When the Radiomir was initially released in 1938, it was a groundbreaking watch both for Panerai and the watch industry. It incorporated the brand’s new patented luminous material, Radiomir. This gave the watch optimal visibility in any conditions, day or night, and ultimately proved to be a vital tool for military use during WWII. Although the dangers of radium later caused Panerai to discontinue the use of the innovative Radiomir powder, the Radiomir collection lives on today.
The origin of the Radiomir spans over several decades in the 1900’s. For years, Panerai experimented with luminous materials in hopes of creating a watch that would be reliable in the dark. After extensive research, they found that a combination of zinc sulfide and radium bromide proved to be the most successful at that time. The result was a substance they decided to call Radiomir. Panerai first filed a patent for the luminescent radium-based powder in 1916.
However, it was not until about twenty years later, in 1936, that the first prototype of the Radiomir collection appeared. The original prototype featured a hefty, oversized 47mm steel case with wire lugs, a hand-wound mechanical movement, and a water-resistant strap. It was another two years before the Radiomir was put to production, just before the onset of WWII, in 1938.
The Radiomir proved to be the optimal timepiece for the Royal Italian Navy. The luminous Radiomir powder allowed for optimal legibility underwater and at night. Thus, the watch became an indispensable tool for the navy “frogmen’s” taxing missions.
Following the war, Panerai began to learn more about the harmful side effects of radium. So, they started working on creating a newer, safer luminous material. In 1949, they developed a new substance they called Luminor. This Tritium-based hydrogen isotope soon replaced the radium-based powder in the Radiomir models, and it led to the birth of a new model: the Luminor.
Even with the introduction of the Luminor, the Radiomir still continues to be in production today. One of the most recent variations of the model was released in 2017. The Panerai PAM 721 Radiomir 3-Days Acciaio draws inspiration from the one of the early Radiomir models from the 1930’s, the Ref. 3646. The Ref. 3646 was made solely for military issue, so this reissue is the first time the particular design has been introduced to the public.
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