California Dreaming... (Or my Long Journey after California Dials)

Jan 08, 2019,12:53 PM

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!!

Cheers! Abel.

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

Panerai 249

Pam 249

Pam 249

More posts: Oyster PerpetualPAM249PAM424Radiomir 1936 SERadiomir California 3 Days

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Comments: view entire thread


Dear Abel...

 By: Cpt Scarlet : January 8th, 2019-13:09
The 249 is a superb Panerai. I also remember trying to track one down when they were announced as a “Special Edition”. The crazy days of Panerai mania ! I still have it and always will. ...  

Thank you my dear Captain!! Yes, I know you love this model and you have good reasons to. To find these special editions of the past is almost impossible down here...

 By: Subexplorer : January 8th, 2019-13:18
... and I feel very fortunate to find mine. I had never dreamed about finding one in my usual hunting grounds! O started my love with Panerai with my first one: a Pam 111 which I bought in an AD in Paris in 2006. I knew very little about the brand in thos... 

I found your post..

 By: Cpt Scarlet : January 8th, 2019-14:43
Very interesting and it reminded me of when I first became interested in Panerai. I was in Cairo and a single Panerai was on display in a small cabinet. It wasn’t even in a prominent position. I asked about the watch but no one had any idea about it. That... 

Thank you for your comments dear Captain! Intresting story of your first contact with the brand. 14 years ago makes about the same time or a year before my first purchase.,,

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-03:46
,,, and it is amazing to observe how the brand has grown in all those years. As a matter of fact in those times I was able to have in my memory almost all the model references of their catalog. In the last three or four years so many models have been laun... 

Hello Abel..,

 By: Cpt Scarlet : January 9th, 2019-03:57
Who would have thought that the time would pass so quickly I recently looked at the Boutique Blue Editions. A California Blue would have been exciting but sadly it was not to be. Happy hunting !

Hello dear friend! Yes, time pass so fast for my taste!!. I´d love if time would pass a bit slower... And since I was blessed with grandchildren time seemed to acelerate its path!! Lol!...

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-04:40
... Regarding Panerai Cali dials: I am not aware a Cali dial is offered within the blue dial series. But I feel that in next SIHH we could have some new Cali, perhaps in their Due line or perhaps the blue dial line. Just a hunch of mine as I have no forma... 

Great story.

 By: aris d : January 8th, 2019-13:12
As they say, in horology patience is a virtue, but who has it. Aris

Thanks you so much for your kind comments my dear Nicolas! Yes, I knew about your love for this model, and what a serial number you had my friend!! ...

 By: Subexplorer : January 8th, 2019-13:28
... I´m glad you like the little Rollies as well!! Abrazos mi querido amigo! Abel

Great post . A Cali dail has got something special imho

 By: Watchonthewrist : January 8th, 2019-13:29
Here one from my Boss, a Nomos Club Campus ...  

Thank you so much for your kind comments Watchonthewrist!! Agree with you: Cali dials have something special!! ...

 By: Subexplorer : January 8th, 2019-13:34
... Thanks for sharing this picture of your boss Nomos! I didn´t know this model! It has a "reverse" Cali dial! First time I see this Nomos dial and first time I see a Cali with the Roman numerals below. It looks very nice and original this way! Other bra... 

Excellent post Abel!

 By: Ares501 - Mr Green : January 8th, 2019-13:49
Yes Cali dial has special charm and yes 249 is my favourite modern PAM. Great Cali team you have. Cheers D

Thanks a lot dear D! Glad you like my Californian Team !! Lol! Yes the 249 is the best Cali (together with the 448 though that one is more scarce with only 750 made)

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-03:50
In any case the Cali dial has something which makes it very special, and even the current 424 No date is very charming as well. Cheers! Abel

Congratulations dear Abel for all this Calis. Increible! I never saw all this watches together. Thanks for showing, a remarkable post.

 By: Walter2 : January 8th, 2019-14:19
I am not so Paneristi, but with the California dial i love this watch. Abrazos a Argentina

Being a certified ignoramus....

 By: sergio : January 8th, 2019-14:56
without much passions (touch of asperger took care of that) I litterally "bumped" into the 249, point blank. I always thought that Panerais were pregnant watches and convinced I would buy one ONLY if they'd promised me, I would get at least 4 or 5 watchle... 

Ciao caro Sergio!! What a delicious story you share about your own Pam 249!! I enjoyed so much it! Thank you!! ...

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-03:56
... It is obvious that this particular 249 was made for you!! I also think of Panerai as pregnant watches! It is confirmed by the way my Panerai collection grew in the last few years!! Lol! I wish you´ll keep enjoying and loving your Pam 249 for many many... 

Awesome cali collection!!!

 By: S F : January 8th, 2019-16:44
My 249 says hi: ...  

Thanks for sharing Abel. The Rolex Cali collection is really special.

 By: Jay (Eire) : January 8th, 2019-17:31
While I missed the original PAM 249, more so I wasn't interested enough given the 47mm case, I did end up buying at PAM 448 when they were released. As it turned out the watch was really just to big for me and so I parted with it after a year or so of ver... 

Hello dear Jay! Thanks a lot for your kind comments and for sharing about your experience with the 448. I guess the 448 is a very interesting watch...

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-04:05
... being similar to the 249 but in a Limited to 750 examples series making it rarer. Of course the 47 mm case is not for the taste of all watch lovers and understand your point. Yes, the 779 could be an answer. I´m sure Panerai will keep offering cali di... 

You're on a roll my friend. Many congrats!

 By: reintitan - Mr. Roboto : January 8th, 2019-17:34
That's is quite a nice focused collection of Rolex Error Proof Dial watches! I need to get a Cali some day. Which one I don't know yet

Hi my friend Reintitan!! Thank you so much for your kind comments!! Yes, the cali dial makes for an interesting choice among Panerai watches...

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-04:14
... and of course the 249 and 448 offer the purest options. Of course the Pam 424 would be the easiest way to go as they are presently in their catalog and can be found in their AD´s or Boutiques. I find it also very charming with its light brown colored ... 

Always loved the California Dial

 By: socabaptist : January 8th, 2019-18:51
I would always try to look at the Panerai Radiomir with the california dial but they always had the logo at six o' clock. That PAM 249 is a beauty!!

Thanks you for your kind comments Socabaptist! Agree that the logo at six is a bit distracting in the current Pam 424, but I can bear it anyway. The dial is truly charming.

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-04:17
Going after the 249 or 448 is less easy as the production was 1936 and 750 examples respectively. And prices are in the rise. You should check the 424 No Date in your wrist. It deserves the chance! Cheers! Abel

Wonderful post Abel!

 By: JohnFM : January 8th, 2019-20:44
Great to know and see what sparked your interest in Rolex and Panerai, and to see that Bubbleback with the Mercedes hand!

Thank you so much dear friend John for your kind comments! Always a big pleasure to share my watches and stories here!

 By: Subexplorer : January 9th, 2019-04:18
Glad you like the little Bubbleback with Mercedes hand. I really love it! Cheers! Abel.

What a post!

 By: Echi : January 9th, 2019-05:11
I really enjoyed scrolling through the pics, Abel. A 249 is something that's on my list. Glad you ended up with one! Best, Echi

Hi Fabr; what size is your wrist if I may ask?

 By: darrony : February 3rd, 2019-23:59
I am thinking of a 249/448

Thanks FabR! [nt]

 By: darrony : February 4th, 2019-14:37