Watches: Panerai Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Limited Editions (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on May 21, 2014

Whereas some brands exhibiting at the prestigious SIHH do not necessarily feel the need to use the salon as a launching pad for the unveiling of a myriad of new models, Officine Panerai never comes up short of enough exciting novelties to make all Paneristi fall head over heels in admiration.

It always takes some time to recover from this initial amazement and finally be able to analyse the offer in an attempt to decide which new models are your personal favourites. After some careful thoughts, I would like to come back, with live pictures, on three models that would probably hit the top of my personal wish list: the Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Limited Editions.

Although we have seen a fair share of chronograph models from Officine Panerai before, there is a fundamentally different aesthetic going on with these three fascinating models presented exclusively in precious metals: Platino, Oro Rosso and Oro Bianco in Panerai’s native Italian, or respectively, Platinum, Red Gold and White Gold if we want to stick to English at the risk of losing part of the Mediterranean charm.

Part of the recent Radiomir 1940 line, all three models ooze retro-appeal in the brand’s iconic cushion-shaped case. Characterized by the presence of Luminor-style lugs (but without the crown protector) rather than the usual Radiomir’s signature wire lugs, this mirror-polished 45 mm case reflects the 1940 aesthetics. As a tribute to the original Radiomir models made for the Royal Italian Navy and to reinforce the vintage appeal, the brand opted for a 2.8 mm thick Plexiglas crystal for the front instead of the now conventional sapphire crystal.

Officine Panerai fitted these beautiful watches with a simple two-register column-wheel chronograph movement, the OP XXV calibre. Based on the manually-wound Minerva 13-22 calibre, this highly regarded movement features a very large Glucydur balance wheel with adjustment screws and a Swan’s neck regulator, beats at a leisurely 18,000 vibrations per hour and offers 55 hours of power reserve when fully wound. Like all Minerva movements, it is extremely pleasing for the eyes and the contrast of its classic construction with Officine Panerai’s modern yet refined finishing can be fully appreciated through the exhibition case back. Unlike the front glass, this one in made of a more contemporary and much more scratch-proof material than Plexiglas: sapphire crystal.

From the dial side, all models exhibit two well-proportioned counters facing one another at 9 and 3 o’clock. The former indicates the seconds while the latter serves as a minute totalizer for the chronograph. To enhance the vintage vibe they are surrounded by a tachymeter scale that runs on the inner flange of the dial.

This is where I would say the similarities end as, although they clearly share a number of common aesthetic traits, each limited edition relies on a very different design. Indeed, the design team spared no effort to make each version unique while perfectly in line with the brand’s strict graphic codes.

The Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Platino, also known as PAM 518, showcases an ivory dial with withered looking stylised hands and luminous dot hour markers creating a very vintage-oriented design. The blued chronograph hands bring a welcomed yet very traditional touch of colour that remains in perfect harmony with the rest of the design. This beautiful model is paired with a brown alligator strap featuring contrasting stitches.

The Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Oro Rosso (or PAM 519), and personal favourite of mine, plays on a warmer colour palette to complement the opulence of its red gold case. It combines a brown dial with a dark brown alligator strap featuring elegant beige stitches. What makes it so attractive in my eyes, is also the presence of the so-called “California” dial, a very graphic combination of hour markers, Roman and Arabic numerals. In this instance, they are made of an ochre-looking SuperLuminova that blends wonderfully with the red gold of the case and brown of the dial.

Last but not least if the PAM 520 or the Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Oro Bianco should you want to call it by its full name. Relying on a black dial paired with a black alligator strap and contrasting stitches, this version also features one of the brand’s iconic dial specialties, namely a “Sandwich” dial. The dial is actually made of two layers: the upper black part features cut-out hour markers that let you see the luminous material that covers the lower layer.

These three Radiomir 1940 Chronograph are limited: there will be 50 pieces of the Platino model and 100 pieces of each gold version. The Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Oro Rosso will cost GBP 38,300 and the price tag of the Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Oro Bianco is GBP 39,700. Lastly, the Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Platino will retail for GBP 50,700.

They clearly do not come cheap but let me just say that you really have a lot of fine watchmaking content for you money. All three models perfectly illustrate why Officine Panerai has been so successful: the design is timeless yet very distinctive, the movement is both extremely reliable and exquisitely finished, and there is a good balance between nods to the brand’s history and resolutely new aspects. As with many models from that brand, the hardest part is not to fall I love with them but to decide which one we actually prefer.