Revisiting a piece of Italian naval history

Nature can be cruel. I was born in Lancashire where the local dialect lacks the seductive timbre of an Italian accent.

I could try to affect the ristretto flavoured vernacular of a Milanese resident but I would still lack the stylish coiffed locks, sun-kissed complexion and catwalk- worthy attire.

To be Italian is to be bestowed with an intrinsic appeal, few females can resist.

Panerai PAM00515

Panerai watches are blessed with the same aesthetic appeal as the alpha-males who populate the land of opera, fast cars and Barolo. They have passion, romance, style and culture running through their veins.

Panerai have sought their own approach to watch design. They have not emulated other brands work, but remained true to their maritime history. A brand which originally supplied marine instruments to the Royal Italian Navy, their models are enriched with historical references to earlier designs.

Initially the Radiomir, with California dial, was presented to the Royal Italian Navy in 1936 with an unusual strap attachment employing welded wire loops. The model was created for specialist underwater forces. Later in the 1940s, the case was enhanced with stronger lugs, more conventional in appearance, typical of many present-day watches.

Panerai have revisited their back-catalogue of horological gems and recently revealed a new Radiomir at SIHH 2013.

 The Dial

The molasses-brown hue provides a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous black dials which dominate many jewellery shop windows. It is rich and indulgent and harmoniously blends with the red gold case.

A sandwich dial, faithful to the 1940s original, provides depth and enhances its visual appeal.

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Panerai PAM00515

A date is located at 3 o’clock, and opposite at 9 o’clock, the subsidiary seconds confers balance.

Simple strokes succinctly impart the hours, save for 6 o’clock and noon where Arabic numerals are presented in a modern font.

The Radiomir name is taken from the luminous mixture originally used on the early Panerai models. The hour markings and numerals on this modern-day model are luminous, enhancing legibility in fading light. Indeed, the dials have always been a key aspect which has induced cravings in any budding Panerai collector. They are clean, convey time with brevity and eloquence in equal measure. They are a model of clarity.

The Case

A departure from the military issue watches of the 1940s, is the polished 18-carat red gold case. It indulges the wearer with a sense of luxury.

The watch has a water resistance of 50 metres, hence will not prove suitable for professional diving use. I find it difficult to subject any luxury timepiece to the hostilities of sea water. I would always favour a semi-disposable electronic instrument if subaquatic adventure beckons.

Panerai PAM00515

The asymmetrically tapering crown of the original 1936 model was later replaced with a standard truncated cylindrical crown typical of today’s timepieces.

I prefer the appearance of the original crown and the welded wire loops of the 1936 model. However, this should not worry Panerai. Like many collectors who have bought Panerai watches, I would still be tempted to part with further promissory notes for this model. We Panerai fans are a funny bunch. We recite reference numbers with alacrity and seek models with minimal differences to the models we have previously purchased.

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Panerai PAM00515 Caliber P3000

A sapphire caseback may be a further variation from traditional diver’s watches but I applaud Panerai for indulging the wearer with a view of the mechanical movement within.

The Movement

The styling may be Italian inspired, but the engineering within the case is very much Swiss. The manual winding P.3000 manufacture movement is created at Panerai’s atelier in Neucha?tel.

If you examine the movement under a loupe, you will see it is a well finished and has brushed bridges with chamfered edges. I would prefer to have seen Co?tes de Gene?ve motif on the bridges but this is only a small criticism.

Panerai Caliber P.3000

The mainplate is pleasingly finished with perlage. Moreover, the screwed balance will delight purists as will the rubies punctuating the bridges.

Twin barrels hoard energy affording the watch a three day power reserve as the name of the timepiece attests.

A particularly useful feature, for those intrepid explorers who choose to traverse different time zones, is the facility to advance the hour hand, forwards or backwards in one-hour steps. This facility is independent of the minute hand and does not prevent the watch running whilst adjustment takes place.

Conclusion

Panerai were conceived for Italian naval commandos. The models are intrinsically masculine and several of the Radiomir pieces pay due reverence to the 1936 original. The 1940s model enhanced the robustness of the original and it is this variant which provides the historical reference for this new timepiece.

This model is handsome and stylish.

Is it the most beautiful Radiomir? Sadly, in my opinion, no. That honour belongs to a model launched last year at SIHH, the Radiomir California 3 Days 47mm (PAM 424). It is blessed with the iconic California dial, wire loop strap attachments and the traditional asymmetrical crown.

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Technical Specification Panerai PAM00515

  • Model: Panerai Radiomir California 3 Days
  • Reference: PAM00515
  • Case: 18-carat red gold; diameter 47.00 mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and rear.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds; date.
  • Movement: Panerai P.3000 calibre, manual-wind; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 21 jewels; power reserve 3 days; 162 parts.
  • Strap: Brown leather strap with 18-carat red gold case.

More information about the Panerai PAM00515 can be found here.