Panerai “Case Study”

Guide to the various Panerai case styles/materials

Radiomir

Name:

The Radiomir takes its name from “Radium”, the radioactive material originally used to make the dial readable at night.

History:

In 1938, the Italian Navy (also referred to as ‘Marina Militare’), commissioned Panerai to create a watch that would be waterproof while maintaining excellent readability – thus making the Radiomir, a 47mm watch with large hands and Arabic numerals. It is important to note that Rolex manufactured these watches for the Italian Navy up until 1956.

Style:

This case style has an unprotected crown and features a cushion-style case. Pay close attention to how the straps are mounted on Radiomirs; the lugs are based on early watches which were modified by attaching wire to either ends of a pocket watch – thus converting them to wristwatches. This detail looks nice and has some serious historical implications. The case style is generally considered to have a “dressy” look due to its slimmer nature (compared to the Luminor) and is loved for its historic role as the first professional diving watch and predecessor to the Luminor.

Luminor

Name:

The Luminor takes its name from a tritium-based luminous substance, far safer than the Radiomir (Radium-based material) used previously. Panerai was granted its patent for the Luminor material in 1949, replacing the unstable Radiomir compound.

History:

The original Luminor design dates back to around 1950, when Panerai designed a highly unique and functional crown guard in an effort to improve their watches’ water resistance. These crown guards were trademarked as “device protecting the crown” – when the lever is in the closed position, it forced the crown into the case, providing an excellent seal against water and the elements.

Style:

Arguably the most iconic Panerai case style, the Luminors is typically what are thought of when “Panerai” is heard. Currently, there are 3 variants of the Luminor case style (disregarding size): Bettarini, 1950, and the 1950 “Vintage/Base”. All the Luminor case styles feature the iconic crown guard – making it totally different from other luxury watches on the market. The lugs are modern and more conventional. Straps are changed via a screw-in bar (not the commonly used spring-loaded bars), making straps easy to change while maintaining a sturdy form of attachment. Able to appear dressy and casual via strap changes, the bold and masculine look of the Luminor case became wildly popular thanks to its on-screen popularity with famous on-screen heroes (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, etc.)

A look at the three Luminor case styles available:

  • Bettarini
    • Designed by Alessandro Bettarini (during the rebirth of Panerai)
      • Regarded as the “father” of the Pre-Vendome design Luminors (44mm)
      • Pioneered use of PVD on the watches, previously unavailable
    • Case used on style like the PAM 000
    • Available in submersible form (PAM 024)
  • 1950
    • Case used on styles like the PAM 312
    • Available in submersible form (PAM 243)
  • 1950 “Vintage/Base”
    • Case used on style like the PAM 372
    • Thinner, flatter lugs than 1950
    • Visible ridge on sides
    • BB# & WR engraved on bottom of lugs

 

Mare Nostrum

Name:

The case’s name comes from the Latin term, “mare nostrum”, used by the Romans to describe the Mediterranean Sea. In the 1880’s, Italian Nationalists revived the term to call for the establishment of an Italian colonial empire. Finally, the term was also used in Benito Mussolini’s fascist propaganda during WWII, during which this watch was first designed.

History:

Originally designed in 1943, the Mare Nostrum was intended for use by Italian Navy officers on deck. Unfortunately, due to the historical events at the time – any further development or production ceased and only three prototypes were produced. After the 1966 flood in Florence, they were believed to be lost along with all relevant documentation. Thankfully, Panerai was able to find and purchase (for 85,000 Euros) the sole surviving example of the original, prototype Mare Nostrum at the Christies auction in Geneva 2005.

Style:

The Mare Nostrum has a “tonneau” shape thanks to its strong lugs but appears to be round – mainly due to its wide, flat bezel. The bezel has a ridged edge and is available with or without scale engravings. The original Mare Nostrum (and its recent reissue) had no scale engravings, but featured a circular mark which suggests it might have received one later on during its development. It also features a screw down crown with cylindrical pushers.

 

Here is a chart indicating the various diameters available for each case style:


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