Watch brands have been using movement manufacture calibers for donkeys years now. The two heavyweights, ETA and Sellita, have been powering watches from brands such as Tudor, Omega, Hamilton and Sinn to name but a few, for decades. These movement manufacturers have completely revolutionised the watch industry, bringing affordability and reliability to big name brands. A lot of people out there are quick to judge ETA powered watches because they are not powered by an 'in-house' movement, so therefore must be a turd sandwich. Funnily enough, given the reliability and build quality of ETA's, in a lot of cases you are getting an infintely better heart beating away in your watch, for a significant saving against a watch with an in-house movement.
Whilst some brands use base ETA's in their watches, the legendary 2824-2 and the ETA/Valjoux 7750 spring to mind, others take the ETA as the base of their movement, and then modify it to improve the aesthetics, performance, or even functionality to make it fit the brands intended purpose. Whilst some brands are completely transparent about their use of either a basic ETA or a modified version, some brands such as the brand we are going to talk about today, decide to use a slightly different tactic. What they do is use an unmodified ETA caliber, and then completely pass it off as their own. Now given the price point of the watches made by Panerai, and the fact that they, in this instance, have had the audacity to go as far as to put a clear caseback in the watch, has caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the watch space over the past week.
The legendary 2824-2 and ETA/Valjoux 7750...
This issue first came to light after an article was released on the website Perezcope. For those of you who have not heard of or read Perezcope, the publication have a reputation for being unapolagetically honest about their thoughts on the industry, and are never afraid to call out a brand for their actions. On the 8th of August, Perezcope published an article titled 'Panerai in-house movements - A pam of worms' . Before I go into detail about the issue, I have read probably tens of thousands of watch articles at this point, and this may have one of the best titles and certainly best accompanying photo's of all time. Genius photoshop skills at play here.
The genuis 'PAM of worms' from the Perezcope article...
In the article, which I highly suggest you read after you have read this one, Panerai's use of ETA's and blatantly passing them off as their own is completely torn apart. The article actually goes into some very interesting spot-the-difference (or not in this case) between the "Panerai P-200" and an ETA 2824 with a Dupois Duproiz chronograph module on the top, an unbelievably popular and highly regarded combined movement which has been used countless time in the industry.
Without delving too much into the nitty-gritty, which I again urge you to read the Perezcope article for, there are a few pretty crucial points to note that I would be remise not to touch on. For context, Panerai are a brand who have previously been very upfront with when their movements are in-house or external. They have, in the past, used the prefix 'OP' to identify when one of their watches uses an ETA or Sellita. An example of this is the OP XXXIV caliber which is housed within various Submersible models. This movement is actually not made by ETA or Sellita, in fact it is made by Manufacture Horlogere ValFleurier, Richemont Groups own manufacturer. Bizarely in this case, the movement used is exactly this movement, however it bares the name P2000, when it should be OP2000.
The afformentioned OP XXXIV movement, and a Submersible housing said movement...(Photo credit to Panerai Source and Fratello)
Fundamentally the real issue here is that from the day of release of this movement to now, Panerai have never revealed that this is not an in-house movement. As a result all major watch publications have rightly assumed that it is, and Panerai have made no effort to correct them... They have remained completely silent on the matter. This has been made even worse. In the Perezcope article, it is brought to our attention that a question was posed in the comments section of a post on Panerai's official instagram account. The question was whether the P2000 was an in-house movement, to which Panerai responded saying it was.
It gets even worse, as this quote from Perezcope explains...
"According to a reliable brand insider, the Panerai boutiques were instructed from the very beginning to refer to the P.9200 as in-house movement. This directive came from the very top. There are several confirmed cases in which the boutiques told buyers of the new chronographs the P.9200 is a “manufacture” or “in-house” movement." Perezcope
What really concerns me about this whole issue, is two fold. Firstly, Panerai have had an image problem for many years. Yes, the Paneristi still maintain a love for the brand that is possibly unmatched by any other brands following, but Panerai are not beloved by the majority of the watch nerd universe. Huge cases, overpriced offerings and now this are really crippling the brands reputation. This makes the above quote absolutely unbelievable. Fans who pride themselves on being able to spot tiny details and differences in watches, collectors who are true experts on brands, Jack Forester for god sake, are not going to be caught out by a brand making zero effort to hide the use of an ETA passed off as theirs. I think that is the main problem with this whole issue. You can put frosted, wave covered crystal on your watches to clearly hide the movements true identity, but you are never going to be able to get away with what Panerai have done.
I previously did not have much bad words to say about Panerai. they are too big for me for the most part, and the designs just dont tickle my pickle, but I never went out of my way to drag them through the dirt. However, when a brand do something this scandalous, people need to know about it. The positive way to look at this whole thing is it only empowers brands such as Omega and Tudor even more, as I am sure this will change peoples buying habits in the price bracket Panerai operates in.
Editor & Co-Founder
The Young Horologist