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Tu­dor’s Her­itage line has be­come a favourite among fans of retro de­sign

Though this is sel­dom ac­knowl­edged, some of mankind’s best in­ven­tions owe their ori­gins to wartime in­no­va­tions. In the 6th cen­tury BC, the Per­sian Em­peror Dar­ius the Great was said to have started the first known postal ser­vice to aid com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween his court and his armies on the bat­tle­field. Mod­ern wrist­watches them­selves came about as the re­sult of soldiers find­ing pocket watches too awkward to wear dur­ing bat­tle.

Of­ficine Pan­erai, a com­pany that his­tor­i­cally sup­plied wrist­watches to the Royal Ital­ian Navy, was nat­u­rally in­flu­enced by the rig­or­ous de­mands of elite troops on duty. This gave rise to the util­i­tar­ian de­sign, ro­bust qual­ity, wa­ter-re­sis­tance and su­pe­rior leg­i­bil­ity of Pan­erai watches, char­ac­ter­is­tics that are part of the brand’s DNA, and which con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to its ap­peal. The brand’s Ra­diomir watch was born in an era of res­o­lute prag­ma­tism amid the loom­ing threat of war: The 1930s.

In 1938, Pan­erai un­veiled a pro­to­type with a cush­ion-shaped case 47mm in di­am­e­ter (in keep­ing with the pocket watch pro­por­tions favoured at the time), with wire lugs sol­dered to the mid­dle of the case, along with a screw-down case back and screw-down crown. Within the strap­ping case lay a hand­wound move­ment with a di­am­e­ter of 36mm, di­men­sions typ­i­cal of pocket-watch cal­i­bres. On the dial, Ara­bic and Ro­man nu­mer­als were coated in lu­mi­nes­cent ma­te­rial and pro­tected by a crys­tal made of Per­spex. A belt-like leather strap, treated for pro­longed wa­ter im­mer­sion, and long enough to be strapped di­rectly over wet suits, made th­ese first-gen­er­a­tion Ra­diomirs in­dis­pens­able tools for Navy com­man­dos and gamma forces on their mis­sions.

As armies marched across Europe, the Ra­diomir made its own ad­vances, most notably us­ing a “sand­wich con­struc­tion” dial to im­prove leg­i­bil­ity, a hall­mark of the brand that ex­ists to this day. It con­sisted of an up­per disc in black with per­fo­rated hour mark­ers and nu­mer­als (at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock), and a lower disc coated with a luminous sus­b­tance de­rived from a cock­tail of zinc sul­phide, mesotho­rium and ra­dium bro­mide – from which the very name “Ra­diomir” de­rives.

In the months that fol­lowed, tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions de­vel­oped quickly, to keep pace with the in­creas­ing in­ten­sity of World War II. By 1940, Pan­erai’s work­shops in Florence had per­fected a new case, with larger, stur­dier lugs at­tached di­rectly to the case – in fact, they were carved from the same block of steel. Com­pared with the pre­vi­ous de­sign, this new de­tail elim­i­nated the risk of the strap com­ing off dur­ing ex­treme un­der­wa­ter op­er­a­tions. Thus was born the Ra­diomir 1940.

In 2012, it was res­ur­rected as the limited-edi­tion PAM 00399, a mod­ern trib­ute to the vin­tage model with the key dif­fer­ence be­ing the use of a Minerva move­ment. All other as­pects of the her­itage timepiece – the 47mm case di­am­e­ter, the Per­spex crys­tal, the cam­bered bezel, the cylin­dri­cal crown and the screw­down case back – re­mained in­tact. It marked the dawn of a new era for the his­toric watch, once built for mil­i­tary use, now en­gi­neered for civil­ian util­ity.

This year, Pan­erai went one step fur­ther, pre­sent­ing two new mod­els in two sizes: A clas­sic 47mm and a more con­tem­po­rary 42mm. The 47mm Ra­diomir 1940 3 Days, wrought in steel (PAM00514) or rose gold (PAM00515), is fit­ted with the P.3000 cal­i­bre, a hand-wound me­chan­i­cal move­ment with a power re­serve of three days. This pow­er­ful engine is backed by two spring bar­rels in se­ries. At its core, an un­usu­ally large bal­ance wheel (13.2mm in di­am­e­ter) os­cil­lates at a fre­quency of 3 Hz. The dial is black in the steel ver­sion and brown in the rose gold model.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence is the slen­der new pro­file of the 42mm Ra­diomir 1940, which gives the watch a more re­fined ap­pear­ance, not to men­tion a more com­fort­able fit for users with slim­mer wrists. To fit the new case, Pan­erai’s move­ment con­struc­tors de­vel­oped the man­u­fac­ture’s small­est and thinnest in-house cal­i­bre yet. Though com­pact in size, the P.999 hand-wound move­ment boasts an en­vi­able 60hour power re­serve. De­tail-ob­sessed col­lec­tors will want to note that in the rose gold model (PAM00513), the ac­tive length of the bal­ance spring is ad­justed by a swan-neck reg­u­la­tor, while in the steel ver­sion (PAM00512) it is ad­justed by curb pins. With­out a doubt, the new Ra­diomirs demon­strate the same in­ven­tive spirit that has stood Pan­erai in good stead both in wartime and peace­time.

While armed with greater ro­bust­ness courtesy of a re­designed case and crown,

the new Ra­diomir watches con­tinue to ex­ude vin­tage so­phis­ti­ca­tion

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