Originally developed in 1938 for the Italian frogmen, Panerai’s Radiomir isn’t just the ex-Florentine, now-Swiss brand’s definitive timepiece, it’s one of the most iconic watches in existence. Between its signature cushion case and elegant military aesthetic, there’s no other watch quite like it.
Well, that’s not strictly true. As you’d expect from one of the longest-running watch designs in history, there’ve been a fair few brands that have taken the overall concept and run wit it. Better yet, they also tackle on of the only downsides of the Radiomir: the price.
And yes, cheaply-made Panerai homages are a dime a dozen, but these six pieces add their own twist, offering solid automatic pieces worth a look on their own merits. The fact that they echo Panerai’s distinct Italian flair just makes them all the more appealing.
Here then are our top six affordable alternatives to the Panerai Radiomir.
Magrette Moana Pacific Waterman
New Zealand’s answer to Panerai comes from up-and-coming microbrand Magrette, riffing on the brand’s Maori identity with a charming, chunky diving watch. The waterman adds a relatively thin diving bezel to the mix but otherwise has the same cushion case as the Radiomir and a dial just as clean and pared-back.
There are two versions of the Waterman, one of which is in bronze. I’d always prefer to opt for a steel diving watch though, and the Waterman Vintage pairs that with retro beige lume for a more vintage look and feel. It’s equipped with the classic ETA 2824-2 movement and an almost confusingly good price tag, rounding off a serious value proposition.
Case/dial: 42mm diameter, bronze or stainless steel, 200m water resistance | Movement: ETA Caliber 2824-2, automatic | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 38h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: Textured rubber (blue or black) or vintage-style leather | Price: Bronze $765 USD (approx. £567), stainless Steel $725 USD (approx. £537), limited to 300 pieces, more details at Magrette.
Spinnaker Hull Riviera Aegean Blue
This is the closest here to what might be considered an homage. Spinnaker’s Hull collection uses an almost millimeter perfect rendition of the Radiomir case but in the Aegean blue pairs that with a lovely blue dial with a similar pattern to the Nautilus, making for an incredibly handsome deck (rather than diving) watch.
The blue is the kind that changes easily with the light, and the stark lines inspired by yacht decking come and go a little too. The Hull is powered by a Japanese automatic movement which you can see through a quirkly-customised caseback. All in all not breaking the mould but also not breaking the bank.
Case/dial: 42mm diameter, stainless steel, 100m water resistance | Movement: Japan Automatic 3 Hands | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date | Strap: Stainless steel bracelet | Price: $315 USD (approx. £233), more details at Spinnaker Watches.
Gruppo Gamma Vanguard AN-18
Taking a far more heavy metal, militaristic bent to Italian diving flair, the Gruppo Gama Vanguard is a big, weighty piece of utilitarian watchmaking. It has the specs sheet of a solid diver: 200m water resistance, a 42-hour power reserve, plenty of SuperLuminova on the dial and, although it doesn’t look it at first glance, a unidirectional rotating bezel.
In the bronze it looks serious too, with a big, chunky crown guard and more muscular 44mm case than you’ll see on any Panerai. Paired with a fumé blue dial, it’s a piece that’ll age nicely over time. At $950 it’s one of the pricier alternatives on this list, but given the weight of metal we’re talking about – and another ETA 2824-2 movement – that’s not bad at all.
Case/dial: 44mm diameter, CuSn8 bronze, 200m water restistance | Movement: ETA swiss Caliber 2824-2, automatic | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 42h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: Toscano series, leather, navy blue | Price: $950 USD (approx. £703), more details at Gruppo Gamma.
Anonimo Epurato Les Rencontres Jean-marc Quarin
When Panerai left Florence, Anonimo took their place. Therefore you’d expect some similarities between the two in terms of sheer Italian flair. This particular piece was created to celebrate the Rencontres Jean-Marc Quarin, a Lausanne-based showcase of Bordeaux wines and is about as elegant as you’d expect.
The combination of cushion case, off-white dial and fluted bezel makes for a beautifully-finished, deceptively simple watch. It’s pretty monochrome, bar a flash of burgundy on the second hand, hinting at its wine link. Its Sellita movement is solid, if not quite as solid as its ETA alternatives, but the Epurato is all about style. Fortunately it has that in spades.
Case/dial: 42mm diameter, stainless steel, 50m water resistance | Movement: Caliber Swiss Made SW 200-1, automatic, 26 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 38h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date | Strap: Handmade black-grey calf leather with gradient effect | Price: CHF 2,290 (approx. £1,916), more details at Anonimo Watches.
Briston Clubmaster Iconic Steel
The Clubmaster from British brand Briston (bit of a tongue-twister there) straddles the line between cushion and square cases, making for a very distinctive design. Briston aren’t afraid of colour either, and this forest green dial version, paired with a colour-matched strap, is a bright, style-forward timepiece.
At 40mm, the Clubmaster is nicely-sized and definitely on the more elegant end of the Panerai-inspired spectrum. The Seiko movement inside is nothing special and its 50m water resistance takes it out of the diving game, but then who’d actually dive with a Radiomir anyway? As far as cool, colourful watches go, this is a winner.
Case/dial: 40mm diameter, stainless steel, 50m water resistance | Movement: Seiko NH35A calibre, automatic, 24 jewels | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 41h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: Interchangeable nylon (NATO) strap in British green | Price: €370 EUR (approx. £335), more details at Briston Watches.
Maranez Karon Steel Blue California
The quirkiest Panerais out there – other than the real oddities – are the California dials, with their split between Roman numerals and Arabic numerals. Unfortunately they’re few and far-between and among the pricier because of it. If you’re desperate for that kind of dial, Maranez offers a decent value option.
The Karon Steel uses a chunky, gunmetal case, huge at 47mm. With 300m water resistance, it also offers solid diving specs, though without a rotating bezel. It’s available in three colour variations of which I personally prefer the green (I like green, ok?) but all of which are nice and subtle. Equipped with a Seiko movement, the only downside is the Maranez website, which is admittedly painful.
Case/dial: 47mm diameter, stainless steel, 300m water resistance | Movement: Seiko NH35 calibre, automatic | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 41h | Functions: Hours, minutes | Strap: Rubber | Price: $279 USD (approx. £207), more details at Maranez.