Officine Panerai traces its origins back to 1860 when Giovanni Panerai opened a watchmaker’s shop on Ponte alle Grazie in Florence, Italy. The company became a supplier of precision instruments, such as depth gauges and wristwatches, to the Italian Navy. The radium-based powder called “Radiomir” developed by the company was a significant milestone in the development of underwater and low-light time display and the Radiomir collection, which dates back to 1936, is the lasting tribute to this.
Panerai’s other timepiece collection, the Luminor, is also named after a tritium-based luminescent substance patented by the company as the successor to Radiomir. Its wrist-based metonym introduced the crown protection mechanism that was patented in 1956 and has been one of the brand’s core design elements ever since.
Astonishingly, the first Officine Panerai collection to be made available to the general public was not presented until 1993, bringing to an end decades of secrecy linked to the company’s military supply contracts. Inspired by the models produced for commandos in the second world war, the collection became an instant hit with collectors. Only four years later, the brand was acquired by the Vendôme Group, which was subsumed into the Richemont Group’s operations at the end of the same year.
The brand developed significantly at the turn of the millennium, opening a production facility in Neuchâtel, one of Switzerland’s main watchmaking centres, in 2002 and launching its first in-house movement, the P.2002 hand-wound calibre with GMT function and 8-day power reserve, in 2005. Officine Panerai has since introduced a full range of in-house movements that power its Radiomir and Luminor models, which still today use the strong identity of the original military models.