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Parnis Marina Militare: The Border Between Homage & Fake

parnis marina militare

A homage, by virtue of its very nature, always has to balance how much they copy from their inspiration and how much of their own DNA they want to put into their product. It is difficult to generalize homages because the term covers such a wide array of watches.

On one side, you have a reputable brand like Steinhart who mix and match different elements of their inspiration and put their own touches on it. On the other, you have the likes of Invicta who merely copy not out of passion, but rather because they try to siphon off some money from the watch market leaning on current trends.

What happens though if you decided to take a few more steps beyond Invicta? Then, dear reader, you will end up right on the border of fake watches where you will find Parnis having set up their camp.

Here’s the tl;dr:

If you ever thought you wanted a Parnis Marina Militare, I wholeheartedly recommend against it. Take a look at a more reputable brand in the budget range such as the Seiko 5 range, or if you enjoy bulkier watches, maybe even the G-Shock ranges.

Parnis, a Chinese watchmaker

What exactly is Parnis though? Unlike most other brands Parnis seems to not be a singular company but instead a collective of chinese watchmakers. While a man named Xiao Jian Hong owns the trademark for Parnis it still is more of a general term for a class of watches made in Guangzhou, China.

There are several factories there who all use the freely available parts of varying quality to assemble watches that will eventually get sold under that name. That puts us in a unique position because there are big differences in the finishing and quality control of the products not due to bad oversight but rather different factories. 

This is just a theory that I have found to be the most plausible one from my research. What seems to confirm my findings is that Parnis has no official website, and any site posing to do so is lying. Therefore, unless you want to make a bulk purchase directly from China, you will always have to rely on a middleman and your mileage can vary accordingly. Ironic, since most homage brands like to blame the middleman for the high prices of the brands that they want to imitate.

What to expect from Parnis? Not much

What kind of watches can you expect to buy from Parnis? Frankly, anything that is even vaguely popular will get copied by them in the manner that requires the least possible effort. Their watches lack any kind of originality making me question whether the word homage really is the correct one to describe it. Knock-off seems so much more fitting. The laziness goes so far that instead of changing brand names they simply leave them blank. Then again this may be them being self-aware enough to know that nobody will buy their watches because they are Parnis, but rather in spite of it.

The Marina Militare (as it was formerly known)

The watch that we will focus on today is their Panerai copy that used to be named “Marina Militare”. I say used to because this watch was such a shameless rip-off that they got successfully sued by the Richemont group, who own Panerai, and now can no longer use that name since it is a trademarked term. Having trademarked their own name I am sure that they knew of this before making the watch, but figured it was worth it anyway. Now in finding this out I read a lot of comments saying that it is silly that Panerai was allowed to own the rights to that name. To those I would like to suggest taking a step back and reconsider. If you think that this watch is anything but a copy you are fooling yourself.

Marina Militare vs Panerai

What about the actual watch though? Well, if you have ever seen a Panerai think of that but with ever so slightly worse finishing. I say slightly worse finishing because proportionally to the money spent it does a good job at copying the Panerai. The watch features all the elements that you expect from the Italian watchmaker. It has the Sandwich dial which looks great. It has the bold dimensions of the luminor case which since first seen on Sylvester Stallone’s wrist have become recognizable all over the world. And it also has the legendary crown protector with the lever system which provides wonderfully reassuring feedback for the wearer.

The movement: Seagull 2555

Img Credit: Walter B Shillington

The biggest difference can be found in the movement. The Parnis houses the Seagull 2555 which is made in China and can be found on an increasing number of watches and is a good budget alternative to ETA movements. I mention how widespread it is because increasing availability of these movements will result in more watchmakers knowing how to service them. I have personally owned watches in the past that were driven by Seagull movements and never had any issues with them. They aren’t pretty, and I have read reports on them not being particularly accurate due to lacking quality control for example with the oiling of the different moving parts. Reminding myself, however, of the price that a Parnis can be bought for I would say that these movements offer good value for the money.

Can you even tell the difference?

There is an elephant in the room that I have so far avoided to talk about. Why is a Parnis, for the price that it costs, so eerily close in how it feels compared to a real Panerai. This becomes noticeable when you take a look, for example, at the Invicta and the Submariner which have a similar price difference. While those two watches are miles apart, the gap between a Parnis and a Panerai is much closer than I feel comfortable admitting.

Panerai have been lazy in anti-faking decisions

One part of that equation is homage brands finding it easier to copy designs with the aid of modern technology. The other, and arguably worse, part is that Panerai makes it very easy for them to do so. First of all Panerai have simple designs. Now I understand that that is a key part of their brand identity which would be hard to change. Less understandable is that they do not have any major anti-faking design decisions such as intricate details which are hard to replicate akin to the lease-engraved crown you can find on any Rolex. This carries on to their movements which are simple, lazy, and barely decorated. When you set the bar this low it is no surprise that a homage has an easy time jumping over it.

Any Parnis, but particularly their Panerage copies, are the result of what happens when you have a homage brand in a country that is notoriously lenient on inspirational copies. Having looked at a lot of homage brands recently I have learned that there are levels to this, and also that there is something even lower than Invicta. It is Parnis that has to be the lowest of all watchmakers I know.

Parnis offer good value for money, but that’s not the point

The actual watches, like most others in their segment, are good value for the cheap prices you pay. Focusing on that though, and telling people that they shall wear what makes them feel good, is missing the point. The narrative that people focus on is that brands like Parnis are the Robin Hood of the watch industry taking designs from expensive brands and making them affordable. 

The truth is that Parnis does not care about you, about the original manufactures, or about the watch community. Nobody needs a mechanical watch nowadays and this is not a case of making a tool affordable for the public. This is day-light robbery. I do not know if you ever had the experience of something being stolen from you, but if you do then ask yourself whether you would want to buy from a thief. If so go right ahead and buy yourself a Parnis and hope you will not get scammed or your package seized by authorities for them rightfully thinking that you bought a fake.