This may not be a normal Splurge vs. Steal, but hear us out. Watches aren’t always the same in looks, but sometimes they draw similar inspiration and that is the case with the Panerai and the Breitling. So let’s take a look.
Two Watches Optimized for Military Use
Watches optimized for military use have been around for centuries. While they come in a variety of designs, there are a few common traits among military models. The most important characteristic is a highly legible dial. Many military watches feature a bead-blasted, matte finish. This allows for minimal detection and optimal stealth in combat. Overall, the construction must be strictly utilitarian from the inside out. For instance, watches for the air force might come include a GMT function. Alternatively, watches for the navy may come equipped with a diver’s bezel.
Today, some of the most popular tool watches on the market draw from these military roots. Two of those models are the Panerai Radiomir and the Breitling Colt. There are naturally similarities between these two models as military timepieces. However, there are also a number of differences, namely price. If you’re looking to invest in a more cost-effective option, you might go for the Colt. Instead, maybe you’re ready to splurge on a model like the Radiomir. Before you make your decision, let’s explore how these two military models match up.
The Panerai Radiomir
Panerai is a brand who has built a reputation for their work with military forces. In the early twentieth century, they were refining the technologies they could offer in their timepieces. Their primary focus was experimenting with luminous materials to increase the legibility of the dial in any conditions. Eventually, they landed on a combination of zinc sulfide and radium bromide. They called this substance Radiomir, and filed a patent in 1916. Still, it we wouldn’t see the first prototype for a Radiomir watch until two decades later.
The original model featured a number of the characteristics we continue to see in the Radiomir today. It boasted an oversized 47mm case, hand-wound mechanical movement, and water-resistant strap. The model went to production soon after and proved to be a crucial tool during WWII. Following the war, Panerai began to understand the harmful effects of radium. This spurred them to go back to work on refining the luminous substance. The result of those efforts was the development of a new material they called Luminor. While this spurred an all-new collection, the updated Radiomir remained in production.
The Breitling Colt
The Colt is a much newer model with a shorter history than the Radiomir. However, it draws inspiration from the rich traditions of military timepieces. First, the name comes from the Colt Manufacturing Company, a leading producer of military products in the 1980s. Like the Radiomir, Breitling initially developed the Colt for military application and later added it as a permanent collection.
True to its military roots, the Colt boasts a number of signature military watch traits. It features a robust build with a bold, unidirectional rotating bezel and rider tabs. These not only help to protect the sapphire crystal but also allow for easy handling. They have since become a trademark of the Breitling brand. Last but not least, just like the Radiomir, the Colt features oversized hands and hour markers. These feature luminescent coating for enhanced legibility in any conditions.
Choosing the Best Model for You
Because of their shared military heritage, the Radiomir and the Colt inevitably have a number of common qualities. These include an oversized construction, water resistance, and an overall straightforward and highly legible design. Both models are unmistakably purpose-built tool watches, but there are still a few things that set them apart. In terms of specs, most Radiomir models stick to the original type of manual movement.
On the other hand, Colt models are either automatic or quartz. Aesthetically, the Radiomir showcases Panerai’s iconic cushion-shaped case and is available in precious metals. Though it’s certainly a military model, these design attributes make it a bit less sporty and more versatile. Instead, the Colt features a more classic, round design and a sportier look and feel. At the end of the day, when it comes to functionality, you can’t go wrong with either military model. The biggest factors to consider when choosing the best model for you are your personal style and budget.