There’s something about the Italians that attracts an almost religious following. Take Ferrari’s Tifosi by way of an example; their dedication to the supercar manufacturer could make even the Pope feel a little unloved. The same phenomenon is seen with Officine Panerai and the Paneristi. They’re nothing short of the highest order of Panerai fanatics, committed to the brand with steadfast allegiance.
But we aren’t all Paneristi – or Tifosi for that matter – and that raises a question: does Panerai make watches that everyone wants, or just the ones the Paneristi want? Historically, the Paneristi have lapped up watches that leave the average watch buyer cold, and the common theme tends to be size. Panerai aren’t noted for making small, discreet watches – if anything, their watches seem to be getting bigger.
Panerai’s collection can be broken down into four main categories: the Radiomir, the Luminor 1950, the Luminor and the Submersible, each one representing a stage in the development of Guido Panerai’s military watch. And now there’s a fifth: the Radiomir 1940. The Radiomir 1940 introduces another development stage from – unsurprisingly – the 1940s, and fits smack bang between the Radiomir and the Luminor 1950. It has a Radiomir case, Luminor lugs, and a Rolex-style crown (because Rolex were supplying parts at the time).
Does the Radiomir 1940 answer our question? Well, yes and no. No, because Panerai have released a special edition Paneristi version, and yes because it’s the most elegantly proportioned watch Panerai have ever made. Thanks in part to the hand-wound P.999/1 in-house movement, the Radiomir 1940 PAM00512 is not only relatively small in diameter, but in thickness too.
A general bugbear has been the recent outward growth of Panerai watches making them much too thick to fit under any cuff – let alone that of a shirt – and the 512 finally resolves this. Even though the proportions aren’t faithful to the original 1940s Radiomir, the smaller size feels much more authentically vintage.
So rather than being a top heavy, unbalanced lump that reminds you of its presence every time you move your wrist, the 512 disappears, only surprising you with its sumptuous good looks when you retract your sleeve to take a look at the time. It’s a strangely refreshing experience, the end of a frustrating period of admiring Panerais in pictures and being ultimately disappointed by the size, and also hopefully the beginning of a new direction for the brand.
Don’t worry though if you are a Paneristi or a fan of the bigger Panerais – the Radiomir 1940 comes in the traditional, bicep-building 47mm as well. Vive la différence.
[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from Watchfinder.co.uk]