Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Officine Panerai
Panerai has blended Italian design and precision watchmaking for over 100 years. In this time, they have been able to revolutionise watchmaking and create some truly striking timepieces.
Their exploits in watchmaking have earned them a place in our weekly spotlight where we explore some of the greatest achievements of luxury watchmakers and the evolution of their brand in the pursuit of their values.
Welcome to the story of Officine Panerai.
Origins of Panerai
Officine Panerai's story began way back in 1860 when Giovanni Panerai opened his first store called "Orologeria Svizzera" in Ponte Alle Grazie, Florence. This store was the first of its kind because it was three things, a shop, workshop and a school.
Trivia - Panerai moved to its current home, Palazzo Arcivescovile in the same year.
Officine Panerai's Collections
Panerai currently has 5 watch collections. Each of these collections carries a unique piece of history which has enabled Panerai to push the boundaries of their own capabilities and also watchmaking design.
Panerai's famous Radiomir dates back to 1916 when Panerai secured their first patent for a luminous dial. This need came from the Italian navy who needed dials that were bright enough to provide visibility.
By using radium, Panerai was able to create a powder that created luminous-like dials or other devices which aided the navy in their explorations.
The first prototypes were not ready for 20 years and were intended for the First Submarine Group Command of the Royal Italian Navy.
Trivia - Only 10 of these watches were made.
Any eagle-eyed watch enthusiasts will see that today's Radiomirs possess many of the traits of the prototype such as luminous dial, the numbering and the size of the case.
In 1949, Panerai developed a replacement for their Radiomir watches by using a self-luminous substance called Luminor. Panerai trademarked this invention with their Luminor trademark.
Trivia - The full switch to Luminor was not completed until a year later.
Panerai Radiomir 1940
Increasing demands from the Royal Navy led to the Radiomir 1940. Some of the requests involved making their watches specifically withstand being underwater for long periods of time in extreme conditions.
In addition to this, remaining resistant to extreme levels of tension, Panerai had to reinforce various aspects of their watch such as the lugs and the case.
Trivia - in 2012, Panerai made a tribute to this watch by creating a special edition of watches bearing the case of the 1940 Luminor.
In 2016, Panerai created one of their most complicated watches, the Radiomir 1940 minute repeater that can display local time and also a second-time-zone.
Panerai began researching to develop the Luminor further. The research focused on the crown, lugs and the case. Resulting in a wider bezel, it's referred to as the Luminor 1950.
Panerai's latest collection, the Luminor Due was released in 2016. With a new case inspired by the Luminor 1950, Panerai welcomed it to their collection.
Panerai was bought by the Richemont Group in 1997 who also owns other luxury watchmakers such as IWC, Vacheron Constantin, Montblanc and more. It was not until the following year where Panerai began a new venture in fine watchmaking.
5 years later, they moved their watchmaking to Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Here, there were able to blend Swiss watchmaking, design, know-how and research.
Trivia - In 2005, Panerai created their first in-house movement, the P.2002. It had a 8-day power reserve and was hand-wound.
Now closing in on their 160th birthday, Panerai has revolutionised the way in which they make watches.
Their new venture into luxury watchmaking has seen them progress to new heights in fine watchmaking. Now creating their own in-house movements, Panerai is entering a new era and creating timepieces which we look forward to writing about.
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