A top military secret until relatively recently, Panerai watches have been referred to as “art in motion” and have proved extremely popular with the most discerning watch enthusiasts and collectors across the world. The now-Swiss made brand with Italian roots has risen to stardom as a coveted brand, complete with its own cult-like following (known as the Paneristi). Perhaps most astonishingly, this has all taken place fairly recently – despite the brand’s long and illustrious history.
The History of Panerai
The origins of Panerai watches dates back to 1860, when Italian watchmaker Giovanni Panerai opened a small shop in Florence. For many years, the company and associated watchmaking school operated relatively quietly until the 1900s when the Italian Royal Navy started taking notice and sought its services. These products included controllers for searchlights, timing devices and mechanical fire control buttons for torpedo boats.
Because of the need for wartime visibility at night, Panerai set to work producing instruments with reliable luminous markers. This brought about the invention of Radiomir, a radium-powered luminous pigment. The new development far surpassed everything else on the market, leading Panerai to submit a patent.
With the Second World War looming in 1936, the Italian Navy once again approached Panerai to create a watch that could be large, luminous, water-resistant and easy to read. To bring these first models to fruition, Panerai turned to Rolex for assistance. Rolex enlarged its 26mm Oyster case and fitted the timepieces with a pocket watch movement, with Panerai adding its famous Radiomir. Ten versions of the watches were released in total, with each one unveiling improvements and enhancements. The most notable of these happened in 1938, with the appearance of the very first sandwich dial. In 1940, the brand launched the Radiomir 1940 to help improve water resistance. Then in 1949, the Luminor was unveiled with a new patented luminous substance. None of these watches were available on the civilian market.
Ascension to Popularity
Once the war was over, the contract with the Italian Navy came to an end and Panerai started to make its timepieces available to the general public. Unfortunately, they were not in particularly high demand. The name of the company was also changed to Officine Panerai. Over the coming decades, the brand had quite an obscure business, releasing three updated collections – including the Luminor and Mare Nostrum.
This all changed when actor Sylvester Stallone was filming the movie “Daylight” in Italy and happened to walk past the Panerai boutique in Florence. He was enamored by the watch’s bold look and bought one to wear in the movie. Stallone also asked the company to make more for him, with his name on the dial (known as the Sly-tech) – which he then brought back to the USA with him. Around the same time, Panerai had caught the attention of the head of the Vendome Group (now known as the Richemont Group), Johann Rupert. Officine Panerai was acquired by Rupet in 1997, with a planned international launch in 2001.
The first of these new timepieces were the Luminor and Luminor Marina, each one being incredibly bold thanks to their crown guard and luminosity. Sylvester Stallone was also still wearing Panerai watches in movies and had even gifted one to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also wore it regularly. The watch world soon took note, with some avid fans even forming what is known as the Paneristi – something which was an incredibly powerful movement in the early 2000s.
Panerai insisted on creating limited editions to keep production controlled and demand high. The company released the 1936 California Dial Radiomir in 2006, something which is still in incredibly high demand. Other notable reissues included Mare Nostrum, a 99-piece edition of a watch that Panerai had designed for deck officers of the Navy in 1942.
Pre-owned Panerai Watches from Blowers Jewellers
Blowers Jewellers is the destination of choice for watch collectors and aficionados alike. Throughout our illustrious history, we have cultivated an important reputation for the quality of our service and advice. We like nothing more than helping our clients secure the timepieces of their dreams, whether they be Panerai watches or something entirely different.
We have an extensive collection of pre-owned Panerai watches, both in a used and unused condition. Each item is individually hand-picked by our experts and comes with a warranty of between 12 months to five years. All of our luxurious second-hand Panerai watches can be viewed in our Hull boutique and our office in London’s Mayfair.
If you are looking to sell or part-exchange your Panerai watch instead, we offer a generous service to help you purchase a new Panerai, or anything else from our collection. Simply send us the details of your timepiece and we will provide you with a comprehensive valuation within just 48 hours of receiving your request.
Blowers Jewellers is dedicated to providing expert guidance and every stage of the process. We understand that purchasing a new timepiece is an incredibly personal experience, which is why we will take the time to get to know your requirements before recommending what we believe is the best option for you.
For more information about how we can help you find your perfect Panerai watch, contact a member of our team today or visit us in person in one of our boutiques. We will do everything we can to assist.