When one gets into the hobby of watch collecting, he or she hears of a few brand names right off the bat: Rolex, Omega, AP (Audemars Piguet) and Panerai. Four brands—and perhaps more—dominating the Swiss luxury watch scene. And perhaps that, when hearing of Panerai, one might hear the words “enormous” or the name “Schwarzenegger” attached to it. That’s because Panerai watches are generally large (with diameters orbiting in the 45-47mm sphere) and that Arnold Schwarzenegger famously wears these watches. (He obviously has the right wrist size for them!) One might also have heard of a few controversies around the brand, notably passing off-the-shelf movements as being “in-house.” In the recent past, however, the brand seems to have made efforts to appeal to a wider audience and to redeem its name.
The 2023 Panerai Radiomir Quaranta might very well be the model that many Panerai-curious collectors might have been waiting for. It feels modern, comes with great dimensions, and is equipped with a proper in-house caliber. Let’s take a look to see why the Quaranta is becoming popular! Source: www.ablogtowatch.com
A Brief History of the Panerai Radiomir Collection
The first Panerai Radiomir watches were developed in the 1930s for the Italian Navy which commissioned the brand to develop water resistant and robust watches that could be used by their underwater commandos. In a sense, the Radiomir predated the first “real” dive watches released by Rolex and Blancpain by at least by a decade. The original Panerai Radiomir were massive so that they would be legible underwater and in low-lit conditions. (If I’m correct, they measured upward of 47mm in diameter.) What made them stand out was their paired down design and legible dial, showcasing large Arabic numerals at the cardinal points and pencil-style hands. The markers and hands were lumed, hence the name “Radiomir” which refers to their radium-based luminescent paint. This was a totally novel design in the 1930s and the Radiomir line has barely changed since.
Fast forward many decades—and reducing the history of the brand into a few sentences—Panerai developed large divers that had a unique crown locking mechanism to prevent accidental water ingress. These models (as pictured below) made the brand famous and became their most iconic models. However, those who liked the design but who were concerned about the size of many Panerai models advocated for smaller sizes. While the Radiomir collection perdured for many years, Panerai spent more time developing the models with the unique crown mechanism (found on the Luminor and Submersible collections) instead of the Radiomir. However, the latter offered a simpler case design given the absence of crown guards and of the safety mechanism.
2023 Panerai Radiomir Quaranta: Better Size, More Modern
In 1999, Panerai released an updated 40mm version of the Radiomir (the PAM00048) to please those who were interested in the brand but not keen on strapping a 45/47mm watch on their wrists. A few years later, Panerai released a new collection called “Quaranta”—which means “Forty” in Italian—which found immediate success thanks to having a thinner case. (From 16mm on the PAM00048 to 12.45mm on the Quaranta.) In 2023, Panerai released a new version coming in six variants: white, blue, black, green with stainless steel cases and two dual-tone variants with white and green dials paired with rose gold cases. The stainless steel variants retail for $6,000 and the two-tone ones for $18,200.
The thinning of the case between the 1999 model and the first generation Quaranta was made possible thanks to a thinner in-house movement, the P.900 caliber. The 2023 version is even thinner at 11mm thanks to a redesign of the case to make the watch sit more flush on the wrist. The 40 x 40 x 11mm case of the 2023 Panerai Luminor Quaranta is wearable for many wrists, something also made possible due to the fact that the Radiomir collection does not come with crown guards or the proprietary crown locking mechanism. However, water-resistance was sacrificed as the Quaranta comes with a meager 30 meters depth rating.
To learn more about Panerai and the Quaranta, I suggest reading Skyler’s 2023 predictions article for Panerai which were quite spot on!
Thoughts on the Panerai Radiomir Quaranta
As a watch enthusiast, I’ve always been drawn to Panerai’s clean and legible dial design. I particularly appreciate the absence of a minute track and the large Arabic numerals at the 12 and 6. Put side-to-side with a small running seconds register at the 9 and a date aperture at the 3, it is a functional and good looking watch. (This is my personal opinion, of course.) Being a 40mm square, the 2023 version seems to wear thin and to be comfortable, despite the 24mm lug width. (The latter is due to the early 20th-century lug design.) Looking at the photos, the wide lug width seems to work well with the square case shape the Radiomir is famous for. Furthermore, I would say that the unique case profile looks good from all sides as Panerai smoothed out all angles. It truly looks like a cushion that is strapped on the wrist.
Being made in Switzerland and equipped with an in-house caliber, the $6,000 price tag doesn’t shock me. In my eyes, one pays for the unique dial design that has been around for close to a century, as well as the heritage the Radiomir line is endowed with. After all, the Radiomir was developed for the Italian Navy for their underwater commandos, and although the 2023 Quaranta is much smaller than the original and only comes with 30 meters of water resistance, one would still gets a proper everyday watch. Given its dimensions and specs, the new Quaranta is definitely more of an everyday timepiece rather than a hard-core diver. (Which is why Panerai has the Submersible collection.)Featured image: www.ablogtowatch.com