I’m not a huge fan of huge watches. Panerais in particular. The Swiss-masquerading-as-Italian brand’s willingness to stray from dive watch design does nothing to flick my BIC. Chronograph? Tachometer bezel? Panerai’s anything goes product development strategy reached its nadir with the Submersible EcoPangaea™ Tourbillon GMT. (Imagine Rolex making a Submariner Tourbillon GMT.) All that said, the Panerai Radiomir Eilean floats my boat . . .
For the record, there are two main reasons not to buy this 45mm watch. First, it’s eight grand.
You can pick up a 41mm OMEGA Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Chronometer on a sexy AF steel bracelet for $6800. (Or less). The OMEGA lacks andatura spavalda, but the diver offers top notch horology, classic good looks and brick shit house construction. And it doesn’t come with a Nazi past.
Reason two: the Panerai Radiomir Eilean sports a brown scamosciato strap.
As elegant as it is, the suede strap says “dive watch” like a Sherman tank says “track day.” It’s yet another example of the inauthenticity which has infected Panerai since 1997, when The Richemont Group added the brand to their portfolio.
It seems a shame to Scotchguard the strap, but the Eilean is named after an ocean-going yacht. “Eilean” is Scottish for “small island.” It’s pronounced like the nomenclature describing our extraterrestrial overlords. Yeah, about that yacht . . .
The eponymous Eilean gained worldwide fame/notoriety as the setting for Duran Duran’s Rio music video – a production that kicks-off with vaginal close-ups and doesn’t get a lot better from there.
[Hopeless pedants (guilty as charged) note that the song specifically references the Rio Grande – the river running between Mexico and the United States. The song’s naughty, not nautical.]
Panerai’s presser says nothing about the sailboat’s New wave past. It focuses on the fact that a famous Scottish boatbuilder constructed the Eilean in 1936 – the same year Panerai launched the Radiomir. The yacht was launched in 1937. But the watch is too cute to quibble.
The Panerai Radiomir Eilean is a sandwich-dialed minimalist marvel. Its wire lugs take us back to a simpler, more mustard gassy time, when World War I soldiers started wearing ladies’ wristwatches. When case screw alignment wasn’t a thing, apparently. Anyway, all hands on deck!
The Radiomir Eilean’s hands rotate atop horizontal panels modeled after its inspiration’s top deck. Like the previous gen Aqua Terra, the stripes run vertically. Right answer! Everyone knows horizontal stripes make you look fat. The dragon engraving on the watch’s hull mimics the design on the boat’s hull. So there is that.
Panerai’s in-house P.6000 caliber movement blesses the Eilean with a three-day power reserve. Its 10ATM water resistance is sufficient for surface swimming and shallow snorkeling but aw hell no for diving. The activity that once defined the Panerai brand.
Never mind. I love the way the Panerai Radiomir Eilean looks! Its patinated steel steals my heart. As a lumatic, I’m all about the horological night light’s lighthouse-like [non-radioactive] glow. For me, this is the Panerai that best captures the “less is more” spirit of modern Italian design.
It’s not a limited edition watch. Panerai’s making 449 Eileans per year for an unspecified number of years (449 being the Eilean’s sail number). The Panerai Radiomir Eilean isn’t particularly brand faithful or practical for aquatic activities. And it is expensive. But the watch is beautifully proportioned and stylish.
In short, I’d have one. Duran Duran warned me that “these moments of madness are sure to pass,” but why would they start now?