Ciao Bella: Kevin's Mare Nostrum
When I wrap-up an interview with a collector, I almost always find myself wanting the watch we just talked about - or at least something from the brand. The timepieces are fantastic enough in their own right to get my attention - Patek Philippe Nautilus, DOXA SUB 300T - but it’s the collector's enthusiasm for their watch that’s truly infectious. This is part of the reason why I can never make up my mind on what to buy next...Last week I was sold on an IWC Pilot’s Watch Chrono. Then this week I hung out with Kevin O’Dell - a true Paneristi in every sense of the word...so now I need a Panerai...
Kevin - @theydid on Instagram - didn’t tempt me with just any Panerai. He hit me with a heat-seeking missile of a Panerai. One that flies under the radar outside Panerai circles. How many of you are familiar with Panerai's 42mm Mare Nostrum chronograph? Designed for deck officers, it deviates from the classic Luminor and Radiomir case shapes that - for most - define the look of a Panerai.
A part of Kevin's personality resonates with the outlier status of the Mare because he was a bit of an outcast himself as a youth. In his younger days, Kevin was a thrasher - wreaking havoc on public spaces skateboarding with his crew: Ollying off curbs and carving-up sidewalks leaving bystanders cursing him under their breath and keeping a safe distance from him. Perhaps that's part of the reason why Kevin became a self-professed "Mare guy." He's totally comfortable going against the grain.
Kevin’s Mare is a ref. 5218-301/A. In Panerai-talk that dates it to a very-special era in Panerai history known as the Pre-Vendome period: Between 1993 and 1996 when Panerai was an independent company - a mere ripple in the ocean of watches.
In the way he was labeled a “punk” for being a skateboarder, Kevin considered someone a “show off” for wearing an expensive, brand name watch like Rolex. Not until he worked at a pawn shop and got his hands on watches did he come to realize watchmaking was an “art” and it was their craftsmanship and durability that people desired as muchas the name printed on the dial.
As often as watches and other jewelry came to the counter at the pawn shop, so did other miscellania people were hoping to get a few bucks for. One day a crate of DVDs were exchanged for pennies on the dollar. Sifting through the titles, Kevin noticed “Elizabethtown” - a romantic comedy his high school sweetheart - at the time, fiancée - had been bugging him to see with her.
He surprised her that evening by walking through the front door with the DVD in hand and then grudgingly cozying up on the couch with her to watch it. The film starred Orlando Bloom, but more importantly, it co-starred a PAM127 1950 “FIDDY” Special Edition. Kevin didn’t know what those details meant at the time, but he did know he liked the watch’s “cool” look. The next day he brought the DVD case to work and asked the shop's owner what brand of watch Orlando Bloom was wearing...
The owner let him know of a local Panerai authorized dealer. If you’re a watch lover, then you already know how this story ends...He poured over the brochure the salesperson gave him, then discovered the forums - Paneristi.com becoming his go-to resource. Kevin posted incessantly and was soon adopted by the Panerai community as a full-fledged “Risti."
Kevin came into his own as a Panerai collector the more he bought and sold. He acquired an original 44mm Luminor Logo ref. 5218-201/A - regarded among Ristis as THE Panerai to have. Owning the 201/A led him to wanting a Mare Nostrum to compliment it: The two being iconic models that breathed new life into the brand back in 1993. Plus, the Mare’s dial was navy blue - one of Kevin’s favorite colors.
Only 492 examples of the Mare 301/A were produced, and most - if not all - are cemented as the cornerstone of private collections. Kevin was considering purging some of his Panerai to raise funds for a Pre-V Mare, even though he wasn’t holding his breath that one would come up for sale anytime soon. His searches on Paneristi.com's collector's market section never turned up a Mare, but he did come across a WTB message for a Radiomir he owned.
As the deal was being consummated, Kevin learned the buyer actually owned a Mare 301/A, but was on-the-fence about selling it...But that didn’t stop him from doing his due-diligence - just in case - the seller had a change of heart. Kevin is a stickler for full-sets and provenance when it comes to Panerai. Because the Panerai community is a pretty-tight knit group, he was able to determine the chain of custody for that Mare. His confidence in the watch’s genuineness and the fact it was once owned by a Risti “legend” (at least in his eyes) made him want the watch even more. All he could do was sit on the sideline and be patient...
Good things come to those who wait. For Kevin, he endured almost a year-long wait before getting the good news: The seller remembered Kevin’s interest and since they’d done business in the past, he generously offered to send the Mare to Kevin for inspection - before any money changed hands!
Kevin finds so much beauty in his Mare Nostrum. The painted hash ring on the dial’s center, it's rare mahogany box with accompanying brass screwdriver, the wide, flat, bezel. Its unique, prototype-like design and nostalgic value endear him to it the more he wears it. Looking at his Mare, he's reminded of the good ol' days of Panerai, when it was a "best kept secret" of the watch world.
Kevin takes pride in the fact that his Mare is still relatively obscure despite how mainstream Panerai has become. He loves owning a watch that’s underestimated, even - unknown - by many. A close friend refers to him as being “so counter culture.” Going back to his skateboarding days, he was never one to embrace conformity completely. So it makes perfect sense that his favorite watch also breaks from the norm.