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Although with a history dating back to the second half of the 19th century, the years that marked the DNA of what is now Panerai began in 1936 with the Radiomir, an instrument designed to support the missions of the Italian Navy and named after the luminescent material patented by Guido Panerai. Its main features have remained virtually unchanged over the years, evolving into other no less iconic references such as the Luminor or the 1940: a large steel cushion-shaped case, clean dial with large luminescent numerals and welded wire-type lugs.

Panerai Radiomir Eilean

Eilean, also born in 1936

In a stroke of fate, that same year saw the launch of the Eilean, a beautiful 22-metre Bermudian ketch designed by one of the most renowned classic yacht builders of all time, the Scotsman William Fife III, and which was to become part of Panerai’s history. Originally built for Scottish steel merchants, the yacht sailed the seas of Europe and the Caribbean for decades, changing hands several times before being abandoned in English Harbour on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Angelo Bonati, then CEO of Panerai and a passionate sailor, discovered Eilean.

Panerai Radiomir Eilean

Under his guidance, the company bought the boat in 2006 and restored it to its original state after three years and some 40,000 hours of work in the expert hands of the Francesco Del Carlo shipyard in Viareggio. Since then, Panerai has regularly used the Eilean as a travelling ambassador and thus reinforced the Florentine firm’s maritime origins.

Radiomir Eileanh6>

While its shapes and design are the usual, we find some details that differentiate it from the other references on the dial and case. If I like the steel treatment and the inspiring dial, I don’t think the same about the engraving of the Eilean emblem on the left caseband. Let’s take a closer look.

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Panerai Radiomir Eilean

The first thing we notice is the brown sandwich dial with vertical striations, a design inspired by the Eilean’s teak cover, complemented by large Arabic numerals on the cardinal positions and baton-type indexes on the others. Its die-cutting shows the underlying Super-LumiNova in the usual beige tone in order to give it a more vintage look. Together with the gold-plated hands, the color palette is warm and extremely pleasant.

The 45 mm case exhibits an unusual “aged” finish: from a distance it is matte but also vaguely shiny, depending on how you look at it. Panerai defines it as a patination, and while it initially looks peculiar, it fits well with the retro style of the watch, eliminating the shiny new-watch look without being tempted to artificially over-age it. The process is carried out in three stages, starting from a mirror polished Radiomir case. The second process is a shot-blasting with finer beads to achieve a surface with a lower density of micro-impacts than usual. After that, the case is polished once more, which removes some of that texture, further accentuating its smoothness and creating the final “semi-matte” finish.

Panerai Radiomir Eilean

If the Radiomir Eilean looks familiar to you, it’s because it’s quite similar to the Radiomir Venti “Paneristi” introduced late last year. Unlike the large emblem on the dial of the Venti, the motif of this special edition is less visible as it is implemented on the left cheek by engraving the dragon emblem that decorates the hull of the ship. Despite this, it is not a detail that I like. I can understand that the signatures I would subjectively and except for a few occasions, I would prefer that they were reserved for the back… as is also the case of the Radiomir Eilean: it is decorated in relief with the Eilean 1936 motif that looks like the boom of the sailboat.

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Another controversial but less important detail is the leather strap that accompanies it. Handmade in Tuscany, the Italian region where Panerai was born, it features visible stitching inspired by the ropes found on the Eilean’s sails and displays the same logo as the back.

Panerai Radiomir Eilean

This special edition is limited to 449 pieces. This is not a number taken at random, as it coincides with the Eilean’s sail number, the equivalent of a number plate for boats. At €7,900, I consider the Radiomir Eilean to be expensive, as it costs twice as much as the entry level models with the same P.6000 caliber (3 days of power reserve and a single barrel), and is about 25% higher than the Paneristi edition, which was almost identical in specifications. At that price, at the very least, it should implement the P.5000 caliber with 8 days of power reserve. Luckily, the caliber is hidden under the blind back with the huge Eilean logo.

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