Originally created as a diving watch for the Italian Navy in the 1930s, the Panerai Radiomir collection is defined by cushion-shaped cases with bold dials, and contains some of the most recognizable timepieces in the entire world. Shop our full selection of used Panerai watches today.
While it was originally designed during the 1930s as a military diving watch for the Royal Italian Navy, the Radiomir is now considered one of the dressier options in the Officine Panerai catalog when compared to the brand's other models. Characterized by large cushion-shaped cases, prominent winding crowns without crown-guards, and highly legible dials with oversized and highly luminous markers, the Panerai Radiomir is one of the most recognizable designs in the modern luxury watch industry.
Despite the long history of the Radiomir model, Panerai watches have only been available to the public since the mid-1990s. Since then, the popularity of the Radiomir has exploded and Panerai has made countless versions of the watch. Offered in steel, gold, titanium, or ceramic, and available as a simple two-handed version or packed with complications, the distinctive Radiomir silhouette remains faithful to the original Panerai watches that were born eight decades ago.
In 1916, Florentine-based Panerai filed for a patent for a radium-based luminous substance, which it called Radiomir. This luminescent paint was to be used on the high-precision instruments made by Panerai for the Italian Navy (Regia Marina).
In the mid-1930s, the Royal Italian Navy put out a call for diving watches for the frogman commandoes of the First Submarine Group Command; and in 1936, Panerai presented its prototypes. The 10 prototype watches featured large 47mm cushion-shaped steel cases with welded wire lugs, big flared winding crowns, highly luminescent dials with oversized markers, water-resistant leather straps, and hand-wound mechanical movements. It was Rolex that supplied the waterproof cases and Cortéber that made the pocket watch movements that powered them. These prototype Panerai watches established the design codes of what would later be known as the Radiomir watch.
Two years later, in 1938, Panerai began production of the diving watches for the Regia Marina, adding some updates to the original prototypes. Most notably, Panerai built the dials using two overlapping plates where the top plate includes marker cutouts so that the luminescence painted on the bottom plate can shine through. This style is now referred to as a "sandwich dial." Additionally, Panerai developed a particular dial design to include four large Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9, and 12, accompanied by stick indexes at the remaining hours. This highly-legible style would go on to become a signature look for subsequent Panerai watches.
In 1940, Panerai revamped the watch cases to improve durability. Rather than welded wire lugs, the case and lugs were fashioned from a single block of steel, resulting in thicker and significantly stronger lugs. Furthermore, instead of a flared winding crown, Panerai opted for a tubular-shaped one, which serves as inspiration for today's Radiomir 1940 models.
In 1949, Panerai applied for a patent for another type of self-luminous material called Luminor, which was based on tritium rather than the significantly more toxic radium. By the 1950s, Panerai redesigned its watches yet again, this time adding a bridge over the winding crown that pushes the crown into the case to create a hermetic seal when locked. This design replaced the watches Panerai made for the Italian Navy and would later become known as the Luminor watch.
Panerai continued to be a private supplier to the Italian Navy over the following decades. In 1993, Panerai finally unveiled its first collection for sale to the public and four years later, the Vendome Group (now known as Richemont) purchased the company. Vendome's strategy for Panerai products relied heavily on the brand's archives of military watch designs - the new modern Radiomir watch was born in 1997 with a design faithfully based on the military prototypes from 1936. In 2012, Panerai unveiled the Radiomir 1940 models, which take design inspiration from the revamped Panerai watches from the 1940s.
Today, the Radiomir remains as one of Panerai's core collections, with watches available in a range of materials, sizes, and complications.
The latest versions of the Radiomir have a starting retail price point of $4,200 for the stainless steel "base" (no seconds hand) model. However, the bulk of the current Radiomir collection is priced between $7,000 to $11,000. As expected, manual-winding models are generally less expensive than the automatic Radiomir watches and the non-steel version (such as ceramic or red gold) command the highest prices. In addition to the time-only versions, Panerai also manufactures GMT and GMT plus power reserve editions, which typically start above $11,500 at retail.
|Model||Reference||Case Size & Materials||Movement Type||Retail Price (MSRP)|
|Radiomir Base Logo||PAM00753||45mm; Stainless Steel||Manual-Wind||$4,200|
|Radiomir Black Seal 8 Days||PAM00609||45mm; Stainless Steel||Manual-Wind||$6,000|
|Radiomir 1940||PAM00514||47mm; Stainless Steel||Manual-Wind||$7,700|
|Radiomir California||PAM00424||47mm; Stainless Steel||Manual-Wind||$8,000|
|Radiomir 1940 GMT Power Reserve||PAM00628||45mm; Stainless Steel||Automatic||$11,900|
|Radiomir 1940||PAM00619||45mm; Titanium||Automatic||$10,700|
|Radiomir 1940||PAM00997||48mm; Black Ceramic||Manual-Wind||$13,300|
|Radiomir 1940||PAM00575||42mm; Goldtech (Red Gold)||Manual-Wind||$18,100|
|Radiomir 1940||PAM00515||47mm; Goldtech (Red Gold)||Manual-Wind||$21,500|
There are a few different types of dial construction options within the Radiomir lineup. These are commonly referred to as sandwich, sausage, and printed dials.
The sandwich-style dial uses a layering technique where the lower plate has recessed indexes filled with luminescence, while the top plate has cutouts to permit the glowing material to shine through. The resulting effect is that all the dial markings have a stencil-like effect with sunken lume.
Conversely, the sausage style dials have the numerals, text, and indexes painted on, which results in markings that protrude slightly above the surface of the dial, creating a 3-D effect. Sausage style dials are sometimes also called painted Panerai dials.
Finally, as its name implies, printed dials are those with markings printed onto the dial, resulting in a flat surface with neither recessed nor raised details.
Most time-only Radiomir watches include oversized hour and minute hands along with a seconds indicator at 9 o'clock. But those referred to as Radiomir Base models only have the pair of hands at the center and no running seconds. The vast majority of Radiomir dials are black. However, Panerai has recently released some colorful variants such as the "Mediterraneo" versions with vibrant blue dials and the military green dial editions.
Some of the most famous Radiomir dial designs are those called the California dial, characterized by a mix of Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, and geometric shapes. Rolex patented this particular style of dial (referred to as an "error-proof dial" in advertisements of the era) during the 1940s, and supplied them to Panerai during the same decade. Panerai has released several Radiomir California dial models over the years.
Radiomir watches can be found with either manual-winding or automatic movements inside. In recent years, Officine Panerai has moved away from modifying base movements to focus on making in-house movements at the Panerai Manufacture in Neuchâtel, Switzerland (inaugurated in 2014)
For instance, in 2018, Panerai introduced new versions of its two-handed Radiomir Logo models, now equipped with the in-house, hand-wound Caliber P.6000 with a three-day power reserve. The newest manual-winding Radiomir watches that have a seconds sub-dial at the 9 o'clock location are fitted with the in-house Caliber P.3000 movement. Automatic Radiomir watches run on the in-house Caliber P.4000 with a decentralized oscillating weight to keep the movement on the thinner side.
Given that Panarai generally adheres rather closely to their classic military-inspired design DNA, the Radiomir collection frequently gets compared against the various other watches that make up Panerai's contemporary catalog. The Radiomir represents the very first watch design that Panerai put forward; however it has evolved since it first made an appearance in the 1930s, and now exists with a wide range of variations.
Both inspired by vintage military dive watches and both part of the current Panerai collection, there are a few notable differences between the classic Radiomir and Radiomir 1940 models. The main case sizes for both models are 42mm, 45mm, and 47mm, although other sizes are available.
The classic version has thin wire lugs, while the Radiomir 1940 has thicker angular ones. Furthermore, the Radiomir has a conical winding crown while the Radiomir 1940 has a cylindrical "onion-shaped" one. The edges of the cushion-shaped case of the Radiomir 1940 are broader than those of the classic Radiomir, and along with a thicker case profile, its bezel is also flatter and wider.Overall, the 1940 editions have a chunkier style than the classic Radiomir.
The Radiomir and the Luminor are Panerai's two main watch models, both named after the brand's patented self-luminous paint, and both fashioned after watches made for Navy divers in the mid-20th Century.
The main difference between the Radiomir and the Luminor is that the former has its winding crown left unguarded while the latter includes a large C-shaped bridge over its crown. Trademarked as a "device protecting the crown," the lever-operated mechanism of the Luminor allows the wearer to use the winding crown when unlocked and pushes the crown tightly back into the case when locked.
It's also worth noting that Panerai offers the Radiomir with leather, textile, or rubber straps but not with the option of a metal bracelet. Only Luminor models can be fitted with metal bracelets. In general, Radiomir models are considered dressier and vintage-inspired while the Luminor models are deemed sportier and more modern.
If there's one celebrity who is most associated with Panerai watches, it's Sylvester Stallone. He spotted the Panerai Luminor in a store whilst filming on location in Italy in the 1990s. The action star was drawn to the watches' oversized case and masculine style, and not only ended up buying himself a Panerai but also commissioned special "Slytech" Luminor models and brought back a few pieces for his equally famous friends back home (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger). Panerai Luminor watches began appearing in Sly and Arnie movies, which is rumored to have enticed the Vendome Group to purchase the Panerai brand in 1997.
Panerai watches, including Radiomir models, are still popular with the celebrity-set. We've spotted movie stars like Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, and Sean Connery with Radiomir watches on their wrists. Comedian Conan O'Brien also wears a Radiomir, as do actors Dylan McDermott and Stana Katic, along with musicians Usher and John Mayer. Additionally supermodel and television personality Heidi Klum is often seen sporting Radiomir in red gold.