Originally developers of waterproof diving instruments for the Italian Royal Navy during the Second World War, Panerai has since become a cult watchmaker with its bold sizes and distinctive styling. Ask any Panerai enthusiast—once the need for a Panerai sets in, nothing else will do. Read moreView All
When Guido Panerai, grandson of brand founder Giovanni Panerai, secured a contract with the Italian Navy to provide luminescent equipment, Officine Panerai moved from being just a manufacturer of diving instruments to becoming one of the most influential watchmakers in the world. The company’s prized invention was a zinc sulphide and radium bromide concoction which they patented as 'Radiomir'. The radium, a radioactive substance that releases alpha and gamma rays as it decays, reacted with the zinc sulphide in such a way that made it glow. The company used its radium-based luminescent paint on various devices such as night-sights, compasses, depth gauges and calculators.
Guido’s son Giuseppe took over in 1934, shortly before the Navy requested that the brand make a robust diving watch that was as readable in low light as the company’s other instruments. As the watches were to be used underwater and at night by pilots of single-man submarines, the hands and markers needed to be much brighter than for use on land. The watchmaker provided two solutions to this problem—the first was to layer a dial that was completely covered with a thick coating of luminescent paint with a secondary dial that had slots cut from it, and the second was to hollow out channels from a dial in the shape of the markers, allowing thicker quantities of luminescent paint to be used. Both of these ideas had a satisfactory result, particularly at sizes that were unconventionally large for the time.
The engine that powered Panerai watches was a tried-and-tested Rolex movement, and was mounted in a steel oversized cushion case. Lugs were soldered to the case to allow fitment of a strap, making the watch wearable on the diver's wrist. Called the Radiomir after the radium that powered the luminescent paint, it was the birth of a design icon. It was tested in 1936 by the First Submarine Group, and was a resolute success.
Following the Second World War, the Radiomir evolved fixed lugs and the famous patented crown locking device. The Radiomir became the Marina Militare which, following the introduction of a less dangerous tritium-based radioactive luminescent material called 'Luminor,' became the Luminor. An enormous version built for the Egyptian Navy, the Egiziano, came in the 1950s, which later inspired the Submersible. A chronograph, the Mare Nostrum, stalled at the prototype stage.
There were no Panerai watches available for civilians until 1993, when the Luminor and the Mare Nostrum were released in limited runs. Their success attracted the interest of the Vendome Group, now the Richemont Group, which purchased the watchmaker. The distinctive and immediately recognisable style of the brand’s watches may have evolved for functional reasons, but that hasn't stopped Panerai from amassing a loyal following. It has proven that just because form follows function, it doesn't necessarily mean something can't look good too.
Sign up to our newsletter and save yourself 175 €! What are you waiting for?Sign Up Now
Terms And Conditions Apply
Please choose your region and preferred language.
Our Platform uses various types of cookies, each of which has a specific function. Below you can manage your preferences.
These cookies are essential to provide you with services available through this Platform and to use some of its features, such as access to secure areas. Without these cookies, services you have asked for, like transactional pages and secure login accounts, would not be possible.
These cookies serve a variety of purposes related to the presentation, performance and functionality of this Platform. Their overall purpose, however, is to enhance visitors’ experience and enjoyment of this Platform. For example, some of these cookies enable visitors to specify language, product or other platform preferences.
These cookies, including those from third parties, are used to collect information about how visitors use our Platform. The information gathered does not identify any individual visitor and is aggregated. It includes the number of visitors to our Platform, the platforms that referred them to our Platform and the pages that they visited on our Platform. We use this information to help run our Platform more efficiently, to gather broad demographic information and to monitor the level of activity on our Platform.
These cookies, including those from third parties, are aimed at creating profiles related to you and are used to deliver adverts more relevant to you and your interests in line with your preferences expressed while surfing the web. They are also used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement as well as help to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising and promotion. They are usually placed by advertising networks with our permission. They remember that you have visited a platform and this information is shared with other organisations such as advertisers.
These cookies are third party cookies (e.g. Facebook) that allow you to interact with social media platforms. The companies that serve these cookies may also use your information to serve targeted advertising on other platforms.
Third party cookies are cookies from sites or web servers other than our own, which are also used for the purposes of those third parties.
By clicking "Accept all" you declare that you consent to the use of all cookies stated above.