One of the biggest differences between the established names of watchmaking and modern microbrands is simply how long the respective brands have existed. Companies like Seiko have a seemingly endless supply of historical references ripe for new interpretations and re-editions. However, 2016-founded watchmaker Isotope’s backlog (some of which we have covered here) isn’t even a fraction of the size. And so, they have embraced pure fantasy to create the Isotope Old Radium Bronze Pilot’s Watch, a modern re-edition of a timepiece that never existed.
The fantastical story that Isotope have fabricated is that in 1942 the British Ministry of Defence were in need of a pilot’s watch to supply their air force with (a story anyone familiar with the Dirty Dozen will recognise). Isotope, of course, were only too happy to oblige and the resulting timepiece quickly earned the affectionate nickname Old Radium from the pilots who wore them, because of the Isotope name and the lumed features. The real Old Radium Bronze being launched in 2022 is inspired by this non-existent historical reference.
One of the benefits of basing the watch’s inspiration in a flight of fancy is that there are zero design rules that have to be followed. Foremost among those is the fact that while in 1942 a pilot’s watch would be made from steel, the Old Radium is made from bronze. Specifically, it’s CuSn8, a very pure alloy that has a rich, rose gold style colour. It gives the watch a strong vintage aesthetic, despite the fact it would actually be anachronistic. Of course, being bronze it will patina over time, although because of the purity of the alloy that will happen at a slower rate for the Old Radium.
In terms of proportion the case is 40mm in diameter with a flat bezel and oversize crown. It’s worth noting that the caseback is titanium to avoid the issues that can arise from extended contact between skin and bronze. Also, the titanium back can be unscrewed to reveal a sapphire exhibition window.
The Old Radium Bronze’s dial is uncluttered and understated in classic pilot’s watch fashion. There’s an hour scale with large Arabic numerals around the periphery of the dial and a small minute scale on the flange. At the centre of the display is Isotope’s signature raised tear drop shape with a grainy texture in black. The surrounding area has the same textured finish but is available in a choice of three colours: grey, green or red. As for the lumed sword hands and indexes, while the watch is named after traditional radium lume, as this is a ‘modern re-interpretation’ it uses modern SuperLuminova.
Housed inside and visible through the hidden exhibition window is the Swiss Landeron 24 automatic movement. It’s essentially a rival to the ETA 2842-2 and Sellita SW200 with similar specs such as its 40-hour power reserve. However, the Landeron 24 is more exclusive as it’s typically made in relatively small batches. Not a problem for the Old Radium Bronze though as it’s a limited edition of 900 pieces – 300 in each colourway.
This watch is an exercise in taking a brand’s signature style and applying it to a type of watch that they have no historical relationship with. Honestly, it works really well. The Isotope Old Radium Bronze balances a pilot’s watch aesthetic with the bold shapes that Isotope loves superbly. Plus, on top of that, the watch itself is very accessible at £800.
Price & Specs:
- Model: Isotope Old Radium Bronze Pilot
- Case/dial: 40mm diameter x 10.1mm thickness, brushed CuSn8 Bronze case, sandblasted titanium exhibition case back, textured green, red or grey dial
- Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
- Movement: Swiss Landeron calibre L24, automatic
- Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
- Power reserve: 40h
- Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
- Strap: Calfskin with bespoke bronze brushed buckle
- Price/availability: £800, limited to 900 pieces (300 in each colourway)