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Large and hard-wearing luxury timepieces define Panerai. Their signature cushion-shaped case and unique crown-protecting bridge have transcended generations, and are instantly recognizable to any watch enthusiast.
Panerai traces its roots to Florence in 1860, where for many years the company supplied the Italian Navy with precision instruments. Created especially for the use of frogmen deep underwater, Panerai watches were, from the very beginning, created to survive extreme conditions and provide unparalleled legibility in the dark.
Today, the company develops and crafts its movements and timepieces at its Neuchâtel manufacture, linking its Italian design heritage with Swiss horological expertise.
After being made available commercially in 1993, Panerai watches became closely associated with action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, paving the way for their mainstream success. Today, the famed Panerai Radiomir and Luminor are no longer pure military watches – they are loved by adventurers, creative minds, and watch lovers of all kinds. Explore our collection of Panerai watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.
Officine Panerai, or Panerai Workshops, traces its origins back to 1860 when watchmaker Giovanni Panerai opened his first watch shop in Florence.
For several decades, Panerai’s workshop offered watch services and acted as a watchmaking school, until the 1900s, when they began creating timepieces for the Royal Italian Navy. The company specialized in high precision instruments, such as navigation tools and mechanical computer devices, before eventually moving on to timekeeping.
It was in the succeeding decades that Panerai unveiled several innovations that would serve as the foundation of the brand. In 1916, Panerai developed a radium-based powder called “Radiomir” that could make the dials of instruments brighter and easier to read. Two decades later, with the World War II looming, the Royal Italian Navy commissioned Panerai to create a marine watch that was luminous and easy to read underwater. To bring these to fruition, Panerai approached Rolex, who enlarged their 26mm waterproof Oyster cases for Panerai. This first batch of Radiomir watches featured large cushion-shaped cases with wire lugs that we still see in today’s Radiomir watches.
With the advancements in luminescent materials, Panerai developed the Luminor in 1949, a tritium-based substance with lower emissions compared to radium. By convention, Luminor became the name of the new Panerai diving timepiece, which was characterized by its crown protection bridge.
After the death of Guido Panerai, Giovanni’s son, in 1972, engineer Dino Zei took over management of Panerai and continued to make instruments for the Italian Navy and military forces.
It was in 1993 that Panerai presented their first collection of watches for the civilian public, consisting of three models: the Luminor, Luminor Marina, and the Mare Nostrum. Inspired by historical models created fifty years earlier, they were targeted mainly towards Italian collectors.
Two years later, a lucky event took place that would eventually put Panerai on the map. While travelling in Italy, Sylvester Stallone came upon a Panerai boutique. He loved the watches so much that he requested for Officine Panerai to make a special edition, which he eventually wore in the 1996 movie Daylight. This also led to the production of a series of watches known as Luminor Slytech, after Stallone’s nickname “Sly”.
Since then, Panerai had seen a massive uptick of interest in the 1990s. In turn, this caught the attention of the Richemont Group (then the Vendôme Group) who acquired the brand in 1997. Panerai was launched on the international market the following year.
A huge part of Panerai’s success has been their highly recognizable design blueprint of robust luxury. Their collection has grown to include dressier and specialized pieces, but all remain faithful to the original Italian designs from the early 20th century.
Panerai’s current collection is more diverse than ever before. Each model they offer pays tribute to the early Radiomir and Luminor models, while catering to different needs, whether you are looking for a practical diver or something dressier. They are grouped into four families of watches:
Today’s Panerai Radiomir references the brand’s earliest military watches, built in the 1930s. The name Radiomir was adapted from their brand’s luminous radium-based paint, which was developed to make dials glow in the dark.
Radiomir watches are characterized by their curved and rounded case, oversized onion-shaped or flared crown, and thin wire lugs. As Radiomirs don’t have the crown-protection bridge, they are considered dressier than the Luminor models.
Within the collection is the Radiomir 1940, a modified version of the Radiomir which has thicker lugs made from the same block of metal as the case, and a cylindrical winding crown.
The Radiomir collection comes in 42, 45, 47 and 48mm case sizes. Styles include time-and-date, small seconds, GMT, power reserve and tourbillon functions.
The Panerai Luminor was also named after the luminescent paint compound used on the brand’s watches. In 1949, Panerai switched from the radium-based Radiomir (which is now understood to be radioactive and toxic) to Luminor, a tritium based paint that is safer and more luminous.
Luminor watches are characterized by the signature crown-protecting bridge, which is easily Panerai’s most recognizable feature today. Aside from the bridge, it features integrated lugs and a cushion-shaped case with straighter edges.
Under the Luminor series are the Luminor Marina, which comes with a small seconds sub dial at 9 o’clock; and the Luminor 1950, which has more defined curves, a taller crystal, and a crown guard device marked “R.E.G. T.M.”
Luminor watches come in 42, 44 and 47mm case sizes, with time-and-date, small seconds, GMT, and perpetual calendar functions.
The Panerai Luminor Due line is a slimmer and more refined version of the Luminor watch. Due being the Italian word for two, it is positioned as the dressier alternative to the robust watches of the Luminor line. It features a slimmer case, more restrained proportions, and much lower water resistance (30 meters) which categorizes them as dress or casual watches, rather than dive watches.
Luminor Due watches come in 35, 42 and 45mm case sizes, with time-and-date, small seconds, GMT, and power reserve functions.
The Panerai Submersible is a line of action-ready watches. It was originally part of the Luminor collection, and was made into a standalone line of dive watches in 2019. These watches come equipped with standard dive watch features, such as unidirectional rotating bezels and 300m depth rating.
Submersible watches come in 42 or 47mm case sizes, and are offered in cutting edge materials like Carbotech, BMG-Tech, and titanium.
Like other brands, Panerai uses numbers to document their sale and manufacture. Each Panerai watch can be identified using three different numbers: their reference or model number, their case number, and their serial number.
The reference number identifies the watch model. This number often refers to watches with the same material, dial, and movement.
Panerai reference numbers are usually written out as PAMxxxxx, with PAM followed by randomized numbers. The first 2-3 digits are oftentimes zeros, so colloquially, watches are referred to without the zeros (e.g. PAM 541)
The case number refers to the type of case used on the watch, while the serial number is assigned to just one unique piece. This can be viewed as a personal security number that no other watch has. It comes especially handy when leaving a watch to service, or when a watch has been stolen.
Both the case and serial number are engraved on the case back of modern Panerai watches. The numbers on the back can be identified as follows:
Case Number – line beginning with OP, followed by four numerals
Serial Number – line beginning with BB, and as of 2002, PB
Year Designator – beginning with a letter, which corresponds to its production year. A corresponds to year 1998, and so on.
No letter: 1997
Production or Edition Number – indicates its sequence out of the total number of models produced for the year.
Panerai watches are sought after by collectors and watch enthusiasts for their rich heritage and immediately identifiable aesthetic. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Panerai.
Aside from their unique, oversized design, Panerai watches are also known for their superior craftsmanship. If you see less than perfect details on a Panerai watch, such as unfinished edges, improper polish, and wrong markings and engravings, then it is likely a fake watch.
Before buying a watch, we advise clients to research about the features and product specifications of their desired watch in detail, so they can more easily spot a fake. The best way to avoid counterfeits is to only buy from a reputable watch dealer, who can provide a guarantee of authenticity on the timepiece.
Panerai is a product of long-standing history, Italian design heritage, and impeccable Swiss manufacturing standards. With all of these in spades, Panerai watches will remain in demand for years to come and retain their value well.
The service frequency depends on the usage of the watch and how frequently it is worn. In general, Panerai recommends complete maintenance every 4-5 years. If the watch is regularly used in water, Panerai recommends that you bring in the watch for maintenance every year.
These are only general recommendations, and there can be signs that your watch needs maintenance sooner rather than later. Here’s our guide on Signs It’s Time for Watch Maintenance.
Even robust watches like Panerai require routine maintenance to keep their value and performance. At SwissWatchExpo, we stand ready to provide loving care to your Panerai timepiece. At our state-of-the-art center, we offer a full range of services, from basic maintenance to major repairs and restorations, performed by expert watchmakers. Here’s more information about our comprehensive Repair Services.
The total cost of the service will depend on the model of your Panerai watch and its current condition. At SwissWatchExpo, we provide repair and maintenance estimates free of charge. When you send us your timepiece, it will first be examined by our master watchmakers, who will create a detailed cost estimate considering the condition of the watch, its history, and your request. Only when the cost is approved will the repair process commence.
Panerai is one of the most notable watch manufacturers in the world, with a rich past and strong links to the military. In fact, Panerai watches have been a top military secret until 1993, when it was finally made available to the public.
Among avid Panerai collectors, the most popular models to collect are vintage and pre-Vendôme era pieces, because of their rarity and historical significance. If you are looking to include these in your collection, then there is no better place to look than the secondary market. In the world of pre-owned luxury watches, you have a wider range of styles to choose from. It opens you up to rare references, limited or special editions, or models that are no longer in production.
Another benefit of buying pre-owned watches is that you get to join the exclusive club of Panerai collectors, for a fraction of the price. While some rare vintage watches appreciate in value over time, the general rule is that a pre-owned watch will cost less than a brand-new piece. Brands and styles that have previously been out of your price range become more accessible.
On the other hand, buying pre-owned doesn’t always mean buying older models. If you’re looking for current models and you want your watch to be as brand new as possible, pre-owned watches can be bought in mint and excellent condition. In fact, there are pre-owned watches being sold in their original packaging and kept unworn.
Whether the watch is vintage or current production, SwissWatchExpo commits to delivering the watches in “like new” condition. Our team of master watchmakers never let a single watch leave our workshop until it appears and runs like new.
Our guiding conviction is that buying pre-owned lets the customer enjoy the maximum value possible. When you’re ready for your Panerai watch, our trained and professional experts will happily assist you in finding the right timepiece.