Panerai, the fascinating history of Italian luxury watches

Panerai, from birth to the present day

No doubt the connoisseurs of luxury watches will know the famous models Panerai, which are of Swiss manufacture but with Italian roots dating back to over a century ago. The story of Panerai, therefore, is very old even if its rise to the celebrity that turned it into a collector’s brand, dates back only 20 years ago. There is even a cult group called the Panerists, present all over the world. Let’s take a look at the origins of this famous watch company, its maritime and military past and the modern icon that has become today.


Panerai’s history and military origins

About 160 years ago and precisely in 1860, the watchmaker Giovanni Panerai opens a small watch shop at Florence whose purpose is to provide watchmaking services and give the opportunity to study and learn this craft. In 1900 the company began to produce watches for the Regia Marina Militare, while the small shop moved to a more central area of the Tuscan capital (Piazza San Giovanni) where it is still located today. In view of the increasing demand from the Navy, Panerai intensifies the production of its watches making them increasingly precise instruments and in 1916 presents the model Radiomir, that increases the attention of the military towards his creations.

The story of Panerai becomes even more interesting, the more you enter into its perfect creations, especially from the technological point of view, which give life in 1936 to the creation of a light marine watch, large, easy to read and water resistant, always at the request of the Italian Navy. To complete the first military-marine watches, Panerai turns to Rolex, which creates for its models a larger case and equips them with a pocket movement, to which the Florentine watchmaker adds brightness by presenting the first prototypes of Radiomir.

Officine Panerai History | Panerai | Orologeria Svizzera | Radiomir |  Luminor | Mare Nostrum

Panerai’s history and its rise to success

Once the contract with the Navy was concluded, in 1953 the brand made its watches available to the public in Italy for the first time, although because of the very large size, they were not particularly successful. In 1972, after the death of Guido Panerai (son of Giovanni), the activity passes to another member of the family, the engineer Dino Zei, who officially changes the name to Officine Panerai srl, even if in the following decades the latter does not manage to emerge much. But the story of Panerai begins to change, when the well-known actor Sylvester Stallone, who was shooting a film in Italy, passes by that store and literally falls in love with the bold look of the watches.

After having purchased one and worn during the filming of the film, he orders others by having his name engraved in the dial. He created a limited edition Slytech, consisting of 15 copies that Stallone brought to America for his friends. After this event, a group of watch enthusiasts begins to take an interest in those models, which for them become a real cult giving life to an increasing number of collectors defined Paneristi. In 2002 the brand expanded across the border, with the opening of a large plant in Switzerland of about ten thousand square meters, where it was presented its first hand-wound model with GMT function.

Sylvester Stallone's Panerai Luminor 5218-201A Sells For $214,200 At  Phillips

Panerai history and its modern watches

Creating limited editions was a good move to maintain high demand and control its production and in 2006 a special edition of 1936 was released, California Dial Radiomir. It is followed by other interesting reissues such as Mare Nostrum, a model designed in 1942 for Navy deck officers. But over the years many other watches have conquered the big and small collectors. Today Panerai boasts 75 stores around the world, of which 13 are in America.

L'alta orologeria italiana | Tempus Watches

Cover Image: bianchigioielli

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