly developed Panerai in-house automatic calibre composed of 197 parts, 28 jewels, Glucydur® balance, two barrels and which provides a power reserve of 3 days while beating at a frequency of 28,800 vph. Just as on the PAM, the calibre is fully visible via the display case back. The calibre is very nicely finished, individually numbered and features the OP logo on the rotor. One very negative thing we did notice on this watch and something that has been mentioned before by many paneristi across several watch forums, is the fact that the movement is very noisy. Furthermore, in our case, just after a handful of times wearing this watch it stopped working right as we were finishing our review. Luckily the watch was new and still under warranty so it was promptly sent in for service a couple of weeks ago. After a few weeks, the Panerai service center did a great job at returning the watch fairly quickly after doing a minor hairspring adjustment.