Officine Panerai’s Bold Design Attracts Showbiz and Seafarers Alike
Officine Panerai’s beginnings trace back to the 1930s, when it supplied the Italian Navy with equipment. In addition to watches, the Florence, Italy-based company created depth gauges, underwater compasses, and flashlights. Fast forward to 1995, Panerai’s popularity surged after bought a Panerai in Rome and wore it in the movie Daylight. He later ordered a handful of watches with his signature engraved on the back, dubbed Slytech to gift to his friends. One of these friends was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also became an avid collector of the brand.
Radiomir’s naval history
The first now-legendary timepiece Panerai devised for the First Submarine Group Command of the Royal Italian Navy was a diving watch created in 1936 called the Radiomir. Its proportions and time display were well-suited for underwater maneuvers. With its cushion-shaped case measuring a full 47 millimeters in width, the watch featured luminescent numerals and hands that could be seen in the dark depths of the sea. It was outfitted with a strap that was long enough for the wearer to strap it on over his wetsuit, a very practical consideration. These early timepieces achieved their luminescence from radium, which is radioactive, and now banned from the industry. Only ten of the original Radiomirs were made, but Panerai has made up for it since then with a full collection including complicated timepieces. (And no radium!)
The distinctive Radiomir shape
The Radiomir collection today remains faithful to the original design. The focal point of the design is a large crown, which permits the wearer to adjust the time and wind the watch with gloves on. The lines of the case are a cushion shape surrounding a circular dial.
There are two subtle yet distinct case designs, one simply dubbed Radiomir, and the other called Radiomir 1940. The Radiomir watches feature slim wire lugs that harken back to the early timepieces, when the lugs were made of a separate piece of metal that was soldered onto the watch case. The effect is a retro style look, coveted by some collectors. The Radiomir 1940 collection watch feature lugs that are part of the case itself, constructed with one piece of metal, creating a substantial anchor for the strap and a more modern, sleek look.
With cases constructed of ceramic and titanium as well as steel and a new gold watch, the Radiomir collection also houses some of Panerai’s finest mechanical movements. Displays now ranging from a small seconds hand, to power reserve indicators and a GMT function, offer an array of choices for the collector. The unique stacked dials still pack plenty of luminescent punch due to their layered construction with a solid luminescent disc (these days made of non-radioactive material) that is layered or “sandwiched” under the dial. The result is a watch collection with a strong masculine vibe –we think Rocky would approve!