Panerai Radiomir Origine: A dégradé dedication to the past


Panerai Radiomir Origine: A dégradé dedication to the past


Inspired by their earliest and arguably most important timepiece, the Radiomir Origine casts a playful eye to the past with subtle yet stylish dégradé dials.

Much like the world which surrounded it, the watch industry was a very different place in 1936 when the Panerai Radiomir was first shipped. Though certainly aspirational, being made to a high standard of accuracy and built for an intended purpose previously requested by none other than the Italian Navy, these watches were not the luxury status symbols which they undeniably are today. They were tools.

Tools indeed, intended of course for the elite divers known colloquially as frogmen, the commando component of what would come to be known as the Decima Flottiglia Motoscafi Armati Siluranti (MAS). Themselves an organization which, through the terrors and tribulations of the following decade, would come to be an example for other elite aquatic military units the world over. The watches and compasses which accompanied them upon their submerged assignments were to be coveted by the likes of the American UDT divers, a fact which only came to light by way of a recently discovered French intelligence communiqué dating to the 1950s.

Panerai Radiomir — The Origins of the Origine

The Radiomir was so named for the presence of what can only be described as a most liberal application of the highly radioactive and brilliantly luminescent material, radium. The first of its kind, carrying the moniker of reference 2533, was built to be a diver’s companion. It was reliable, durable, water resistant to a reasonable depth for its day, and most importantly, legible within the inky waters of a nocturnal tide. Contained within the earliest examples were movements produced by Rolex, itself little more than a start-up in the historical context, the neologistic brand having only been registered some 31 years prior.

The dials were constructed at first using two aluminum plates sandwiched together, the lower coated heavily with the aforementioned radioactive paint, which was shown through cutouts in the upper layer and accompanied by a handset similarly applied. Two primary examples, differing slightly in their details, are known to exist. Later celebrated with the likes of the limited edition PAM 425 and PAM 449, the baton dial was the more minimalist and mid-century of the two. The second featured cutout indexes and the numbers 12, 3, 6, and 9. It is this dial for which the recently released Radiomir Origine and Radiomir Bronzo were created to celebrate and memorialize.

As with many great watches of a bygone era, the effects of time and age tend to create certain idiosyncrasies which are fascinating and desirable to the contemporary collector. In the case of these early aluminum dial Radiomirs, a peculiar fading of an ombré fashion would sometimes occur, no doubt as a result of a distinct and unknown combination of sunlight, moisture, and constant bombardment of decaying particles. Fading from light at the center to dark along the exterior, dials intentionally created with this specific coloring are known as dégradé. The lume, though by no means hazardous as it once was, has been styled to appear as aged in its own right, a soft tan tone which brings a charming warmth to the recessed numerals and indexes.

Two variations of the modern homage were created — the first, receding from a soft stony gray to a dark charcoal, and the second, a delicate faded denim moving to a deep, dark navy. The crepuscular dials are encased in historically appropriate stainless steel. Housed within the 100-meter water resistant case is the old standby P.6000 hand wound movement featuring a Glucydur balance (an alloy of primarily beryllium and copper).

For The Pleasure of Patina

By any measure, these are charming timepieces — intentionally designed, understated in their visual impact (or as understated as a 45mm watch can be), and intentionally detailed in order to provide a nod to the past for those paying close enough attention. But the very concept of vintage inspired watches, their modern materials frozen in time, ever resistant to the influences of patination (provided their use is limited to reasonable activity) poses a bit of a contradiction. So much of what is generally loved about vintage watches and their matured aesthetics is that time itself is visible within the contours of the metal and paint. It begs the question — why are we drawn to such referential aesthetics? Certainly there is no intention of deception — no one is mistaking a modern watch for vintage.

Over the past several years, many a watch brand has sought the council of the muse from within their own histories. But beyond delving into the archives of these historic ateliers, many have also sought inspiration from the highly coveted and pleasantly senescent examples which do yet still remain. On the surface, the rationale is quite clear — vintage inspired watches sell. But perhaps the reason why is more subtle and more enchanting.

Perhaps the reason why such aesthetics are so enticing is because of what they represent — the history, the stories, the lives which have been led, accompanied by such relics. Gazing upon a timepiece which ticked away amidst the decades, measuring and marking its own journey through unknown adventures inspires us to dream of our own adventures yet to come. It is in this romance that commemoration finds its true purpose. The Radiomir Origine exists not only to cast an eye to the past, but also to gaze headlong into the future — to the adventures which its wearers will, with any luck, embark upon.

Tech Specs

Panerai Radiomir Origine

References: PAM 1334 (black dégradé); PAM 1335 (blue dégradé)
Movement: Manual winding caliber P.6000; three-day power reserve
Functions: Hours and minutes
Case: 45mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Dégradé black or blue; Arabic numerals and hour markers with luminescent coating
Strap: Tan leather with beige stitching, or Scamosciato Blue with ecru stitching
Price: USD 6,800