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History of Panerai Watch Company

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, musclemen of the US movie industry, are among the fans of Officine Panerai’s watches, long a military secret before the firm began to make striking, chic, jewellery models for a select circle of customers.

In Eraser, the giant Arnie wields his colossal machine guns with a Panerai on his wrist. In Daylight, last chance firefighter, Sly, relentlessly punishes his Panerai – a Slytech model made especially for him - which survives all he can throw at it. Then, the Panerai produced just before World War II, designed as an exceptionally efficient weapon for the officers and divers of the Italian Navy, was the ultimate instrument.

Founded in Florence in 1860 by patriarch Giovanni Panerai, Guido Panerai & Figlio soon won a contract to supply the Italian Navy. Giovanni’s son Leon Francesco and grandson Giuseppe subsequently continued the work he had begun on the Ponte alle Grazie in Florence. A dynasty of entrepreneurs then..

Over the decades, the name Panerai became inseparably linked to the measurement of time nad space in the nautical world. In 1936, now renamed Officine Panerai, the company produced a revolutionary prototype, a new kind of diving watch. The Radiomir Panerai was born. What was different about it? Its special crown tube sealing device was a simple stroke of genius. The lever mechanism pressed the crown into a conical cork joint – like a clamp closure – ensuring fail-safe water resistance.

In the 1950s, the Luminor model with its Angelus-Achttage movement ushered in a new generation of diving watches. The new super luminous dials treated with a tritium blend (replacing the radium used in the Radiomir series) took Panerai to the top of its profession. When the Vendome Groupe acquired Officine Panerai in 1997, it introduced a new sales and marketing policy based on authenticity. With its very distinctive, impressive watches and a new collection of models of more conventional size, Panerai continued to ride the wave of elegance and performance in a blaze of glory.

Today, Officine Panerai distributes its own calibres in the Manifattura collection: the P.2002 eight-day GMT, the P.2003 ten-day GMT, the P.2004 single button chronograph, the P.2005 six-day GMT tourbillion, and the P.9000 three-day power reserve automatic movement. The very impressive Luminor Marina collection is also well worth a mention. Yes, the brand has plenty of surprises left in store for us.

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