Watches

Understanding The Different Panerai Watches

understanding-the-different-panerai-watches

If you’re not well-versed in the intricacies of Panerai watches, you won’t be faulted for thinking that they all look the same. It is true that the Florentine brand relies heavily on a few signature design traits and applies them to almost all their pieces. It’s also worth noting that the brand’s portfolio is divided into four main categories, the Luminor, Luminor Due, Radiomir, and Submersible, and there is a seemingly countless selection of design sets among them. It can be overwhelming to navigate, much less pick a Panerai to buy. However, there are key differences between the various Panerai timepieces that can help you determine which model is right for your wrist.

If you’d like to learn a little more about the watchmaker that the Royal Italian Navy once relied on, read our quick guide to understanding the different Panerai watch collections and sub-collections.

Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on Panerai watches.

Panerai Radiomir

Panerai Radiomir Watches

The Panerai Radiomir watches are essentially the modern versions of the first batch of watch prototypes Officine Panerai created for the Italian frogmen in 1936. The name “Radiomir” refers to a luminous radium-based powder that Panerai patented in 1916. That powder (which is now understood as being highly toxic) was turned into a paste and used on Panerai instruments to enable them to glow in the dark.

The defining characteristics of the original Radiomir dive watches include a massive 47mm waterproof cushion-shaped case with wire lugs welded to them, a simple dial with luminous hands and indexes, a manually-wound movement, an extra-long watch strap (to fit over wetsuits), and an oversized cone-shaped winding crown that could be manipulated while wearing gloves. Most of these design traits are still used on today’s Radiomir watches.

The absence of the brand’s signature crescent-shaped crown guard makes it easy to distinguish a Radiomir from the other offerings in the Panerai catalog.

Panerai Radiomir 1940

Panerai Radiomir 1940 Watches

In the 1940s, Panerai modified their watch cases. Rather than having thin wire lugs welded onto the case, Panerai opted to make the entire case, including the broader lugs, from a single block of steel to prevent the lugs from coming loose under extreme pressures while diving. The corners of the case were also slightly sharper than those on earlier models, and the winding crown was cylindrical rather than flared and cone-shaped.

Additionally, the Radiomir 1940 features a flatter, wider bezel, while the original Radiomir has a thinner and more rounded bezel. When comparing the two Radiomir collections, the Radiomir 1940 is not as dressy and features a more boxy silhouette. Today’s Radiomir 1940 watches are tributes to those vintage Panerai models.

Panerai Luminor

Panerai Luminor Watches

Panerai watches only became available for sale to the public in the 1990s, and it was Alessandro Bettarini (Panerai’s chief of mechanical engineering at that time) who, after being inspired by Panerai divers from the 1950s, designed the modern Panerai Luminor in 1993. He brought back the crown-protector bridge from the archives and adopted the Luminor name from the old Panerai patents.

In fact, Alessandro Bettarini had developed dive watch prototypes for the Diver Corps of the Italian Navy during the 1980s that used the crown-protector bridge. Those prototypes never went into production, but thankfully, some of those design elements reappeared on the future Luminor watch collection.

Today, the Luminor is Panerai’s flagship watch model and comes in a slew of sizes, materials, and complications. The watches retain the iconic cushion-shape case, integrated lugs, crown-protector bridge (without “REG T.M.” engravings), and highly luminous dials. Overall, they embrace Panerai’s basic design blueprint of pairing minimalist dials with robust cases.

Panerai Luminor 1950

Panerai Luminor 1950 Watches

In 1949, Panerai patented another luminous material, which they called “Luminor.” Rather than being radium-based, the Luminor substance was tritium-based.

A year later, Panerai created a whole new case design with the now-iconic, lever-operated, crown-protecting bridge. This mechanism ensures better water resistance for the watches. Similar to the preceding Radiomir watches made in the 1940s, the then-new 1950s Panerai watches also had the case and lugs fashioned from a single block of steel. However, the bezels were wider and flatter.

This case design serves as the inspiration for today’s Panerai Luminor 1950s watches (which were first released in 2002, almost a decade after the debut of the modern Luminor). It’s also worth noting that the crown guards of today’s Panerai Luminor 1950 include the “REG T.M.” engraving on them.

Panerai Luminor Due

Panerai Luminor Due Watches

In 2016, Panerai unveiled the brand new Luminor Due collection, adding the Italian word for “two” to its name. With slimmer cases and smaller size options, the Luminor Due is positioned as an elegant alternative to the oversized and robust Luminor models. With its release, Panerai essentially separated the new collection from the Luminor’s notoriously purpose-driven design set and adopted a slightly dressier aesthetic.

However, water resistance is much lower (30 meters), which has upset some Panerai purists who say that the Due watches stray too far from the company’s origins of making dive watches. Yet, the more restrained proportions of the Luminor Due have opened up the brand to a whole new audience (including more women!) who appreciate the more reasonable case dimensions. Of course, it’s still recognizable as a Luminor watch, featuring the collection’s signature cushion-shaped case, integrated lugs, and oversized lever-activated crown guard.

Panerai Luminor Marina

Panerai Luminor Marina Watches

The Luminor Marina was released in 1993 alongside the Luminor collection. It embraces a similar design as the Luminor, also featuring a cushion-shaped case, integrated lugs, an oversized crown guard, and large, visible hour markers on the dial.

What sets it apart and is essentially one of the most characteristic features of the Marina sub-collection is the presence of small seconds next to the 9-hour marker. However, if you see the small seconds register, it isn’t safe to assume that the watch is a Marina. A handful of other Panerai watches also include this feature on their dial, but it remains a constant among the Luminor Marina collection in particular.

Panerai Submersible

Panerai Submersible Watches

2019 was the year of the Submersible at Panerai, with a whole host of new models presented at SIHH. In the past, the Submersibles belonged to the Luminor collection and were officially labeled as Luminor Submersible watches.

However, in 2019 Panerai dropped the Luminor label, and had officially established the Submersible as its own collection. This is appropriate since the Submersible is actually a dive watch rather than a luxury watch inspired by diving. Unlike the other offerings in the brand’s catalog, Panerai Submersibles come equipped with standard dive watch requirements such as unidirectional rotating bezels and waterproofness to 300 meters.

The basic design elements of its original parent collection, the Luminor, are still present, as you will also find in the cushion-shaped case and crescent-shaped crown guard. Additionally, while many of the models in Panerai’s portfolio feature traditional baton/Arabic hour markers, the Submersible opts for large dot hour markers and skeletonized hands. The collection is available in various metal finishes, dial colors, bracelet types, and even movement functions. If you appreciate the look of a robust Panerai but also want a true dive watch, the Submersible is your best bet.

Panerai Watch Movement Manual-Wind

Panerai Watches Overview

Your head might still be spinning, and that’s understandable. The Panerai catalog is vast and can be hard to navigate if you aren’t already familiar with the brand. The best way to pick the right Panerai watch for your wrist is to choose which model speaks to you the most from our guide. From there, it is relatively easy to narrow down your decision based on features, such as case size, material, and movement.

There you have it; that’s our quick rundown of the main Panerai collections. So, the next time you’re out shopping for a new Panerai watch, you’ll be able to quickly differentiate between all the models like a Paneristi pro.

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