A Review of PANZERA AQUAMARINE line trough models 45-C and 45-D

Published on 8 February 2024 at 22:36

In the last few months I purchased two similar yet very different watches from the Panzera Aquamarine line. Instead of making a separate review of each one, I decided to rather make a joint one, as this will give a better overview of the Panzera as a brand.

Even though the brand was established back in 2009 it is quite possible that you have not heard of Panzera and that is in a way quite logical. Brand is based in Australia and in general they primarily sell watches only directly. I found them through orologichepassione (later named OCP) which is one of the very few online stores that sell Panzera.

The whole collection of presented watches in OCP were quite interesting and only then I decided to check the official Panzera web pages. Their collection is in general structured in four pillars: classic (Classivo models), pilot (Flieger models), motorsport (Time master models), water/marine (Aquamarine models). Almost all models from all four pillars are big with the diameter of 43-46mm, only few are smaller (aquamarine 40 and lady's aquamarine 36).

What is interesting is the fact that Panzera expanded their activities to Switzerland and we now have majority of the models assembled in Australia with Seiko or Miyota movements, and then we have "Swiss made" watches assembled in Switzerland and using Swiss movements (7750 and Landeron 24). Ok, we can open a debate about Landeron being a Swiss movement, but let's not tackle this issue here.

So, what do I have here today?

In one corner I have a representative of the Sydney production, I picked one of the "seniors", very popular Aquamarine 45-D (probably D for a diver) compressor type diver watch, powered by Seiko NH 35 movement, purchased from OCP, bought with the rubber strap called R11 silver.

On the other hand I have one of the latest models, the most expensive, Swiss made Aquamarine 45-C (probably C for chronograph) powered by ETA 7750 movement. Purchased directly from Panzera, on a stainless steel bracelet. I also ordered another rubber strap, but different from one which arrived on a 45-D, called R-8 silver.

So, both watches are from Aquamarine line, you might ask yourself, why? 

Well, first, out of all models I like this line by far the most. Secondly, the comparison is "more fair", since I can compare two watches built on similar platforms. And last, I also (pre)ordered the very last model Flieger GMT, but it will be released only in May 2024, so I will update the review with this model then. Stay tuned, as the Flieger model will bring many differences as I ordered different color dial, black PVD version, etc... But for now let us focus on those two aquamarines.

What is seen at once is the fact that both watches are assembled around the same case - slightly barrel shaped - construction. 45-C has a polish finish while 45-D a brushed one. Where 45-C has chrono pushers, 45-D has crowns (upper for time setting, lower for rotation of the inner bezel). Diameter is of course identical, shape of  the case is identical, L2L is identical. Good thing here is that the straps/bracelet are fully interchangeable (with a small exception, I will discuss this later).  All crowns are signed, screwed in so except the size of the crown, no differences.

As noticed from the pictures, 45-C is thicker than 45-D. That is of course expected, as 7750 needs more height than Seiko NH35. But the thickness difference is achieved by the backplate and not by the different case. What is interesting is that Panzera on the official site declares both watches to be thinner than I was able to measure. 45-C 14,25mm against 15,9mm and 45-D 13,5mm against 14,5mm. I measured the total height with glass included, maybe Panzera measurements are without glass. 

Speaking of the backplate, here we can see the first big difference in the construction of the watch. 45-D has a simple screwed in steel round backplate while 45-C has much more complicated decagonal backplate with the glass in the center. Backplate is screwed in by then screws. So checking the backplate one can't miss which of those two watches is higher priced. 

BTW.: both watches were bought around the same time and by the serial number you can see which one is much more present in the market. 

Let me go back to the front side of both watches.  First thing that one notices are of course identical hands. Which are a bit unusual -hollow rectangles. I noticed that hollow hands are a kind of a trademark of all Panzera watches, where some watches have hollow pointers and the others have these rectangles. I have not yet quite decided if I liked it, but I am more in favor of yes than no. What I might replace are the yellow totalizator's hands. I think that just thin yellow pointers would look better. Plus those rectangles are too thick for a precise reading on a small totalizators dials. Nevertheless I like the yellow color chosen for the chrono and totalizator hands.

What is also similar, but not the same, is the triangle/dots 12 o'clock marker. The triangle's  purpose in 45-D is basically the beginning of a 15min counter on a bezel while dots are on a lower inner minute ring. 45-C follows other watches from the brand where triangle is placed between the dots on the "main" dial.

If I neglect the fact that both watches have the dial of the same blue color (which is my personal preference, the choice could easily be different) - here the similarities stop. I was actually surprised when I realized how big of an influence the hands have on a general perspective of a  watch. In fact, very different watches look very similar just because of the same hands (and same color variant). Ok, hour indexes are similar, but not the same. 45-D uses two parallel, quite long lines while 45-C uses one, a bit thicker and shorter than on 45-D. I like 45-C more. Then, the date. First, 45-D uses a 3 days window (I have always asked myself what is the purpose of this date design. Never figured out what is the added value of the number before and number after). On 45-C they have decided to go with the "full" 7750 version, so with day and date complication.. 

Due to all totalizers and day/date complication, the very limited place was available for the brand sign on 45-C. As it is quite common, the Panzera is written above the date, for the case of symmetry, "automatic" is put below. 45-D has text on all dial parts. Below 12 it is Panzera, above 6 "automatic", next to 9 the model type "A45-D". Btw. Model mark is not seen on 45-C. Good! 

I must not forget - 45-C has a "Swiss made" text on a ring below 6 o'clock. Origin of 45-D is not revealed...

Both models have a 3D perspective. While 45-D uses a 3D part for an inner bezel, 45-C use this part for a minute chapter ring. There is one very unusual and unnecessary thing on this ring. Half an hour markings, which are bigger than minute markings. Maybe a preparation for a GMT model? As half an hour markings only make sense if they represent a hour markings for a 24h GMT hand. Awkward by all means.

In describing the dial I almost forgot to mention for me the most interesting difference, which is the outer bezel. 45-C has the very beautiful decagonal steel one where polished and brushed parts consecutive interchange.

Brushed parts are  much bigger, polished ones look like some index marks. I just can't figure out why the decagonal shape was chosen and what would be the purpose of those 10 "indexes". Maybe I am just trying to find some purpose in a strictly beauty supplement. Even if that was the only sole purpose of this bezel, the designers succeeded. I must admit, this bezel looks great, reminds me of Maurice Lacroix Aikon. For me this is the most attractive part on both watches together.

On 45-D we have a much more simple standard outer polished coned steel ring. Not bad at all, but far from the 45-C. But nevertheless, on both watches we can see a nice combination of brushed and polished parts. And all steel parts are well made.

Both watches use the same luminova. A good one. Good visibility is offered over the whole night. What is a bit annoying for me is that too much is luminated on a 45-D model. I understand the need of having the luminova on an inner bezel for diving purposes, however that does not help in clear readability of the time. The fact that the second hand is also luminated is an additional downside. 45-C is much more exact and easy to read in the darkness. As I don't dive - less is better.

Glass is of course sapphire with AR coating on both models.

Now, it's time to spend some words and time on a bracelet and straps. I have a lot of fun changing the bracelet and straps from one watch to another. As all have quick release lugs, fun goes on and on. 

First some words about the bracelet. The very important note is - the bracelet is heavy. Reduced to my wrist size (19,4 cm) just the bracelet itself weighs almost 120g, 45-D itself weighs 115g, 45-C 130g. So watch plus bracelet together 250g.!  What is in fact quite logical if I mention that the bracelet has a 24/22 lugs/buckle proportion. So all together a very masculine bracelet on a big watch. But that weight is not annoying at all. Both watches on a bracelet feel very natural on the wrist, I was pleasantly surprised.

The bracelet is again a combination of a polish and brushed parts therefore it fits naturally to 45-C polished and 45-D brushed case. As the designs of both cases are the same, end links nicely connect to both cases. No issues here. Yet there is a tiny detail which might complicate things. The problem is the case thickness difference. Due to that, 45-D requires a bit shorter bracelet than 45-C. So you have to set the bracelet size to 45-C and with that size on 45-D there will be some bracelet's dancing. The difference is not drastic but noticeable.

Links are 10mm long, there are two 3/4 sized links. With everything you can set the size quite accurately. But as there is a double side butterfly (signed) clasp, no micro regulation is possible. Pity as that would settle the thickness difference. 

Removing the links is not a problem. But links use the worst possible system where pin can be nocked out from both sides as pin is held by the clamp placed in the middle part of the link.

There are enough links for at least 23 cm wrists. Additional links can be required.

Now, the rubber straps. Two types exist, one is more an imitation of a leather strap,  the second one is a proper sport strap. Both have an imitation of stitches, where "leather" has stitches in different color than the base one is and sport one uses the same as the base color of the strap. The "leather" one is darker and fits better to the color of the dial. Both straps are excellent! I am a huge fan of rubber straps, those two are among my favorite ones! Congratulations.

Let's see how all this fits to  my 19,4 cm wrist. Be aware, L2L is 54mm! As you can see from the photos below, everything fits great to my wrist, but don't buy those watches if your wrist is smaller than 19cm. My wrist size is almost the minimum..

What surprised me is that the feeling of the watch is better with the bracelet than with the rubber strap. That comes from the person who's personal choice is always rubber strap! I don't claim rubber is a bad choice here, not at all, it's good. However, a bracelet is - I can't explain why - more natural. For both watches.

It is interesting that watches arrived in very different boxes. I don't know if the box for 45-C is specific just for this watch or all Swiss made watches use this better box. But box is again a clear sign which watch is higher valued. I can't claim that a 45-D box is bad, but it is in fact just a simple leather box. It serves its purpose.

At the end, I usually comment something about the price. With Panzera, this topic is not simple. First I must point out that Panzera claims their watches are cheaper compared to others in the market due to the simplified distribution channels (direct sale). Well, that is not true. Panzera watches are not cheap. Official price for a 45-C with the bracelet is 2.480 EUR without VAT (on a rubber strap 2.340 and on leather strap 2.370). You can not buy a watch without VAT, Panzera calculates and pays all VAT (which of course depends on your resident country). For the EU, the final price is therefore around 3.000 EUR (plus shipping costs in the 30 EUR range).  That is A LOT for a microbrand 7750 watch. Even more expensive, compared to the market, is the 45-D where the basic price is 740 EUR on a bracelet, 595 EUR on a rubber, 610 EUR on a leather strap. Again all prices are without VAT. So, my 45-D on a rubber with VAT costs over 700 EUR, with shipping almost 750 EUR. For a NH35 movement watch, this is VERY expensive. Far, far away from being cheap as the Panzera claims! The rubber strap itself in a separate order is 72 EUR (+VAT). That is the most normal price of all prices.

And, then we have a catch. Panzera offers a huge discount on your first order -40%. So, when you order your first watch, you can pay 40% less. Together with the VAT the 45-C on a bracelet goes to 1.800 EUR, a 45-D on 430 EUR. Only now prices go closer to normal prices, but still on a higher end of the microbrands prices for similar watches. For example, Swiss made Formex Element Chono, which is also a heavy 46mm chronograph costs around 1.500 EUR (with VAT).

I also don't quite understand why you can receive such a big discount just for your first purchase. Does Panzera believe that every first customer will be so satisfied with the first watch that he is going to buy the rest of the collection heavily overpriced? Or vice versa, that he will be so disappointed that he will never return?? To be fair every old customer receive an announcement when the new model is going to be released and a 40% discount in a preorder phase. But for any old models that is not the case. This approach also kills any ambition of other sellers to become Panzera dealers.

Well, as I mentioned, OCP is a Panzera dealer, therefore let's see what are the OCP prices. A 45-C on a bracelet costs 2.380 EUR with VAT included,  a 45-D costs 595 EUR with VAT included. So - OCP offers the same prices as the official Panzera shop BUT WITH tax included. Sometimes, on all those prices OCP offers also additional discounts (at the moment Valentine day's 10% discount). So, if you want to buy your first Panzera watch - go to the Panzera shop. If you want to buy any additional Panzera watch - go to OCP. Unless you are lucky and one or another shop gives some additional discount (in both shops that happens quite often so be prepared!). In this case you have to check what is better for you. What I wrote is true for EU customers, for non-EU countries, please recalculate your best option for yourselves.

And I also have to add one important thing. In the Panzera shop, you actually can choose between all variants. Type of the case (steel or black PVD if exists), color of the dial, type and color of the strap/bracelet. In OCP, you can just choose between the (huge) number of predefined combinations. So, if for example you would like to buy a 45-C with the white dial, you can only do that in the Panzera shop, as OCP does not offer this option. If you want 45-C on a blue strap instead on the bracelet, you can again do it only at Panzera, as OCP offers only 45-C on a bracelet. But probably Massimo from OCP would be able to order for you a watch that you want and is not on the OCP selling program.

You probably now understand why I ordered 45-C from Panzera and 45-D from OCP. I had to wait for the 45-C for more than two months, as the stock was limited and the watch sold out quickly. It was shipped directly from Switzerland and arrived to me in two days. 45-D was ordered from OCP, I got it in three days. Watch arrived with a technical defect, movement ran much too fast (93 seconds in one minute). We settled everything with Massimo from OCP very quickly, he (after the confirmation from Panzera) allowed me to give it to my local watchmaker to check the watch. We expected that demagnetization might be the reason, but in fact there was a small issue with the hairspring. Watch obviously received a severe bump during the transport, and as my watchmaker said, the new N35 movements are worse than they used to be and are much more delicate regarding the shock absorptions. But it was a two minutes repair free of charge (but repair would be covered by OCP if needed).

As a registered buyer of Panzera, just before the New year, I also accepted a preorder chance of a new Panzera Flieger 45, which will be released in May. The quality of both watches and a good preorder offer convinced me to order it. I will for sure share my impressions of the Flieger GMT here as well... As a teaser, here is the photo of my ordered combination.

You probably noticed, I haven't said anything about the movements. There is nothing to say, both movements are well known and they work within expected tolerances..

So, to conclude. Panzera watches are for sure well made, with some specific and interesting design solutions. The higher level of quality on Swiss made watches is obvious. As watches are big and hefty, the target market is narrower than a 40mm case would offer. But I like and respect the Panzera's way of thinking. As even the name Panzera itself reminds us (at least me) of Panzer German tanks, so something heavy, robust. 

Pity that Panzera selling and pricing policy is so non-transparent that one gets the feeling this is just another "Invicta" company where official prices and real prices are from two separate worlds. If you like big, well built watches, I can recommend this brand for sure. But be very careful at what time and for what price you will buy it. Official prices from Panzera official shop have nothing to do with reality. I am sure that out of 250.000 watches that were sold (what is stated on Panzera web site), very few were sold at the official price. Therefore it is also very difficult to comment on the p/q except that for the official price you can get better watches cheaper. And that with a bit of luck and some skills you can get a very good watch for a decent price.

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