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The Collectible Panerai Pre-A Series 1997-1998

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Following Vendôme’s (Richemont) acquisition of Officine Panerai Srl in the spring of 1998, Panerai made their debut at SIHH 1998 and also released the A and B Series Panerai (001, 002, 003, 004, 009, 010). However, prior to the production and commercial release of these models, three small series of Panerai watches were released to test the waters and generate media attention (reportedly sold mostly to Italian, Swiss and German markets).

Largely unknown to the watch world, they are called the “Pre-A Series”, as they came before the original 1998 A Series Luminor and Luminor Marina models.

Why is the Pre-A Series so collectible?

1 - Dial

(Left) Pre-V 5218-202a, (Right) Pre-A PAM 009, taken by William Loi

All Pre-A models had Pre-Vendôme style T-SWISS-T dials. In comparison to the dials of A Series and beyond, Pre-A and Pre-V are the same shape - see the image below for reference. These types of dials are associated with rare neo-vintage Panerai watches, and are rarely seen in the watch world. In contrast, the dials of A Series and beyond have been produced  in very large numbers, with the design being used today for many Panerai models.

2 - Rarity

There was a planned production of 1000 pieces of the various PreA models listed above. The numbers for the 44mm cases were OP 6500 and OP 6502.
Somewhere in between the production of OP 6500 cases, just under 400 Mare Nostrum OP 6501 Watches were produced (It is also speculated there were 398 unsold Mare Nostrum models lying in the vaults of the old company). After the last Mare Nostrum, the millesimation numbering of the 1000 Luminor and Luminor Marinas continued, but this time with the 6502 case reference.

So, approx. 1700 Pre-A watches were produced, including the Mare Nostrum. Nobody really knows how many of each were actually made (001, 002, 003, 004, 009, 010).

Although there was a healthy amount of Pre-A models produced, very few appear for sale, and even fewer in excellent condition with box & papers. Hence, they fetch a hefty price and are considered great investments for Panerai enthusiasts and Paneristi.

3 - Collectors Provenance

Pre-A Series watches are held in high regard by the Paneristi. It is from a very select moment in Panerai’s history; just prior to the commercial beginning as a brand under the Richemont umbrella. Very few appreciate, and are aware of, the stories and facts surrounding the collection of Pre-A watches. Each model usually has an individual story, passing safely through the hands of Paneristi over the years.

With thanks to Maurits Bollen and for their contribution to the research and information for this article.