history of panerai
Giovanni Panerai opens his watchmaker's shop on Ponte alle Grazie in Florence: serving not only as a shop and workshop but also as the city's first watchmaking school, Officine Panerai's history begins here.
1860 - 1936
Opening of the first Officine Panerai shop
Giovanni Panerai opens his first shop in 1860 at “Ponte alle Grazie” in Florence, serving not only as a watch shop and workshop, but also as the city's first watchmaking school: the history of Panerai begins here.
After having used various Florentine locations since 1876, the shop moved to its current location in the 1920's for the reconstruction of the Ponte delle Grazie, located in the Archbishop's Palace in front of the Florence Cathedral under the name "OROLOGERIA SVIZZERA", a name that has meant high-quality watches in Florence for over a century.
OFFICINE PANERAI REGISTERS THE RADIOMIR PATENT
In order to meet the military requirements of the Italian Royal Navy, to which Guido Panerai's family had been supplying precision instruments, such as naval combat sights, for years, a radium-based powder was developed to make the dials of instruments and sights brighter, in collaboration with Lieutenant Commander Carlo Ronconi: this is how the Radiomir was born.
The reference to the name "Radiomir" was documented in the addendum of the patent filed in France on March 23, 1916. The high self-luminescence of the compound immediately made radium paste a key element in Panerai's production. The Radiomir patent was the first of the many patents filed to celebrate Panerai's history of innovation.
THE FIRST RADIOMIR PROTOTYPE
In 1935, the Italian Royal Navy set up a secret programme of new underwater assault vehicles and operators.
Panerai took parts in the development of useful technical tools for this new military activity.
To meet the parameters required by the Navy, a number of high-strength diving timepieces were tested.
The Navy's historical archives record that in 1936 Giuseppe Panerai commissioned some properly elaborated prototypes to carry out technical tests: the best result was the Ref. 2533 made on a base supplied by Rolex-Geneva and modified by Panerai.
PANERAI FOR THE ROYAL NAVY, THE RADIOMIR Ref. 3646 IS BORN
This was followed by the creation of the Ref.3646, the instrument that we know today as the "Radiomir" watch. Today's Radiomir watch retains many of the features of the Ref.3646: a large cushion-shaped steel case with a diameter of 47 mm, luminescent numerals and indexes, wire lugs welded to the case and a high-quality manual mechanical movement (at the time, a Cortebert/Rolex 618 calibre derived from a pocket watch was used) and a tanned, water-resistant leather strap, (long enough to be worn over protective clothing). With this decision, regular supplies of Panerai watches to the Regia Marina took place. To improve its function, Giuseppe Panerai modified the structure of the dial with the use of overlapping discs, and also the upper part in anodized aluminium with perforated indexes and numbers in order to make the radium paste more legible and luminescent. To improve the legibility of the dial, its layout was redesigned with just 4 large Arabic numerals in the cardinal points and 8 indexes at the hour markers.
PANERAI PATENTS THE NAME LUMINOR
On 11 January, 1949, a patent was approved for use by Panerai with the name "Luminor" due to all the luminescent and self-luminescent materials used. Giuseppe Panerai realised that the link with radioactivity had to be handled with caution, considering the new reality created by the expansion of impressive military and civil atomic technologies. He decided that the luminescent substances should be given a new and more neutral name and were thus gradually identified by the name Luminor. After more than a decade, the Luminor was recognised with a new luminescent tritium-based substance (a hydrogen isotope), with very low and harmless emissions. This was the result of many studies and experiments, and Luminor gradually became, by convention of use, the common identifier of the Panerai diving timepiece, characterized by the crown-protection bridge.
1950s - PANERAI FOR THE ITALIAN NAVY
THE “MARE NOSTRUM” CHRONOGRAPH PROTOTYPE
Panerai drew up plans for a project, likely already sketched out in the 1940s, of a model specifically designed for Deck Officers: the two-counter chronograph called Mare Nostrum. It is thought that only two or three of these watches were ever made, probably in the 1950s, and all that remains of them are some photographic plates and a single prototype, purchased by Officine Panerai's own museum, at an international auction in 2005.
PANERAI FOR THE ROYAL ITALIAN NAVY
With the increasing involvement in underwater operations, the Navy's requirements become even more specific after the Second World War: military watches had to remain underwater in extreme conditions for long periods of time. In 1954, two new references, the Ref.6152 and the Ref. 6154, were tested.
Some of today's models were inspired by them, commercially known as Radiomir 1940, the case is made from a single block with fixed handles, retaining the cushion shape, with more pronounced edges on the sides. They received a general aesthetic revision of the individual parts and adopted a screw-down winding crown, tubular cylindrical replacing the conical cylindrical of the historic Radiomir.
After careful analysis of the tests, some modifications were made and the definitive reference 6152 1 was born, also with reinforced lugs and made from solid steel from the same block as the case.
OFFICINE PANERAI DEVELOPS THE EGYPTIAN MODEL AND PATENTS THE CROWN-PROTECTING DEVICE
Panerai develops a diving watch known as the GPF-2/56, which was later popularly known as the "Egyptian" as it was supplied to the Egyptian Navy with the consent of the Italian Navy. Just over sixty models were made, entirely assembled in Florence by the master watchmaker Linder. The innovations that characterise this model are remarkable, starting with the imposing size of the case, with a diameter of 60 mm and a sufficient resistance and a considerable level of water resistance, the graduated rotating bezel to calculate diving time and the Swiss made Angelus calibre with an 8-day power reserve used as a movement. This was the first time, the element that most identifies a Panerai watch, even today, was structurally introduced: the crown protecting device. It was in 1956, that Guido Panerai & Figlio took out an international patent for the crown protecting device.
1960s - PANERAI FOR THE ITALIAN NAVY
THE EVOLUTION OF THE PANERAI LUMINOR WATCH
The evolution of the Panerai Ref. 6152/1 watch continued unabated in the 1960s. In the process of assembling the overlapping disc dials, the use of radium-based paste disappeared, and with it the name Radiomir. The luminescence now comes from a new low-radiation tritium-based compound which takes the name Luminor. The crown-protection bridge is inserted and adapted to the middle case of the Ref. 6152/1 case. In roughly 80 units, a Swiss-made Angelus SF240 mechanical calibre was adopted for the first time, with an 8-day power reserve. The power reserve thus became a fundamental element in the DNA of the Florentine brand. In some models the solid and closed case-back is replaced by one with a transparent centre made of plexiglass, allowing the mechanism to be seen. Panerai was therefore one of the pioneers in the production of watches with a visible case back. Another fundamental chapter in Panerai's production, which particularly developed in this period, concerns the precision instruments created and supplied at the Italian Navy's request such as compasses and wrist-depth gauges with different calibrations, as well as underwater signal lights to compensate for the pressure, which provided greater resistance at great depths.
1972 - PANERAI FOR THE ITALIAN NAVY
A YEAR OF TRANSITION FOR THE COMPANY “G. Panerai &Figlio”
In 1972, Giuseppe Panerai, Guido's son died. The management of the family business, together with all the exclusive supply contracts for the Italian Navy, was taken over by engineer and former Italian Navy officer Mr. Dino Zei, who was nominated the new CEO of the company. The Company name changes from "G. Panerai &Figlio" to "Officine Panerai Srl". OFFICINE PANERAI became the official brand name which had already appeared on many products and also watches.
1985 – PANERAI FOR THE ITALIAN NAVY
MILLEMETERS WATCH PROTOTYPE
The company's technical department designs a new diving watch, which incorporates all the technological developments in watchmaking and diving from the 1970s and 1980s, to be subjected to the severe tests used to specify the equipment of the Italian Navy. It is an innovative titanium timepiece with a diameter of 47 mm, still equipped with the typical lever crown protector, the rotating bezel and the dial of indexes formed by “Tasers” (microscopic cylindrical containers) containing the luminescent material. Tests have confirmed that this special Panerai watch can easily withstand more than one hundred atmospheres of pressure, hence the name “Millemetri”.
1993 - 1997
PRE VENDOME: THE FIRST OFFICINE PANERAI COLLECTION
In order to tackle the serious economic and political crisis that started worldwide in 1992, Officine Panerai decided to go into to the civil watch market, launching three collections, originating from ten total references in numbered and limited editions: the 44 mm Luminor and Luminor Marina watches and the 42 mm Mare Nostrum chronograph, which drew inspiration from the historical models created for the Underwater Commandos division of the Italian Navy. This relieved Ing. Zei, CEO of Panerai, from maintaining military secrecy on these Panerai products. They quickly become highly sought-after items for collectors and enthusiasts. The presentation of the collection took place on 10 September, 1993 in the Military harbour of La Spezia, on the Italian navy cruiser "Durand De La Penne". The ceremony was attended by Duke Amedeo D'Aosta, son of Sir Aimone di Savoia, the supreme head of the Italian diving department at the time.
PRE VENDOME-OFFICINE PANERAI BECOMES A TOP LEVEL ACTOR IN THE HIGH WATCH MARKET
The Richemont Group (then the Vendôme Group) acquired Officine Panerai Srl in the spring of 1997, immediately opening a pilot-selective distribution network in Italy, to fine-tune the industrial and commercial strategy and to make use of the synergies present in the Group's structures. In April 1998, Panerai made its debut on the International Haute Horlogerie market at the SIHH (Salon de la Haute Horlogerie of Geneva) The collection consists of three models: the Luminor and the Luminor Marina in three different versions, 44 mm in diameter and the Mare Nostrum chronograph 42 mm, now with a narrower bezel and screw back. From this moment Panerai becomes internationally renowned in luxury sport watches, introducing worldwide the trend of large diameter watches.
THE INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH
2001 - 2002
THE INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH - 2001
OFFICINE PANERAI: RETURN TO THE ORIGINS
After a meticulous refurbishment, Panerai's historic boutique is reopened. A restyling of the original Piazza San Giovanni premises in Florence, following the acquisition of the family shop by Officine Panerai. This artisan’s workshop is a meeting point for brand collectors and enthusiasts, who can find not only pieces from the current collection, but also special edition watches and special productions that Panerai reserves exclusively for its boutiques.
THE INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH - 2002
OPENING OF THE PANERAI MANUFACTURE IN NEUCHÂTEL
This year is a milestone for Officine Panerai, with the opening of the Panerai Manufacture in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Fine Swiss watchmaking, exclusive design and know-how come together in a single location where planning, development and continuous research offer new technical and functional perspectives. Officine Panerai also opens up to the Orient with its first Asian boutique, located in the prestigious Landmark Prince's Building in Hong Kong.
2005 - 2016
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2005
OFFICINE PANERAI'S FIRST IN-HOUSE MOVEMENT
Officine Panerai launches its first in-house movement, the P.2002: a hand-wound calibre with GMT function and an eight-day power reserve, as in the Angelus movements used in the 1940s. The calibre takes its name from the year in which Officine Panerai inaugurated its production plant, a tribute to the watchmaking art of the Florentine brand.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2007
OFFICINE PANERAI PRESENTS NEW IN-HOUSE CALIBRES
Three new calibres designed and developed in-house by Officine Panerai are presented: the P.2003, the P.2004 and the innovative P.2005. The P.2005 has an elegant tourbillon that has been tailored by the Florentine company, making the tradition of this fine watchmaking complication its own and at the same time innovating the device. In fact, the cage housing the balance wheel and the escapement rotate on an axis that is not parallel to the balance wheel axis, but instead is perpendicular to it. Unlike traditional tourbillons in which the cage completes one rotation per minute, the cage of the Officine Panerai tourbillon completes one rotation in thirty seconds.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2008
OFFICINE PANERAI LAUNCHES THE P.9000 AND P.2006 IN-HOUSE CALIBRES
Officine Panerai presents the P.9000 and P.2006 movements. Both calibres were developed and produced by the Florentine brand. The P.9000 calibre, primarily characterised by a 72-hour power reserve, is mounted on a series of Luminor 1950 and Radiomir models, while the P.2006 is an evolution of the P.2004 single-button chronograph calibre with the addition of a split-second function controlled by a second button at 10 o'clock.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2009
OFFICINE PANERAI AND THE PASSION FOR THE SEA
To celebrate passion for the sea, Officine Panerai acquires and restores Eilean, the 1936 Bermudian ketch built in Fife's legendary shipyard. It takes three whole years to bring Eilean back to the sea and to its original beauty, thanks to the expert restoration by the Francesco Del Carlo shipyard in Viareggio. After 40,000 hours of work, Eilean's launch ceremony is held at the Sailing Section of the Italian Navy in La Spezia on 22 October. The attention of the Florentine brand's enthusiasts' is captured by the re-edition of the "Egiziano", the model Panerai designed for the Egyptian Navy in 1956.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2010
A TRIBUTE TO GALILEO GALILEI
On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his first celestial observations, Officine Panerai dedicates a triptych of exceptionally complex models to the Tuscan genius, Galileo Galilei: L’Astronomo, Lo Scienziato and the Jupiterium clock. Panerai's Jupiterium model is a planetary clock with perpetual calendar which shows, from a geocentric perspective, the positions in the celestial sphere of the Sun, the Moon and Jupiter with the so-called Galilean Moons, i.e. its four main satellites, now known as Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, observed for the first time by Galileo Galilei in 1610, thanks to the invention of the telescope. Officine Panerai launches the in-house P.999 movement and the first Panerai Composite watch at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2011
OFFICINE PANERAI PRESENTS THE BRONZE WATCH
Officine Panerai presents the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo, using for the first time an element which owes its charm to the aged look it develops over time, and that has always been evocative of the sea world to which Officine Panerai is historically linked. This year also sees the creation of the P.3000 in-house calibre, expression of the watchmaking art of the Florentine brand. Officine Panerai opens its thirtieth boutique in Bal Harbour, Florida.
Officine Panerai re-proposes the exclusive, historically inspired case with two special edition Radiomir 1940 models. Unlike the prototypes and the models in production at the end of the 1930s, some historical Radiomir models produced in the 1940s had a case in which the lugs did not consist of a welded steel wire but were made from the same block as the case and were therefore more solid and more resistant. The new Radiomir 1940 models re-propose this special case with a classic 47-millimetre diameter, together with other elements inspired by historical models: Plexiglas® to protect the dial, the circular, rounded bezel, and the cylindrical crown. The Plexiglas® trademark is not owned by Officine Panerai.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2012
A TRIBUTE TO THE PAST: PANERAI PRESENTS TWO RADIOMIR MODELS WITH THE HISTORIC 1940 CASE
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2013
THREE NEW IN-HOUSE MOVEMENTS MARK THE CONTINUING DEVELOPMENT OF OFFICINE PANERAI
Officine Panerai launches three new in-house movements: the P.9100 calibre, the first Panerai automatic movement with chronograph flyback function, the sophisticated P.9100/R with regatta countdown and the P.5000, a new hand-wound calibre with eight days power reserve. The new collection also presents the historically fascinating Radiomir 1940 case and a new range of Submersible watches. At the Salon de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, Officine Panerai is also presenting the Pocket Watch Tourbillon GMT Ceramica, a remarkable pocket watch in ceramic.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2014
OFFICINE PANERAI NEW MANUFACTURE OPENING
Officine Panerai opens its new Manufacture in Pierre-à-Bot, on the hills of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The new building houses in a single location all the highly specialized skills involved in fine watch-making, combining the excellence of Italian Design and the tradition of Swiss-made Technology. Since 2002 - when the first Panerai Manufacture was opened - Panerai has developed a full range of in-house movements with watch functions at the highest levels: from the GMT to a complete range of Chronographs, from the extended Power Reserve to the unmistakable Panerai Tourbillon. In 2014 Panerai introduces the P.4000 calibre, an in-house automatic movement distinguished by its off-centred oscillating weight; a perfect synthesis of design and highly sophisticated watchmaking technology.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2015
OFFICINE PANERAI REOPENS IT'S BOUTIQUE IN HONG KONG CANTON ROAD
Panerai officially reopens its Boutique in Hong Kong Canton Road, now the largest boutique of the Brand in the world. Compared to all the other Panerai boutiques, the Hong Kong boutique is unique, with a distinctive external facade consisting of panels of undulating aluminium, fitted with a large wall clock with the characteristic Panerai dial.
During the same year the P.1000 in-house movement is launched, a calibre immediately recognizable as a Panerai masterpiece from both the technical and aesthetic points of view. A demonstration of the extraordinary expertise required to develop such sophisticated mechanical movements created by Panerai with an overall thickness of only 3.85 mm.
PANERAI MANUFACTURE - 2016
PANERAI LAUNCHES THE RADIOMIR 1940 MINUTE REPEATER CARILLON TOURBILLON AND THE NEW LUMINOR DUE CASE
Panerai launches the Radiiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon. Technically the most complicated watch ever made by the Panerai Manufacture in Neuchâtel, provided with the exclusive tourbillon regulator and the remarkable double minute repeater mechanism chiming either local time or a second time zone with the particular ability to sound every hour, every ten minutes, and every single minute with a sophisticated system of gongs and hammers.
Still in 2016 the new LUMINOR DUE collection official launch represents a new chapter in the history of Panerai. A new case, faithfully inspired by the lines of the classic Luminor of the 1950s but subtly redesigned, makes its entrance into the history of Officine Panerai. P1000/10 and P.4000/10 in-house movements, the thinnest automatic calibres developed by the Panerai Manufacture, equips this new collection.