The Panerai Radiomir plays an important part in the history of the brand. Nominally, French patent records dating all the way from 1916 show a filing bearing the name Radiomir for a particular Radium-based luminous powder developed by the replica watch company to satisfy the requests of the Royal Italian Navy. Panerai replica had already been providing instruments to the navy for years prior, and this patent was another step forward in their budding friendship. Almost 20 years later, the Radiomir as we know it was born. Built for the Frogmen—a particular commando division of the Royal Italian Navy—the Radiomir was a big 47mm steel cushion-cased wristwatch with wire lugs welded to the case. These pieces by the Panerai were designed with bright luminous indices in a "California dial" configuration, straps long enough to wrap over a diving as well as the waterproof cases. Some of the early variants of these fake watches that have surfaced over the years have been found fitted with hand-winding Rolex calibers. Not only was this of great help to the members of the Navy who put them to the test in the field, but also created a special aesthetic that makes a fake Panerai watch easy to distinguish from anything else on the marketplace. Though minor design tweaks have been made along the way, this overall aesthetic has remained a vital part of the Panerai lineup, and the brand has unveiled a significant range of Radiomir models through the years. The Panerai Radiomir 42mm was first unveiled in 2010, and received a very warm welcome from replica watches enthusiasts all around the world. While the huge majority of the replica Panerai's offerings were generally on the larger side at the time, the new Radiomir was the first in this design to be scaled down to a more modest 42mm. Owing to ts flat construction and wire lugs, it still has ample presence on the wrist, though this update surely opened up the doors to more collectors that previously found the model a touch too oversized. Even though a rather casual-looking piece overall, it obviously has the right profile to tuck under a shirt cuff while named in for day-to-day office duty.
Making a collection as wide and as crucial important as the IWC's jubilee collection must represent quite the challenge. It needs to be new and innovative, but also remain true to the brand's deepest roots. I think that the replica IWC have done a fine job. Not only does the diverse, 27-watch collection have a clear, unifying theme, thanks to the richly lacquered white and blue dials, but the selection of models is a good balance of their greatest hits and historically significant models. The Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days Edition "150 Years" fits into both camps quite neatly. The significant reference has enjoyed ever-increasing popularity since it first made its way back into the IWC catalogue in the early '90s. And just quietly, I think this limited edition hand-wound Portugieser is one of the most attractive takes on the model ever released. Hands down. It's got everything you need, and nothing you don't. Given in either steel or red gold versions — both with white dials — the replica watch is effortlessly, unashamedly classic. The black printed sans-serif Arabic numerals, railroad-style minute track, seconds dial and IWC logo are crisply printed, and given some space on the large dial. The blued steel leaf-style hands add a flash of color, a dash of style and are an essential factor of the Portugieser DNA. Even the date — the traditional bugbear of the watch nerd — is well done: neatly integrated into the dial layout, legible with well-matching color and typeface. Side note, I actually prefer this logo type to the more sprawling, cursive logo type used on the heritage Portugiesers from a few years ago. It looks rather cleaner, feels less like a heritage reissue, which is great, because it isn't. However typically, I'd scoff at replica watches with this sort of classic chronometer style dial in a 43mm case, but the Portugieser gets a pass, as the original was just as large, thanks to its use of a big pocket fake watch movements. And speaking of movements, the calibre 59215 is the other star of this watch, the ever steady rhythm to the soaring melody that is the dial. With its whopping eight days of power, hidden power reserve indicator, traditional big bridge architecture and Breguet spring, this is the sort of movement that made IWC great. There's even a charming little gold medallion celebrating the 150th anniversary inset into the movement. Both models are provided on formal black alligator straps with pin buckles. And while I really love the richness and contrast offered in the red gold version, I absolutely wouldn't say no to the steel.