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About Panerai Watches

Founded in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai as a workshop and watchmaking school in Florence, Italy, Officine Panerai has since grown to be one of the top luxury watch brands in the market. This is an impressive development given the fact that for most of its history, Panerai was not a publically accessible watch brand but rather, a private company tasked to supply instruments for the Italian navy.

In 1916, the company filed a patent for a luminous radium-based powder they called "Radiomir" to use on its watches and instruments for legibility in low light. In 1936, Panerai developed a prototype dive watch destined for combat divers of the First Submarine Group Command of the Royal Italian Navy. The watch would later be known as the “Radiomir” and the prototype set many of the design fundamentals that are still evident in modern Panerai watches. Early Panerai Radiomir watches sported massive 47 mm cushion-shaped cases fitted with wire lugs so that they could be worn on extra-long water-resistant watch straps. The watch dials were stark, with just a pair of center hands for the time and oversized hour markers, and of course, featuring plenty of the patented Radiomir lume so that the frogmen could read their watches in the dark.

Fast-forward to 1949, and Panerai filed yet another patent for a self-luminous substance but based on tritium, which is much less harmful than radium. The name selected for the material was “Luminor” and yet again, Panerai eventually used this name for some of its watch models too. In the 1950s, Panerai develops another watch case design, fitted with an oversized winding-crown bridge-like protector to keep water out of the watch—this design detail remains as a signature trait of modern Panerai Luminor watches.

Finally, in the 1990s, Panerai began making watches for the public and in an incredible twist of fate, the timepieces caught the eye of Sylvester Stallone whilst he was in Italy filming a movie. One of Hollywood’s biggest actors wearing the watch on-screen and off-screen propelled the Panerai brand into the spotlight and soon, other celebrities followed Sly’s lead and proudly wore the oversized watches from Italy as well. This star power garnered the attention of the Vendôme Group (later known as the Richemont Group), which ultimately purchased Panerai in 1997.

Today, Panerai watches continue to draw design cues from the vintage military dive models from the brand’s archives—particularly the Panerai Radiomir and Panerai Luminor models—yet reimaged for a modern audience. The brand also now makes contemporary Submersible dive watches to adhere to modern diving watch standards. Current Panerai watches are still on the bigger side, however, the company has recently dabbled in more restrained proportions and slimmer profiles in the new Luminor Due lineup.

Panerai’s collection houses a wide range of materials from rugged stainless steel to precious 18k gold to high-tech carbon fiber-based alloys. Plus, Panerai also makes a variety of complications such as chronographs, GMTs, and calendar watches—but its time-only models with straightforward dials endure as the most popular options.