California Dreaming... (Or my Long Journey after California Dials)
My watch collector career started around 2008 when my family presented me with a big thick book devoted to the history of Rolex for my birthday.
I already was a big fan of the brand, but knew little about its history and much less about those early little Oyster Perpetuals known among the collectors as "bubblebacks"
I was fascinated with said book and with the discovery of so many models I had never seen before.
When I finished reading the book, I felt I badly needed to own a bubbleback Rolex and specially one with a so called "California" dial.
I had never dreamed with being a watch collector and it was not easy to locate a bubbleback but was able to find a couple with wich I started my colection. Then in 2009 I found my first California dial: a reference 3372 which I bought in spite of having a retouched but original dial.
Three years later, in 2012 I got another bubbleback with a nice Cali dial, with thick luminous indexes and a "Mercedes" hour hand!
Rolex patented their "Error Proof Radium dials" on June 15, 1942 and it is known that they supplied Panerai with watches sporting this type of dials shortly afterwards. That was the name Rolex gave to these fantastic dials which have Roman numerals in the uper part of dial, and arabic numbers in the lower. It is said that the "California" name comes form a guy located in California, USA who specialized in restoring these dials some decades ago.
As you know not only Rolex occupies part of my horological heart, but also Panerai. It is easy to understand that viewing pictures of those old Panerais with these fantastic dials I inmediatelly fell in love with this model and started my search for my own modern Panerai with Cali dial as to get an original was absolutely out of my reach.
After a long time searching in my local hunting grounds for a Cali Panerai, in September 2014 I had the opportunity of buying a brand new Pam 424 with date.
I was very excited to get it after a so long hunt. But truth is that I couldn´t wear my new watch and enjoy it as I expected: Each time I strapped it to my wrist I became dissapointed when viewing the date window on the dial.
I could stand the logo at "6" but not the date on this otherwise beautiful dial. So my 424 date went almost unworn to the bank safe. Then in 2017 I was offered a brand new example of the Pam 424 sans date.
It seems that Panerai had recognized their mistake and discontinued the original 424 date for a non date dial under the same reference: Pam 424.
As my own 424 date was almost NOS I could arrange to exchange it with a little difference in cash and at last I was happy to own a Panerai with a California dial... and NO date on it!!
But my long journey didn´t end here.
Last year I recevied a call from one local seller offering me an almost brand new Panerai 249 with box and papers. That was one of the 1936 watches made in 2006 in impecable condition! I couldn´t resist to take it home!!
I feel that some other Cali dial will arrive to my collection in the future. I find these dials simply fascinating!!
Thanks a lot for reading and viewing!!
Original Ref 3546 Panerai (Archivio Storico Panerai)
Original Patent for the "Error Proof Radium Dial" Rolex, June 15, 1942
Oyster Perpetual Rolex Bubbleback ref 3372 from circa 1946
My second Cali dial Bubbleback. Reference unknown. Circa 1945/6
My present California Team!
Pam 424 with date
Pam 424 Date
Pam 424 Date
My new Pam 424 NO DATE!!
My new Pam 424 No Date!
Last addition to the Cali stable: Panerai 249 series of 2006 of 1936 examples