The Radiomir was born out of a request from the Italian Royal Navy, aka the Marina Militare, during the start of WWII. The Italian Frogman Commandos needed a watch that was both water resistant and legible in underwater conditions. The Radiomir was Panerai’s answer to this request, with the earliest prototypes being produced in 1936. Panerai addressed the legibility problem with an invention they created many years earlier. In 1916, they filed a patent for a luminous radium-based powder called, wait for it, Radiomir. This powder was used to make the dials of sighting instruments and other underwater tools more legible and later found a perfect home on the dials of the Radiomir watches. It goes without saying that this powder is, of course, also where the model’s name originates. The numerals themselves were also designed to increase legibility. The classic Radiomirs have large Arabic numbers at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock with stick markers everywhere else which makes it easier to distinguish the time in the less-than-ideal underwater conditions the Commandos were faced with. Lastly, Panerai instituted a “sandwich dial” which is comprised of two disks – the top disk with cut out numbers that sits atop a fully lumed disk. The illumination shines through the cutouts, and the depth of the top cutout aids in legibility. This was the beginning of Panerai’s long relationship with the Italian Navy.
The Radiomir stands out among all other dive watches on the market with its unique styling, which strays far away from the prevalent Submariner-style formula of the mainstream “dive watch.” The Radiomir has a distinctive Italian design that is strikingly similar to the originals, and these models are a great way to add a dive watch to your collection even if dive watches aren’t typically your thing. It is also worth noting that the Radiomirs tend to wear a bit more formally than most other sports watches, especially on an alligator strap. There will be opposing opinions about wearing a regular dive watch with a suit, but few will dispute a Radiomir with a matching pair of wingtip shoes.
Going pre-owned is the best way to add a Radiomir to your collection. Considering the secondary market prices, it is certainly the most cost-effective way to do so. There is also a vast array of options to choose from when it comes to the slight variation of Radiomir models, from small seconds, to a sapphire caseback, to certain dial text variations. The devil is in the subtle details with Panerai, and if you are in the market for a Radiomir, Watchbox’s global inventory is the best place to start your search!
It just doesn’t get any more “classic Panerai” than the Radiomir. Its cushion case. The simple dial. Those wire lugs. Even the most modern models have an inescapable vintage soul, largely due to the fact that the overall design has not changed in over 80 years. The Radiomir is Panerai’s first take on a dive watch, and though it was originally designed to be a useful tool, the Radiomir has developed into a dressy, everyday watch looks just as good on a rubber bracelet as it does on a handsome alligator strap.