officine panerai  - Radiomir
Luc Virginius / Chronopassion
officine panerai  - Radiomir

Radiomir

officine panerai

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See other pictures Luc Virginius / Chronopassion

Radiomir Panerai

IN ABOUT 1940, THE PANERAI WORKSHOPS IN FLORENCE PERFECTED A NEW CASE, designed to meet the increasing demands of the commandos of the Italian Navy. The case was a development of the one presented in 1936 which is known today as the Radiomir – a term which originally referred to the luminous material patented by Panerai to make the dial readable in the dark – but it presented some innovations designed to make its construction even more solid and hardwearing.
In the new case the strap attachments were no longer formed from a strong piece of steel wire bent and welded to the caseband, as they had been previously. This design might expose the watch to the risk of the strap coming off in the course of the extreme operations which commandos were called upon to undertake when on board their underwater assault craft. In the 1940s version, on the other hand, the lugs were larger and much more solid, being milled from the same block of steel as the case, of which they were an integral part. As well as the strap attachments, the system of attaching the strap was also changed, becoming much simpler and more secure. While previously it had been necessary to sew the leather round the wire strap attachments, the new construction had little holes in the lugs themselves in which a small tubular bar could be fitted, having been inserted through the loop of the strap. This was a more modern solution, which also meant that the leather strap could be replaced easily. As well as the modification to the strap attachments, other changes altered the Radiomir case in a definitive way, presaging the subsequent development of the shape of the Luminor case which came out a few years later. The cushion-shaped outlines were now less accentuated. The winding crown was slightly larger and cylindrical rather than troncoidal. The overall thickness of the watch increased from about 15 mm to almost 17 mm. So was born the Radiomir 1940 case which Officine Panerai is presenting again today – with the same design but in a thinner version – in new models of the collection, watches endowed with the strength and fascination that only being a part of history can convey.
The Radiomir 1940 Oro Rosso has a case 42 mm in diameter with the P.999 hand-wound movement, the smallest and thinnest in the wide range of calibres produced by the Officine Panerai manufacture in Neuchâtel. The P.999 movement, visible through the sapphire crystal window set in the back, has a power reserve of 60 hours and a balance which oscillates at 21,600 vibrations/hour (equivalent to 3 Hz). The Radiomir 1940 Oro Rosso is supplied with a brown alligator strap, and it is part of the Historic Collection.

Technical specifications

MOVEMENT
  • Hand-wound mechanical
  • Panerai P.999 calibre, executed entirely by Panerai
  • 12 lignes
  • 3.4 mm thick
  • 19 jewels, Glucydur® balance
  • 21,600 alternations/hour.
  • Incabloc® anti-shock device.
  • Swan's neck regulator.
  • Power reserve 60 hours.
  • 154 components.
  • cystal  Sapphire, made of corundum, 1.6 mm thick. Anti-reflective coating.
 
FUNCTIONS
  • Hours, minutes, small seconds
 
CASE
  • Diameter 42 mm
  • 18 ct. polished red gold.
  • Screw-down winding crown personalised OP.
  • bezel 18 ct. polished red gold.
  • back See-through sapphire crystal
  • water resistance : 10 bar (~ 100 metres).
 
DIAL
  • Brown, with luminous Arabic numerals and hour markers. Seconds at 9 o’clock.
 
 
STRAP
  • PANERAI personalised alligator strap
  • 18 ct. polished red gold buckle.

Who's who

It’s probably not the timepieces themselves that tie Chronopassion to Panerai. The relationship is closer and stronger than that. Laurent Picciotto goes so far as to describe it as “magical”. Perhaps the truth is more to do with the eternally ‘outsider’ character of the Italian brand – and of Chronopassion's founder. There is also the detail of their shared origins as passionate retailers. Indeed, it’s a little-known fact that both the Panerai brand and its founder, Giovanni, were first and foremost in the business of watch and watchmaking tool sales and repairs. As early as 1850, Giovanni Panerai had made his name as a watchmaker in his native city of Florence. His son, Leon Fracesco, transformed his father's occupation into a flourishing business: in 1907, 50,000 copies of his watch and timepiece catalogue were published! What was then known as Orologeria Svizzera sold Rolex, Longines, Vacheron & Constantin, Movado, Patek Philippe and other brands. A new century opened a new chapter: the brand supplied the Defence Ministry with its first precision optical instruments. In 1910, the first experiments on luminous materials began and a system for making instrument dials glow in the dark was perfected. Luminescence was produced using a mixture of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, later known as Radiomir. The road ahead became clear: Panerai already sold movements, and simply had to combine this skill with its recently acquired expertise in dials to create its first watch – a feat that was achieved in 1935. One amusing aspect of this tale is that the first Panerais were driven by a Rolex movement. The Italian army was of course the first client. This was in 1937 – and the virtual monopoly of the military for Panerai watches continued until 1993 ! “It was these very strict specifications – purely military, functional and uncompromising – that drew me to Panerai,” relates Laurent Picciotto. The founder of Chronopassion already had a selection of timepieces with a strong identity to his name and had been seeking new niche brands for a number of years. “Our first collaboration dates back to 1995. At that time Panerai was a totally independent micro-brand. It was a curiosity – and in my opinion, a convincing alternative to sports brands that were seeking to be positioned on the same military niche without having any credibility in the field.” Did love at first sight lead to overnight success? “Far from it!” laughs Laurent Picciotto. “I sold barely a dozen pieces a year, mainly Mare Nostrums (ed: the original chronograph from 1943, which was still at the prototype stage for historic reasons). History has led to these timepieces now being among the most prized collectors’ items,” he says with a wry smile. This apparent lack of demand did not dent Chronopassion's belief in Panerai, however. The Vendôme Luxury group, later known as Richemont, apparently had a similar instinct, too: it bought out the brand in 1997. The group lost no time in using its resources to raise the profile of Panerai. A series of 1000 timepieces were offered on the Italian market – and were snapped up immediately. A distribution network was established. “There were twelve of us retailers at the first meeting. Eleven of them had never sold a Panerai timepiece before. I was the only one who had,” recalls Laurent Picciotto. At this point the story could have taken a commercial turn, with success guaranteed. However Panerai once again showed it was different: demand was driven by the brand's fans, known as paneristis. According to Laurent Picciotto, they are characterised by “acute collectionitis” – and his sales increased 25-fold. “It was an internal explosion. Completely unprecedented,” he now admits. Panerai made the most of this collectors’ syndrome by producing only limited, numbered series. “This meant that there was often a queue in front of our building for very special series, in particular our series featuring the Chronopassion engraving,” he continues. “In addition, even when we put a sign in the window saying “Not yet released” to try and keep our fans at bay, some of them would come into the shop to try and get more information.” Magical is indeed the word. 
 
Journalist : Olivier Müller
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