Panerai’s story begins in the 19th century in Florence, Italy, where Giovanni Panerai opened his eponymous shop and watchmaking school. One of the brand’s first innovations was the Radiomir, a heavy-duty water-resistant timepiece with an illuminated dial designed for the Royal Italian Navy. Over the years, Radiomir evolved and Panerai developed various models within the Radiomir collection. Panerai has recently started manufacturing operations in Switzerland and prides itself on combining Italian design with traditional Swiss watchmaking techniques. For timepieces that embody tradition, style and innovation, shop our Panerai watches below.
Like many companies trapped in fascist countries, Panerai developed watches for the wrong side during the Second World War, but Mussolini’s dictatorship and financial resources prompted Panerai to innovate quickly. They developed the Perspex crystal (1936), the huge luminous sandwich dial (1938), one-piece lugs with spring bars (1940), and a movement with an eight-day power reserve to reduce wear on the crown seals (also 1940). After the fall of the Fascists, Panerai developed the famous called-based luminous device Luminor (1949) and the iconic lever-actuated crown lock (1950).
It was not until 1993 that Panerai’s watches became widely available to a wide audience and attracted the approval of Sylvester Stallone. By 1997, Panerai had become so successful that the Vendome Group (later Richemont) bought the company, moved production to Switzerland, and transformed Panerai into the luxury sports watch company we know today.
It took some time for Panerai to move away from Sly’s Rocky / Rambo Brave legend and tell its story more directly, but once it did, the company offered a subtle form of badassery, all about ocean-going adventures. Italy is almost entirely coastal, and its navy is known for its innovative maritime technology. That’s where Panerai makes dive watches, gauges and compasses for these deep-sea pioneers. At the same time, the company maintains a close relationship with yacht racing, including vintage wooden yachts.