New Panerai Radiomir Quaranta – HoDinkee “Review”

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You gotta love the Panerai Radiomir Quaranta. Well, you do if you’re HoDinkee. Everything Ben Clymer’s ex-baby does is about making money (Hodinkee Founder Ben Clymer Cashes Out). Selling watches. If you’re looking for a critical review of a new watch, HoDinkee is the last place on Earth you’re going to find one. That said…

If you read between the lines, you can occasionally see their writers trying to point out a timepiece’s deficiencies. So let’s take a closer look at Danny Milton’s take on the New Panerai Radiomir Quaranta.

“It’s for those of us who thought we could never wear one,” the article’s subhead proclaims. In other words, the 40mm Quaranta (Italian for forty) is a small Panerai, in keeping with the trend not to wear a watch that’s as large as a teacup saucer, lest you be perceived as a snobby ass simp (a.k.a., a Sylvester Stallone wannabe).

Traditionally, the Panerai Radiomir has been 46mm, or larger. For good reason. The company developed the piece in 1935 for the Italian Navy frogmen. The watch had to withstand the harsh conditions of underwater diving, and offer low light legibility. Radiomir refers to radium illumination. Not a great thing to wear on your wrist (Radium Girls Movie Review), back in the day.

What’s not said [anywhere but here]: Panerai made and sold the watch to Nazi frogmen, with Rolex’s full knowledge and assistance (Rolex, Panerai and The Nazis). To break the historical connection, Panerai added the small seconds hand at the 9 ‘o clock when they re-issued the model in 2003.

Definitely NOT the kind of detail HoDinkee’s Milton would offer. Under any circumstances. Ever. Instead, we get an immediate love letter.

When the opportunity presented itself for me to spend an extended time with the steel Quaranta, I jumped on it and proceeded to wear the 40mm Radiomir constantly – to the point where I really didn’t want to take it off. Of course, in the end, I had to – but let’s discuss what it was like when it was on.

Hey Mikey! He likes it! Or does he?

I gravitated toward the black dial model. The first thing I noticed was the dial itself, which departs from the usual Radiomir with its sunray finish (as opposed to the matte I so covet). I suppose something has to give if you’re going to shrink down such an iconic watch with mid-century Italian diving heritage. At 40mm, it loses its tool-watchiness and gains a bit more of a dressed-up approach.

I likely wouldn’t wear this watch to a wedding – but I also won’t say never. And since this model also comes in blue and white dials in steel, those other options only accentuate the dressiness.

I suppose something’s got to give when you have to sing the praises of a watch whose dial desecrates the original, iconic design.

A bit more of a dressed-up approach? So the new Panerai Radiomir Quaranta isn’t a dive watch or a dress watch. Got it.

The watches feature a rose-gold-hued handset, which gives them a gilt effect similar to what you might see on the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight. I don’t necessarily dislike it, but it almost feels like a bridge too far. Had the hands taken on a more steely color, I think it would have worked better against the steel case.

See what I mean? Mr. Milton’s desperate to say the gold hands suck, to the point where he uses the ever-so-English way of bitching. “I don’t necessarily dislike” something is a Brit’s way of saying “I dislike it but I can’t say that.” The same sort of response you get when you offer a parched Englishman a cup of tea: “I wouldn’t say no!”

I didn’t mean to leave you with the impression that Mr. Milton doesn’t at least nod to Panerai’s heritage, ignoring the fact that the Swiss-owned and Swiss-made brand isn’t even slightly Italian.

I think it’s important to remember where these watches come from in terms of heritage. The early Panerai watches were designed for the Italian military. They were purpose-built watches meant to get wet. And it’s with that idea in mind that I struggle with the decision to only give the Quaranta 30m of water resistance.

More curious is the idea that there is a screw-down crown. I cannot tell if this particular screw-down crown (with no seals that I could see) is Panerai’s version of Tudor’s faux rivets, but it certainly made me chuckle. Who knows? Maybe this is the first watch that is actually rated to 30m depths. I won’t be testing that theory.

Thirty meters of water resistance? A screw-down crown that’s not impervious to water? Time out for a quick reality check, via watchresearcher.com:

ISO 6425 is an international standard for dive watches that was introduced in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This standard specifies requirements for watches intended to be used underwater.

The most important one is that it must be at least 100 meters water-resistant, which means that it must be able to withstand pressures up to 10 ATM (100m) without failing. The truth is that the vast majority of dive watches sport at least a 200m rating, with only a few 100m ISO divers available. 

So again, this not-a-dress-watch is not a dive watch playing off the Radiomir’s purpose-driven dive watch heritage. Mr. Milton struggles with the deficit, but, ultimately, he’s amused. Chances are anyone who takes Panerai Radiomir Quaranta into water won’t be. Characteristically, Mr. Milton’s willing to cut the watch some slack. Lots of slack.

Water resistance notwithstanding, this Radiomir achieves exactly what I need it to by radiating pure Radiomir energy in a comfortable size that feels like a tool watch, down to the inclusion of a closed caseback housing the P.900 caliber with 42 hours of power reserve.

The “real” 46mm Radiomir exudes energy alright. Big dick energy! Or, perhaps, small dick energy. In any case, the equally obsequious ablogtowatch.com describes the Quaranta’s P.900 movement’s timekeeping as “adequate,” pointing out that calling the Swiss caliber “in-house” is a bit of a stretch. So it’s just as well they don’t, anymore.

At $6k you’re darn tooting it’s a stretch! But hey, HoDinkee’s headline writer reckons the 40mm Panerai Radiomir Quaranta is “the most wearable Panerai ever.” Aside from the 40mm Luminor Quaranta and the 38mm Luminor Due, that is. Both of which also fail to qualify as a proper dive watch, FWIW.

“Although I don’t get to keep this watch forever, I could certainly see myself returning to it down the road,” Mr. Milton concludes. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. In the practice of damning with faint praise, Mr. Milton has outdone himself. For Panerai, it’s the same shit in a different wrapper, with a laughable price tag (Don’t Buy Panerai). And that’s the truth about the Panerai Radiomir Quaranta.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Honestly, Panerai aren’t even that good underwater compared to much cheaper & often better made competition. Nor is their lume any better. Why does anyone buy one? To be different?

  2. Panerai, IWC, all the German brands making replicas of their Nazi watches in 2023 – often explicitly while celebrating the watches’ Nazi origins! – is disgusting. That most of the watch world seems fine with this is a big reason I’ve left the hobby.

  3. great reading. hilarious. and impressive that you are impervious to the likely gaggle of hitmen hired by hodinkee to deal with you. hope you survive as your commentaries are a hoot.

  4. Great article and so true; aside from the Nazi heritage, Panerai churning out so much useless shit, is just another of a hundred reasons for me to hate this brand. It’s not the emperor has no clothes, it’s that he’s a professed nudist, and has been all along. Hostinkee is the biggest joke in whoreology, and that’s saying something in an industry of whores.

    Whether because of the faintly less-than-positive (or slightly less gushing) review from Hostinkee or others, Panerai has not put ’50m’ water resistance on their website; likely a lie, but then again, it’s Panerai.

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