A beautiful and natural blend between Swiss technology, Italian design and an the endless passion for the sea, Officine Panerai watches are some of the most loved and desired luxury timepieces on the planet. Its rich history and remarkable reputation of crafting exquisite time-keeping devices are the main reasons why collectors consider its models to be the holy grail of modern horology.
Its beginnings go back to 1860 when Giovanni Panerai opened the first watchmaker’s shop on the Ponte alle Grazie- Florence, Italy. This family business was passed on from father to son and in 1900, Guido Panerai made a change in the company’s evolution by focusing on extremely precise movements. This decision was a very inspired one as the brand became the Royal Italian Navy’s official supplier. Its recent-discovered fame made it necessary for the shop to be moved in a more central and larger location. Piazza San Giovanni, Florence was that place where the Panerai boutique is still located in present days. But no matter how many changes it experienced over the years, the shop still reminds us of the strong connection between Swiss precision and Italian aesthetics by keeping on its door the phrase “Orologeria Svizzera”.
Panerai is also the brand that invented a very special glow in the dark material called Radiomir. The goal was to create easy to read instruments that wouldn’t have their legibility affected by underwater diving or dark. By using a combination of radium bromide and sulphide inserted in very small tubes Panerai invented the Radiomir luminescent system that was patented by Guido Panerai at the beginning of the previous century. This is how the famous Radiomir and Luminor timepieces were born.
The first Radiomir watches manufactured for the Italian Navy with an over-sized 47 mm diameter were equipped by a Rolex hand-wound mechanical movement. This cushion-shaped watch had a screw-down crown, wire loop strap attachments welded to the case, and a luminous dial that was very easy to read in the dark or under water.
The Mare Nostrum was the first Panerai chronograph watch. This prototype was constructed in 1943 and it was created especially for deck officers, but it never went into production stages. The company decided to use the Mare Nostrum’s winding crown’s protecting device onto the Radiomir watch to secure the crown in position. By doing this, it allowed its timepieces to dive to a depth of 200 meters, something truly unique at that time.
Luminor was the innovative luminescent material that followed the Radiomir. This newer substance was based on tritium and it was invented in 1949. The success and remarkable improvements these two glow in the dark materials brought were the reasons why the collections Radiomir and Luminor carry their names.
The famous Radiomir with 8 days power reserve and the 5 minutes interval that calculates immersion times was designed for the Egyptian Navy in 1956. This is still an iconic design available in a limited number and meant for true professionals.
Panerai was the first watch company to produce a timepiece able to withstand a pressure equivalent to a depth of 1000 meters. This was actually a prototype that had a titanium case, a mechanical self-winding movement, a luminous dial and a rubber strap. To enhance the legibility of the watch at this depth, the company applied very small phials of tritium on the hands and on the hour markers.
Only at the beginning of the ‘90s Officine Panerai decided to produce a limited number or watches meant for the regular watches enthusiast. The collections that were part of this limited edition strategy were Luminor, Luminor Marina and the Mare Nostrum chronograph.
The company even launched a couple of special edition timepieces signed by Sylvester Stallone. The actor is a huge admirer of Panerai watches and it requested the brand to design a model named Slytech especially for him. You may probably not know this, but Sly is Sylvester’s nickname. This unique model was called Submersible and it was used in the movie Daylight. Short after, Sylvester Stallone also asked Panerai to make him a white dial version named Daylight. On the caseback of these watches there is the actor’s signature.
Within the last decades Panerai has diversified and extended its collection by creating marvelous chronographs, GMT and 1000 m submersible models that keep the same traditional dial layout, but surprise with a distinctive style and timeless functionality.