There are good reasons to call the Replica Panerai Radiomir the first true dive watch. While it bears little resemblance to the type of watch we know today, the original model was designed in 1936 for the Regia Marina of the Italian Royal Navy. Their newly formed underwater commando unit, known as the First Submarine Group Command, needed a timepiece that could withstand the harshest conditions and, crucially, be as clear as possible in the depths of darkness.
So the fake Panerai was the perfect manufacturer for the committee, as they had developed 20 years earlier, a new high-brightness compound that was much brighter, longer-lasting, and with better underwater adhesion than anything else on the market. Conceived by Guido Panerai, grandson of founder Giovanni, the paste contains a mixture of radium-226 and zinc sulfide, which the Navy is already using to illuminate artillery sights. In fact, Guido named his invention after the Italian words for ‘Radium’ (‘Radio’) and ‘sight’ (‘mire’) to give us Radiomir.
- Unveiled in 2010
- Flat construction and wire lugs
- 60-hour power reserve
The Panerai replica watch designed for the Navy took the same name because it did not have to mess up a good description; a feat they repeated in 1955 when they invented another safer luminous substance; Luminor.
The Fake Panerai PAM 337 Is For The Hero
Radiomir has another legendary watchmaker to thank for its first watches. In search of the strongest case that could survive a deep dive, Panerai naturally knocked on Rolex’s door. Their invention of the waterproof Oyster case in the 1920s revolutionized the watch, and Rolex was now able to supply Panerai with a massive 47mm steel case with metal wire loops welded to the top and bottom of the case to hold the strap in place. These parts would be assigned reference number 2533 when they went into production, powered by Cal. 618-a large pocket watch movement, also supplied by Rolex and built for it by Cortebert.
Panerai’s contribution is the dial, a high-contrast minimalist style with no numerals, just a small baton for 3, 6, and 9, a double baton for 12, and the rest dots. However, thanks to the patented lume applied, the watch has unparalleled clarity even in the darkest conditions. A few years later, Panerai replica designed their now-famous sandwich dial, consisting of two plates, one on top of the other, with the lower plate containing the luminous Radiomir paint and the upper plate bearing the indexes that made it glow.
More upgrades followed, with the hour markers on the base replaced by huge Arabic numerals and other long batons, a design that is now typical of Panerai. Rolex also improved the case by milling it from a single piece of steel, which incorporated lugs for added strength. These examples became reference 6152/1.
Designing The PAM 337
Surprisingly, considering their current position in the industry, Panerai’s replica watches were not released outside of Italy until 1993. They were released to cater to the 90’s craze for timepieces with a strong military heritage and, thanks to the patronage of a certain Sylvester Stallone, they went on to start their own trend; oversized watches.
The brand’s earliest releases for the civilian market stood out for their rugged, bold looks and awesome size. They were aimed squarely at a male audience, with masculine, pointless visuals and huge cases of 47mm or even larger sizes unheard of at the time. They quickly built a strong and passionate fan base, dubbed Paneristi, and carved out a niche for themselves at the top of the watch industry charts.
However, as with all things, fashions come and go and huge, oversized watches will continue to lose some of their appeals. Instead of fighting it, Paneristi did something once unthinkable; they reduced the size of some of their most iconic pieces to make them more versatile and inclusive. the Radiomir PAM 337 is one of them.
Bigger Is Better
Released in 2010, the Copy Panerai Radiomir PAM 337 has been enthusiastically received by watch enthusiasts around the world.
Unlike the vast majority of Panerai’s offerings to date (still in the 45mm-48mm range), this new Radiomir is the first of the design to shrink to a more common 42mm.
The wrist is still heavily present thanks to its flat construction and metal wire lugs, although this update certainly opens the door for more collectors who previously found this model to be too tactile. As an added bonus, this piece was also fitted with Panerai’s then-new internal caliber; a hand-wound 999-point with a 60-hour power reserve. This movement also meant that knockoff Panerai was able to cut a bit of thickness from the housing, which was very modest at 11.7mm. While it looks rather casual overall, it certainly has the right profile to tuck under a shirt cuff when asked to work in the day-to-day office.
But aside from the reduced size, this is still a true Radiomir. all the factors that made the larger example so popular are still present; the traditional Tono-style case and tapered crown, the small running seconds displayed at nine o’clock, and the deep sandwich dial with huge numerals. No one would look at this watch and think it was just a counterfeit Panerai watch.
Unfortunately, the PAM 337 has been discontinued. The current collection only has two 42mm parts, the PAM 01144 and the PAM 00655, neither of which has the classic old-fashioned lug.
This means that your only chance of getting one is to visit the pre-owned market. However, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Because the 337 was only briefly put into production, they are a scarce presence, and tracking one of them down will involve some in-depth searching. Of course, as with all things related to luxury watches, scarcity usually leads to a price premium.
As a good example, be prepared to pay anything up to $8,000.
The imitation Panerai PAM337 was the first Radiomir model to be scaled down to a more comprehensive size. Its popularity, combined with its relative scarcity on the market, makes it a very desirable addition to any collection, whether you’re a full-blooded Paneristi or not.
It is a beautiful watch with a rich history of watchmaking and incorporates the brand’s unique design language, making it an absolute top-of-the-line watch.