Two watches, two distinct takes on vintage military chic.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

NO NAME RECOGNITION The Radiomir California –47mm (right) comes without a brand name to maintain authenticity. 

With new models to complement the range of exclusive adventure-ridden experiences that Panerai has started to offer, 2019 was the year of modern, flashy Submersibles. But its two latest releases bring the focus back to what Panerai does well (and often), which is to honour its military past with contemporary iterations.

The story of how the Command of the Submarine Group of the Italian Royal Navy requested a specialised diver’s watch from Panerai in 1936 for use in World War II is one good enough to tell again and again. Which is why the Radiomir California – 47 mm (PAM 931), the latest of several tributes to the 1936 prototypes, might look familiar to some. The California dial (a nickname given to dials that feature a mix of Arabic and Roman numerals) is back, but this time in a gold and brown hue with a fume effect. Brand indications have been removed to keep it historically accurate, a theme that also explains the patina effect of its steel case. The hand-wound P.3000 calibre gives it a power reserve of three days. 

The smaller Radiomir 8 Days – 45 MM (PAM 992) looks almost contemporary by comparison, but the sandwich structure of the dial and the wire lugs manage to keep it in the vintage-inspired class. The words “8 giorni brevatto” refer to the eight-day power reserve supplied by the two spring barrels of the P.5000 calibre. Like the Radiomir California, this steel case was also treated to give it an aged look, for those too impatient to let time do the job. 

LITTLE BLUE BUYOUT LVMH has acquired Tiffany & Co. for US$16.2 billion (S$22.1 billion). Will this mean the much sought-after Tiffany-stamped dials will eventually grace Tag Heuer and Zenith watches? We’ll just have to wait and see. 

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Partnerships and collaborations are one of the best ways to get fun dial variations out of iconic pieces. Now that IWC is the official licensee of the “Blue Angels” U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, IWC’s Pilot’s Watch Chronograph is getting a fresh new face and strap. The sunray-brushed blue dial, yellow accents and blue calfskin strap with an underside in a lively yellow pay tribute to the squadron’s livery, while the rest of its construction stays true to the collection’s design codes: a black zirconium oxide ceramic case with contrasting steel pushers and crown, and large propeller-shaped hands that trace highly legible, white-lumed indexes. 

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In a sea of trendy blue and green dials, it’s nice to see the always-classic, always-appropriate black-dialled watch appear in protest. Vacheron Constantin has released two: the Overseas dual time and the Overseas Lady quartz. Shrewd choices for a market that’s falling in love with the luxury sports watch category all over again, and these black lacquered dials — paired with red accents on the dual time, and diamonds on the Lady — give these everyday timepieces a slick and glamorous edge. The other highlight of the Overseas collection is its fantastically fuss-free strap change system, which will be handy when switching between the two extra straps (in black alligator and black rubber) both models come with. 

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Jean-Claude Biver wasn’t kidding when he said Tag Heuer should be repositioned as an affordable luxury brand. Since his appointment as the brand’s CEO in 2014, Tag Heuer has rolled out models that look far more serious than their price tags suggest. But now that they’ve managed to establish themselves as being well-made with high-tech materials and complications, why not lighten up on the aesthetics? Retailer Cortina has commissioned a 10-piece limited edition of the Carrera Heuer-02 T, and its bright orange dial accents and matching orange calfskin over rubber strap give the tourbillon chronograph watch the visual impact it deserves. Available only on