Tuesday, 5 November 2013

More then Just Straps - Mario Paci SMZ PVD

I was deciding if I should title this review as " The one that nearly got away".  And truth be told, this one almost slip my clutches. And I would have been kicking myself for eternity. Here's the story of the hunt that almost never was. I was in Florence for 5 days recently. The authorized dealer for Mario Paci watches is located right smack across from the hotel I was staying. However, it was towards the end of my trip before I noticed the shop. And it was their last day of business for that week. By the time they reopen for business the following week, I'd have been drinking myself silly in Tuscan wine country. There were only two pieces (different models) available at that moment, I picked one with the help of my wife, and it replaced the glycine I had brought along for the rest of the trip.

For the uninitiated, here's a little story about the brand and the watch. Mario Paci, as most should be aware,  is more well known for his straps than for watches. He's one of the more prominent after market makers of Panerai straps. His straps are also standard issue on Ennebi timepieces. I had the privilege of speaking with Alessandro Bettarini of Ennebi a week later and he informed me that Mario Paci, the AD in Florence where I bought this watch and Alessandro himself, were previously colleagues in Panerai until Richemont decided to uproot and relocate this Florentine icon to Neuchatel. Thus, it is no surprise that the Mario Paci SMZ, which stands for sommozatore (Italian for Scuba Diver), are made by Ennebi. This is not a very common watch. I've not seen any dangling on anyone's wrist here in my corner of the globe. That's why, despite the hefty price tag, I knew I had to have it.

The Mario Paci SMZ range comes in three ranges - Stainless Steel, PVD and Bonze. As fate would have it, the bronzo and I are not destined to share our lives together. Alessandro told me that he delivered a piece to the AD a day after I left Florence. So there...

Alright, before I bore you further, let's cast our gaze on this black stud.

Aesthetically, there are prominent traces of Panerai Luminor. For starters, the crown guard seems to share the same DNA , except for the locking mechanism. This, unfortunately, is also the item that garners the most negative feedback but lets talk more about that later. The 46mm PVD case is not exactly very dark. It's kind of like a shade between gun metal grey and flat, matte black. The dial boasts a mix of stick and Arabic (12, 4, 8) markers. However, I reckon they should have a better, thicker PVD coat as there are some minor scratches on mine due to some carelessness on my part. Everything is well spaced out and easily legible at a quick glance. This uncluttered layout won some precious brownie points from me. The seconds sub-dial at 9 o'clock is a dead giveaway about the engine deployed under the hood. Yes, no prices for guessing. It's a UNITAS 6497.

From the side, the Panerai Luminor DNA is starkly prominent. It is actually more reminiscent of the Luminor case than any Ennebi I own or can think of.  Look at your own Luminor from the side and the front and you're catch my drift. The crown lock knob is Etched with the model name "SMZ" but is not PVD-ed on the outside. It is roughly finished in a nicely utilitarian manner. The lugs are angled sharply with the lug screws positioned close to the outer ends of the lugs. This should wrap around smaller wrists comfortably.

The crown guard is released by turning the knob clockwise. It leaves a gap just enough to pull the crown out for time setting. However, I always feel a vibration when setting the time, I suspect that it is due to a slight contact between the crown and the crown guard on the bottom end.

To lock the crown guard in place, one needs to turn it anti-clockwise. Yup this takes a bit of getting used to.

The crown, well, crown guard and crown lock mechanism, as I mentioned earlier, garners the most negative feedback. Most find it cumbersome looking and makes an otherwise, relatively handsome watch look off-balance. Honestly, I much prefer this than Graham's overwhelmingly busy and unnecessary locking mechanism on their Chronofighter. That said, I would not mind if the locking mechanism is slightly less chunky and is tapered like the head of a round head nail. Or like the pancetta crown found on some Ennebies.

The case back is one of the nicer finished ones among my collection of watches. Etched clearly in an otherwise bare centre are serial and reference numbers as well as Mario Paci's signature.

The lume is no slouch. Coming from folks involved with Panerai's previous projects, I would not expect anything less, actually. However, I was expecting a more avant-garde colour instead of this vintage looking green hue. 

On the wrist, It fits like a a glove. The crown lock does get in the way at times, though. I reckon a left-hand crown (destro) might have been a better offering. Or a pancetta crown.

Apart from the large and unbalanced looking crown locking mechanism, I reckon this is a rather handsome watch. In fact, the unbalanced, asymmetrical look draws me to it. The large locking mechanism actually adds a macho feel to the overall aesthetics. Furthermore, its rarity and uncommon sightings makes it an even more precious catch for me. But that's just me. And no, these are not words of self-consolation.  

Case Size : 46mm
Lug Size : 24mm.
Case Material : Stainless Steel with PVD coating.
Movement : UNITAS 6497
Water Resistance : 1000m.
Power Reserve : +/- 46 hours.

- Uncommon and rare.
- Handsome/ Macho looking.
- Uncluttered dial and simple layout.
- Unpretentious (except for the crown locking mechanism).
- Good heft.
- Nice thickness not too thin, not too chunky.
- Fits small wrists (like mine) like a glove.
- Reliability (made by Ennebi).

- High price tag.
- Insufficient clearance between crown guard and crown.
- Relatively thin PVD coating.

- A slightly too big crown locking device.


  1. Nice interesting find! thanks for sharing this!

    kel12 (SGROC)

  2. What a very cool, rare watch!