Panerai Radiomir is the legendary diver’s watch that since 1938 has been the number one choice for both the Italian Navy and civilians who need a reliable and durable time keeping device for extreme diving. It is not just another luxury watch, but an intricate instrument that has challenged and conquered even the deepest parts of the ocean.
The impressive history of the Officine Panerai Radiomir begins in 1935 when the company extended its collaboration with the Italian Navy by especially designing and producing precision pocket stopwatches for its frogmen. The following year, the Italian Navy also requested an exclusive prototype for the first diving watch. This very durable and functional device was constructed as to resist even to the harshest possible conditions. Due to the huge success and utility of this model, in 1938 it begun to be manufactured in series. The “Panerai Radiomir” is the perfected version of the first diving watch produced by Panerai.
Even though the Panerai Radiomir was a very high quality and complicated device used intensively by the Italian Navy and adored by watch collectors as well, it didn’t come with an in-house movement. Instead, the Radiomir was equipped with a Rolex automatic movement. The reason why it is called Radiomir is represented by the luminescent material used for its hour markers and hands. Radiomir is a substance obtained by mixing zinc sulphide with radium bromide. This combination is then inserted into very tiny tubes that are applied on the dial of the watch. The result is a very visible glow that makes the watch easy to read under water and in low light conditions. At first, it was worn exclusively by the Italian frogmen force “Gamma” and it is considered as a highly important military secret. For this purpose, Officine Panerai has manufactured only 350 pieces.
Surprisingly enough, in 1956 even the Egyptian Navy asks Officine Panerai to manufacture for its men a version of the Radiomir with an oversized 60 mm case that also had a very interesting addition- a rotating diver’s bezel. The model has been manufactured only in a couple dozen pieces. To offer a strong identity to this special design, the brand named it Panerai Radiomir Egiziano. It represents a rebirth of the first Radiomir, but now with an in-house automatic movement.
In a continuous search for improvement and innovation, in 1980 Panerai created a prototype diving watch that featured a titanium case able to withstand pressure associated with under water depths of 1,000 m. The peak of the line was in 1993 when the company launched the limited edition models Mare Nostrum and Luminor Marina. These watches were meant for the public sale market and their popularity sky-rocketed when Sylvester Stallone requested to the company that they design a special version named “Slytech”- “Sly” was the actor’s nickname. On the caseback of the Panerai Slytech there is the engraving with the star’s autograph.
By constructing this diving watch, Panerai has put his mark on watch history. In 1993, the company decided to re-launch this legendary watch by targeting regular watches enthusiasts. The Panerai Radiomir has been manufactured in a total number of 1,000 pieces. At that moment, they were considered exotic devices, an extravagant alternative to modern luxury timepieces. Its rapid success has changed everyone opinion and classified the Radiomir as one of the most sought after models on the market.