At the origins of the Panerai Radiomir
Although founded in 1860, Panerai did not sell its products to the general public until the 1990s. Prior to that, the Italian watchmaker focused solely on selling to professionals, particularly sailors. The story of the Panerai Radiomir began in 1936. At the request of the Regia Marina, the Italian royal navy, Panerai invented a prototype offering remarkable water-resistance, thanks in particular to its crown and screwed back. Three years later, this watch went into production and took on its current name: the Panerai Radiomir. A true diver's watch, it is appreciated by the army because it offers optimal legibility, even in the depths. To make the Radiomir readable in the depths, Guido Panerai invented a radium-based mixture capable of glowing in the dark. It is this material, although highly dangerous, which will give its name to the Radiomir. It would later be replaced by tritium and Super-LumiNova.
The very first Radiomir had an imposing 47mm case. They also came with a screw-in back and a Plexiglas glass. At that time, it was still powered by a Rolex caliber. In terms of design, the Radiomir was already recognizable thanks to its atypical dial and its Roman numerals at some hours (1, 2, 10 and 11 o'clock) and Arabic numerals at others (4, 5, 7 and 8 o'clock). The Panerai Radiomir of 1936 will evolve slightly in the following years, notably its lugs and case made from the same block of steel. More than 20 years after its creation, this diving watch seduced another army corps: the Egyptian Navy. On this occasion, the dimensions of the case explode and reach the record size of 60 mm. However, it was not until almost 40 years later that the general public discovered it. In addition to the black case back, the dive watch still retains the design that made it a success. Available only in two case sizes, 45 and 47 mm, it is mostly made of steel.