Monday, February 21, 2011

Panerai Watches: A Brief Stroll Down History Lane

When it comes to luxury watches, we know all about the Rolexes and the Patek Philippes but not many people know about one Italian brand that has been making top quality and exclusive timepieces since 1860. The name is Panerai and their story begins more than a century ago in Florence, Italy with a man named Giovanni Panerai. The original Panerai office in Ponte alle Grazie was the first watch making shop in the city. In 1900, under his grandson’s leadership, the company became the official supplier to the Royal Italian Navy, supplying not only watches but other precision instruments as well. At about the same time, the company also moved to Piazza San Giovanni where the flagship store stands today. The Panerai Radiomir and Panerai Luminor were designed to meet the rigorous requirements of the Italian underwater elite team. Panerai timepieces are recognizable by their understated elegance—black, large and with luminous Arabic numerals and sticks. The luminescence is achieved through a mix of zinc sulphide and radium bromide which was given the name radiomir, from which the watch takes its name. In 1949, the company was granted a patent for luminor, which is the substance that eventually replaced radiomir, which is also the origin of the name of the other marquee Panerai watch.

The Panerai Radiomir was inadvertently put in the spotlight at the height of the Second World War as Italian divers carried out bold operations whilst wearing the timepiece. Until the end of 1980, Panerai watches were reserved for military clients. It began opening its doors to the public in the early nineties but it was not until an acquisition by a company that also manages other luxury brands did Panerai gain wide, international attention. The classic Radiomir and Luminor in manual forms were re-launched, together with a collection of new, automatic Panerai watches inspired by the classics. In 2005, Panerai teamed up with Ferrari to create Panerai watches with the Ferrari trademark. The collaboration resulted in two product lines: the Granturismo and the Scuderia. Today, Panerai continues to be lined up with other luxurious watches as one of the worlds’ most coveted and respected brands.

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