Panerai is a company that every watch fan should know a bit about. Panerai is a small Florentine watch manufacturer that commands a big presence, both on your wrist and in the industry. The brands instantly recognizable features are the product of over 70 years of watchmaking experience. When Panerai first opened in 1860, the Florentine business made precision tools for sailors in the Royal Italian Navy. It was not until 1936 that they designed and built the Radiomir, a wristwatch named for the luminous material used to make it legible in the dark. The design ethic of the watch is nearly identical to the Radiomir available today. While the watch may have remained superficially frozen in time, the internal workings have not. In 1997, the company was taken over by Richemont and the watches moved upscale.
Panerai currently has two standard models, the Radiomir and the Luminor, that come in bevy of different collections but are all based on the same design ethics. The Radiomir is unique in its cushion-shape style and rung type connection between the strap and case. The Luminor is appreciated for its unique crown guard and classic Panerai sandwich dial. With Richemont at the helm, the production value increased greatly and Panerai watches garnered new respect in the industry. Unfortunately, for many years the movements were still not produced in-house and Officine Panerai relied on other franchises like Rolex and Jaeger-LeCoultre for the heartbeat of their watches. The company matured under leadership from Richemont, and in 2005 releases the calibre p.2002, a hand-wound mechanical movement with a GMT complication and an 8-day power reserve. Panerai began to be recognized by its peers and the purists in the market. The brand has grown very quickly in the past decade and commands a definitive presence in the watch community.
Panerai does not make a watch that falls outside of their stubborn yet endearing style. While other watch companies frequently add models and dilute their product lines and brand history, Panerai sticks with the past and has secured a future as a prominent watch manufacturer with the resolve to stick to their guns and no one else’s. Panerai watches come in all sorts of complications and base metals, but the design element is practically fossilized into the company’s image and brand. Just like a certain stellar chronograph from Omega, Panerai just would not be Panerai without the distinctive and elegant look seen in each and every one of its pieces. If you are considering adding a luxury timepiece to your collection, do not overlook the little Florentine watch shop that is hell bent on doing things their own way.
By James Stacey