A rarity among luxury watch manufacturers, Panerai's headquarters reside in Florence, Italy instead of in Switzerland. This difference in heritage shows in their design: Panerai watches are entirely distinctive from any other brand. They feature an iconic square shape, large crown guards, and a one-of-a-kind construction. Panerai's uncluttered timepieces are practical as well as handsome. The simple legibility of a Panerai watch made them the official timepiece of the Italian Navy for nearly a century. Buying a Panerai watch will instantly make you stand out in a crowd. Discover your next model with our collection of exceptional used Panerai watches for sale at Crown & Caliber.
Giovanni Panerai founded his namesake brand in Florence, Italy in 1860. This original location was not only a shop and workshop but also the city’s first watchmaking school. In the early days, the brand worked to establish connections in the Swiss watchmaking industry to ensure their watches featured the highest quality parts and designs. Panerai quickly became the top Italian watch company of the time.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Giovanni Panerai’s grandson Guido assumed his place at the head of the company. He continued to grow the business but felt the brand needed a new vision. Soon, Panerai began to specialize in precision mechanisms, such as depth gauges, mechanical calculators, and timing instruments. This ultimately led to their longstanding partnership with the Royal Italian Navy.
In 1916, Panerai had its first big technological breakthrough. They created and filed the patent for Radiomir. The radium-based powder allowed them to give luminosity to the details of their precision mechanisms. This development gave Panerai the opportunity to produce watches and military devices with optimal legibility in the dark or underwater.
By 1934, Guido’s children had taken over the family business. Just two years later in 1936, Panerai debuted the first Radiomir prototype for the Royal Italian Navy. The initial version of the Radiomir contained many of the characteristics seen in today’s Radiomir collection. For instance, it featured the model’s signature luminous dial and cushion-shaped case.
The needs of the military continued to be a driving force for the brand through WWII. In 1935, Panerai began working with Rolex to develop professional dive watches for the Royal Italian Navy. The result of this partnership was the first official Panerai Radiomir timepiece. This oversized 47mm wristwatch came equipped with the same luminous markings and cushion-shaped case as the original prototype. Another notable feature of the watch was the water-resistant Rolex movement. The Panerai Radiomir proved to be essential for Regia Marina divers who needed a reliable tool for measuring time and distance underwater for extended periods. The Frogmen of the Italian Navy who manned Slow Moving Torpedoes to their designated targets during covert night missions also found the Radiomir to be an indispensable tool.
During the next decade, Panerai continued to work on refining this luminous technology. In 1949, they patented a new and improved luminous substance called Luminor. With this innovation came a new model, aptly named the Luminor. The first Luminor had a similar look to the Radiomir. It featured a cushion-shaped case, crown-protecting bridge, and flatter, wider bezel. By 1956, Panerai had filed the patent for the now iconic crown-protecting bridge that first appeared on the Luminor. The bridge has become a signature detail for both the Luminor model and the Panerai brand.
1972 marked a year of great transition for Panerai. After remaining a family business for over a century, engineer Dino Zei took over the company. He ushered the brand through the Quartz Crisis by going back to its roots and classic models. Just before the twenty-first century, Panerai changed hands yet again. The Richemont Group acquired the brand in 1997. This ultimately gave Panerai access to a larger network for development, production, and distribution. For instance, it helped the brand gain the resources to create their first in-house movement in 2005: the P.2001. This hand-wound caliber came equipped with a GMT function and an eight-day power reserve. Since this expansion, the Panerai name has become synonymous with Italian luxury watches. Today, the brand continues to push the bounds of innovation by experimenting with new materials, like carbotech.
Video: Panerai | A Deep Dive into the Italian Watchmaker
Brush up on your Panerai history with the stories behind the brand you love.
Interested in learning more about Crown & Caliber's luxurious pre-owned watches? View our YouTube channel here.
Selling Your Panerai Watches
Crown & Caliber makes selling an Panerai watch easy and rewarding. Let us assist you in the selling process and help you receive the highest possible value for your Panerai. Get your Panerai quote