Are there any watches or watch brands that you just have an odd relationship with? Not in a literal sense, but rather in the sense of vacillating appreciation. Once you loved them, then you didn’t, then, on a cold rainy night, you met again by chance and it was happily ever after? Ok, that’s overly dramatic, but the reason for this odd intro is that the brand featured in this review is one that I have had mixed emotions about over the years, making this very post the first time I’ve ever actually reviewed, neigh, worn one, despite the prominence and popularity of the brand. As you already know, the watch is a Panerai Radiomir Quaranta, and this review was a long time coming.
You see, before the days of Worn & Wound, when my knowledge of watches was only that of the proverbial tip of the iceberg, Panerai was a brand I quite admired. I recall, distinctly, walking past a Panerai boutique on the East Side of Manhattan and seeing the Black Seal model in the window. It was stunning. I stared at it like in some scene from a bad Hallmark movie of a sad child looking at a puppy dog. But hardly being in the market for a luxury watch at the time, I eventually just kept walking. Years later, after launching Worn & Wound, my knowledge and exposure grew.
2011 was a different time for watches. Microbrands weren’t quite a thing. Tudor wasn’t for sale in the US. Vintage watches were still a niche, and dealers were few and far between. The “internet” was sort of mistrusted by Swiss watch brands and big watches were in. Though the wave had begun to crest, brands like Panerai and Bell & Ross, who had very strong forum followings, were the trend.
The effect of that was visible downstream as well. Brands like Magrette, Benarus, Maranez, Lum-Tec, and others had (and still do) big, cushion-cased divers front and center in their catalogs. Watches, especially divers, under 40mm were unheard of. Straps reflected this too. While mil-straps were gaining steam, thick, straight-cut leather straps with “pre-V” buckles dominated the secondary strap market. And, well, being the person I am, I couldn’t help but want to zig if everyone else was zagging. The fact that they were totally out of my ballpark didn’t help either.
It’s 12 years later and things are different. The world of watches and watch collecting has changed dramatically. Watches over 40mm get negative comments and the landscape of brands has grown rather dramatically. While Panerai maintains its stature as a globally popular brand, its position as an enthusiast mainstay has cooled a bit, and the trend of cushion cases, neigh Panerai-homages, has died down somewhat as well (though will never be fully gone). And what does that mean? Perhaps it’s time for a change.
Last year, Panerai announced the Luminor Quaranta, which in retrospect, I’m surprised wasn’t a bigger deal. Quaranta means 40, so as you might have guessed, these were 40mm versions of their iconic Luminor Marina watches. While best known and perhaps appreciated in 45 and 47mm cases, those sizes always limited their customer pool, especially given the trend of smaller watches. Ok, admittedly there is also the 38mm “Due” but that seems to be marketed differently.
For 2023, Panerai extended the Quaranta series by adding Radiomir models, which I dare say, make even more sense in a smaller case. The more casual Panerai, they feature a case design that lacks the giant crown protector, and often (as in this instance) has wire lugs. More elegant by nature they just begged for smaller case sizes.
As for the Radiomir Quaranta in this review… Well, the story echoes my past with Panerai, except rather than strolling down the street, I was walking through the Worn & Wound office. We had a trio of this new model in the office for a photoshoot. Seeing watches around the office is hardly a unique experience, yet these stopped me in my tracks. They were smaller than other Panerais I’ve seen, yet big enough to stand out in a room. I immediately wanted to put one on my wrist, and the silver dial just called out to me. So, I did and kept wearing it on and off for a few weeks.