Just like the Luminor, the Radiomir is a model deeply ingrained in Panerai's DNA. In the late 1930s, Giovanni Panerai supplied the Italian Navy with a handful of prototypes of his PAM 2533 Radiomir to be used by the Frogmen. This watch featured a Rolex built 47mm cushion case, welded wire lugs, a hand painted dial with Radium based luminous markers and was powered by a Rolex hand wound movement. The Radiomir would later receive some improvements in the 1940s. These included fixed squared lugs (replacing the welded wire lugs) and a new conical crown for improved water resistance.
Today, Panerai is more known as a luxury watch brand than as a supplier of military instruments. Up until a few years ago, Panerai had separate collections for the Radiomir and the Radiomir 1940. As of last year, Panerai has made an effort to simplify the brand and combined both sub categories under one “Radiomir” umbrella. Why am I telling you this, you might ask? Because people new to Panerai won't understand why there are two different case designs under one umbrella. So let's take a closer look at the differences between the Radiomir and Radiomir 1940 case.
Both Radiomir and Radiomir 1940 watches come in varying case sizes of 42mm, 45mm, 47mm, and 48mm. The main differences between the two is in the case, bezel, lugs, and crown. The Radiomir has a screw-down wire lug, beveled bezel, conical crown, and rounded corners on its case. The Radiomir 1940 has fixed lugs, a larger sloping bezel, a tubular crown, and sharper edges and more defined lines similar to what you would see on the Luminor 1950 cases of the PAM 372 and PAM 422.
In my opinion, the Radiomir is the “dressier” option. The thinner wire lugs and beveled bezel paired with the right strap can make this watch go from the boardroom to the boardwalk. The Radiomir 1940's thick lugs, large bezel, sharp edges, and blockier aesthetics gives off a sports watch appeal. Although, it tends to have a tad more refinement than the Luminor as it shares a very similar case without the obtrusive crown guard.
Image from Bob's Watches
Image from Bob's Watches
With a plethora of case sizes, dial colors, and complications, there’s no shortage of options for your first plunge into the Radiomir collection. As a Luminor fan, my preferences lean towards the Radiomir 1940, but I recommend that you should visit your nearest authorized dealer to get a really good feel for these watches in the metal.
Written by Patrick Bernardez