When it comes to watches for lefties, one thing is certain: Officine Panerai holds the undisputed crown for being the first watch company to design and release a wristwatch specifically designed for left-handed people, and to do on a production basis. Urban legends about a mythical one-off, left-handed Rolex Sea-Dweller made for COMEX abound, but cannot be confirmed. There are also all sorts of fanciful, stylized versions of homemade left-handed Rolex sport watches. Most of these seem like Franken-watches or acts of a skilled Photoshop user creating a “dream” watch. Panerai refers to all of their left-handed models as Destro. Destro, counter-intuitively means “Right” in Italian and refers to the preferred wrist the for the watch to be worn. The Destro models are differentiated by their winding crown and trademarked crown guard moved to the opposite side of the case and inverting the dial print to reflect the watch’s new right-wristed orientation. This creates a watch that is a mirror image of the “standard” model and allows for the use of the crown by the stronger and more dexterous hand of left-handed users.
And now, my picks for the 5 modern examples of Panerai watches that proved Left is Right
5. PAM 22 Luminor Marina Destro
The PAM 22 will go down in history as the first of two Panerai left-handed watches ever released
(both were released in 1998) as well as being one of the first production left-handed wristwatch.
The stainless steel 44mm Luminor case was equipped with a solid caseback and the watch was
produced for 4 years with 1,500 being made. It was released to the general public at the same
time as the Panerai brand was being launched worldwide, so not only did people get the chance
to experience Panerai, but also experience the out of the box thinking that made them so
successful as a military supplier. It was also the quintessential example of what a left-handed
watch should be: a mirror image of the right-handed version. Why only rank this watch at
number 5? The (relatively) long production time of 4 years means there are more of them than
almost any other Destro. It was also evolved and replaced in the catalog by the PAM 115. There
is no doubt that this watch is historic, but the long production and eventual replacement force it
to start my list.
4. PAM 123 Luminor Marina Power Reserve Destro
The PAM 123 is the left-handed version of the PAM 90 and uses the same movement as its right
handed brother. This watch was produced from 2002-2004 and over those 3 years, only 800 units
were produced. It keeps the same complications as the PAM 90, so it includes a power reserve
indicator and date. This also marked the first example of a Destro based off a modern watch and
the first Destro to feature an automatic movement. I think the funkiness of the dial side is what
keeps this watch from ranking higher to me. While most of us can figure out that the movement is
rotated 180 degrees, the relatively clean appearance of Panerai dials makes it easy to think that
there is some magic underneath the hood. The PAM 123 attempted this same magic, but the
execution was a bit different. Thanks to some hard points on the movement, the power reserve
and date had to be located in the same place as their right-handed friends. When the movement
is rotated 180 degrees, the power reserve is essentially upside down and backwards and it really
feels that way on the dial side. The PAM 123 is the first and really only, watch to truly shatter the
illusion of how a Destro is made and for that, it is only number 4 on my list.
3. The PAM 217 Luminor 1950 Marina Militare Destro
The Marina Militare…this watch is amazing. It is really inspired by the first Panerai to adorn the
wrists of the Italian Navy (aka the Marina Militare). It combines an oversized 47mm case, with a
superluminova sandwich dial, and the iconic Marina Militare naming to create a watch fit for a
frogman. It is the first use of the 47mm 1950 case with a Destro configuration, it has a great “First”
place on the map. Its historical homage is best in class. Why did it only make it up to 3? It does
not have the history nor the uniqueness of the top 2 to make it any higher. While it was created
as a one-year special edition, they did create 1000 pieces, which is more than the combined runs
of the top 2. We are getting to the point where uniqueness and limited will be even more
2. PAM 26 Luminor Marina PVD Destro
The PAM 26 is the PVD darkened brother of the PAM 22. We tend to take for granted PVD cases,
but Panerai was among the first brands to produce a PVD case. Ever. So, they created a black
cased, left-handed watch in their FIRST YEAR of global civilian production (talk about bold)! This
piece was made from 1998-1999 (the A and B production years) and features a black dial with
applied tritium lume to the Arabic numbers, dial markers, and hands. The original 2 year run only
saw 700 pieces produced (less than half of the PAM 22). It was ended two years earlier than its
stablemate, for reasons unknown. Then, it was re-released 8 years later in a one-off special
edition of 1000 pieces, known by collectors as the 26 K. The major differences were a slightly
less black charcoal grey PVD case, new, sandwich style dial using Superluminova for intense
brightness. Thecase was also changed and brought a larger, sturdier crown guard, larger lugs,
and morepronounced edge. There were so many changes, I can’t believe it did not get its own
referencenumber! This reference remains an oddity, as it was one of the few, if only, Panerai that
was re-released using a different case and dial, without changing the reference number.
1. Pam 239 Luminor Submersible Destro for
I feel that this piece definitely deserves the top spot on this list. First and foremost, it is a
thoroughly modern Panerai, with automatic winding, a date, and a 300m depth rating. It also uses
Panerai’s Submersible uni-directional dive bezel to create a totally different look than any other
watch on this list. It also lacks any dial side adornment that would give away this illusion of how
the left-handed switch was made. To my knowledge, this is also the most limited of the Destro
watches, with just 75 pieces ever being made. It is also the only piece on this list that did not get
re-issued or continued.
Honorable mentions go to:
PAM 115 – This was the first attempt by Panerai to re-release the Destro. It took up the mantle
left by the discontinued PAM 22. It brought a newer style case, exhibition case back, and swan
neck regulator adjustment to the party, but it was not so different from the PAM 22 that it
deserved a place on the list.
PAM 358 – Another Left-handed watch by Panerai for Chronopassion in Paris, this is the Destro
version of the Luminor Submersible 2500. Created in 2010 for a special run of 100 units. This is a
47 mm watch,with a helium escape valve, and a completely different bezel to any Destro piece
created before or since. It was edged out of this list because of its place as the second
Chronopassion limited edition,made in a higher number.
PAM 56 – The first titanium left-handed Panerai is worthy of some praise, but as you can see
from the list above, simply being the first was simply not enough. It featured a chocolate brown
dial that looked great with titanium and paid homage to the historic fading that black dials would
see with constant exposure to sunlight.
Do you agree with me? Do you hate my picks? Should I be tarred
and feathered for loving the PAM 217 over the
PAM 22? Let me know your thoughts!