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Panerai – The Italian Navy’s Historical Watch Supplier

History, Mission, Manufacture, Movements, Reputation, Ranking & Pricing

Panerai Brand Review By Alexander – Founder and Owner of swissdiverswatches.com


A Review of Officine Panerai’s history

Panerai Luminor Marina

(Image By Manuel Rebic)

In 1860, Giovanni Panerai established Panerai in Florence – Italy. The official name of the brand is either “Officine Panerai” or “Panerai” – both names refer to the same watch manufacturer and both names are used interchangeably. Panerai is known to have been the official timekeeper of the Italian Navy of the 20th century. The brand combines Swiss technology with Italian design.

Despite using Swiss movements and despite being Swiss owned today by its parent company – the Richemont Group, Panerai was originally an Italian luxury watch brand.

That’s what makes Panerai so special, and makes it a bit different from other Swiss luxury watch brands. Panerai is Swiss – and yet Italian. The watches are manufactured today in Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

Panerai Radiomir(Image By Piero7)

In 1860, Giovanni Panerai established Panerai workshop in Florence in Italy. Panerai functioned as a shop and workshop. Giovannis grandchild Guido Panerai took over the family firm and expanded it at the end of the 19th Century. Guido’s children Giuseppe and Maria took over the family owned company in the middle of the 20th century.

In 1876, Giovanni Panerai’s son León Francesco Panerai took over the workshop.

In 1900, the Panerai workshop added the name Orologeria Svizzera to their shop window.

In 1907, the Italian watch manufacturer became a representative of several Swiss luxury brands in Florence, Italy. Panerai offered catalogues of Swiss luxury brands as well. Panerai was not only a workshop but also a horology school in Florence.

In 1914, Guido Panerai and Carlo Ronconi co-operated to work on Radiomir Project. Carlo Ronconi was a naval officer and a relative of Guido Panerai.

In 1916, Panerai filed a patent on its Radiomir invention – a powder, based on radium, used for the purpose of creating luminescent dials on instruments and devices, used by the Italian Navy.

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

In 1920, Guido and Giuseppe Panerai developed a new Panerai chronograph watch called Le Mare Nostrum.

In 1934, Giuseppe’s father Guido Panerai died, and the same year, Giuseppe Panerai focused primarily on producing wristwatches for the Italian Navy.

In 1936, the legendary Italian luxury watch manufacturer, developed the first Radiomir wristwatch prototype – a watch with a minimalistic black dial and a brown leather strap. This watch was made for the frogmen of the Royal Italian Navy.

Panerai Radiomir(Image By Guy Sie)

Panerai Radiomir(Image By Guy Sie)

Panerai Radiomir(Image By Guy Sie)

In 1938, Panerai started the production of its Panerai Radiomir watches. They used Rolex movements.

In 1940, the brand improved its Panerai Radiomor Collection because the Italian Navy had very specific requirements. Panerai improved the water resistance of the watch and made it more robust.

In 1943, the company developed the Panerai Mare Nostrum which was a chronograph watch used by Italian deck officers.

In 1949, the watch manufacturer released a new line of watches which would replace Radiomir – the Luminor collection which used another kind of self-luminous substance.

As you can see, the Panerai Luminor Marina is considerably bulkier than the Panerai Radiomir. Unlike the Radiomir above, which has no crown protector at all, the Panerai Luminor Marina below has a massive crown protector which is so characteristic of the Swiss-Italian brand.

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

In 1950, the watch producer equipped its Panerai Luminor watches with the characteristic crown-protector unique to Panerai Luminor. Panerai is probably the only brand in the world that uses this crown-protecting bridge.

Panerai Luminor Marina

(Image By Guy Sie)

In 1956, Panerai released the Panerai Radiomir Egiziano for the Egyptian Navy. The watch’s diameter was, and still is today a whopping 60mm! A huge watch!

Iconic and legendary Hollywood action movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been spotted a few times with a modern version of the famous Panerai Egiziano. Even the modern version is a low tech watch by modern standards – it’s a mechanical hand wind watch.

The iconic Panerai Egiziano:

Panerai Egiziano(Image By Piero7)

Below: a disassembled Panerai Egiziano.

Panerai Egiziano(Image By Piero7)

In 1972, Giuseppe Panerai died, the management of the family business (and the contracts with the Italian Navy) went to the Italian engineer Dino Zei. He renamed the compamy “G.Panerai & Figlio” to “Officine Panerai”. The same year, Panerai started developing wrist compasses and wrist depth gauges.

In 1980, the company developed a prototype titanium divers watch with a water resistance of 1000 meters.

In 1993, Panerai released its first Officine Panerai Collection intended for the civilian market. These were collectible watches that paid homage to the legendary Panerai Luminor Marina and the Panerai Mare Nostrum watches. These were highly sought after watches by enthusiasts and collectors.

In 1995, the iconic Hollywood action movie star Sylvester Stallone requested Panerai to create a special collection of Panerai watches called SlyTech. The limited edition consisted of 200 timepieces only. Sylvester Stallone can be given a lot of credit for reviving, this at the time, dormant Italian wristwatch brand.

In 1997, Panerai was purchased by Swiss Richemont Group and thus became an important player in the Swiss luxury watch market. Since the late 1990s, you can truly say that the brand ceased to be Italian and became Swiss.

In 2002, the legendary watch manufacturer opened its manufacture in Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The same year, in 2002, the brand released its first in-house made movement called Panerai in-house movement P. 2002.

In 2008, the luxury brand released its Panerai in-house movement P. 9000. This movement serves as the primary basic movement for Panerai’s current in-house movements.

In 2011, Panerai released its famous (famous to collectors) bronze watch called Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo, with a 47mm case (model PAM 382). This watch model was used by iconic Hollywood action movie stars Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Jason Statham in Expendables 2.

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A Review of Officine Panerai’s mission

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

Panerai is dedicated to the purpose of developing and manufacturing collectible cult watches on a very limited scale, in order to honor Panerai’s history.

The Panerai timepieces that are being referred to are its famous timepieces of historical importance – the Radiomir and Luminor Collections – dating back to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. These collections have a historical importance both to the Panerai brand itself, and to the Italian Navy which utilised their watches during several decades of the 20th century.

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A Review of Officine Panerai’s manufacture

Panerai Luminor(Image By Piero7)

Panerai was originally an Italian brand as its name and history suggest, however today the watches are manufactured in Neuchâtel in Switzerland, and Panerai is owned today by Swiss Richemont Group.

Panerai’s very first in-house made movement is the Panerai P. 2002. which was released in 2002.

A couple of years ago, Panerai released the more modern Panerai in-house movement P. 9000, on which additional in-house movements are based.

Like many other Swiss luxury brands, their watches start as concepts – they start with developing computer based prototypes, which then lead to the production stage, movement assembly and finally the quality control.

Panerai’s watches are rarely, if ever, chronometer certified, and the brand rarely makes any chronographs or complications.

Down below: a typical simplistic Panerai dial. Please note the domed glass, the lack of a date function, and the lack of a second hand.

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

Panerai sticks to the basics of the basics: Hour-, and minute hands, and a small second hand on a subdial, and a date function. Very often, Panerai does not even offer a second hand and a date window! A large percentage of Panerai’s watches, are actually manually hand wound mechanical watches!

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Vannic)

The manufacture of a Panerai watch’s components, case and movement, is mostly computerized and automated, while the assembly of the watch is done mostly by hand. As far as manufacture is concerned, Panerai cannot in any way shape or form be compared to say Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger LeCoultre, Blancpain or Breguet. As far as these brands are concerned, most aspects of the manufacture process is being done by hand.

The steel grade of Panerai is average and doesn’t match up to the steel grade of Rolex. Panerai relies on a generic steel used by most Swiss brands – the 316L stainless steel.

Panerai watches are less anti-magnetic than Rolex and Omega, and Panerai’s movements aren’t as accurate as Omega and Rolex. Panerai doesn’t use screw down crowns like most Swiss brands, which means Panerai’s water resistance isn’t really comparable to that of say Rolex, Breitling and Omega.

Instead, Panerai uses a massive external crown protector, where the lever keeps the crown in the desired water resistance position. Please note: the crown protector only exists on Luminor Marina and Luminor Submersible – not on the Radiomir collection.

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

On the other hand, Panerai does use a double-barrel system in their movements, which allows for a larger power reserve. Omega too has a double-barrel system. The barrel is a small metal tube, or case, inside the movement, where you’ll find the mainspring. When you wind a watch, energy is being stored in the mainspring, and the mainspring is located inside a barrel. Two barrels, or a “double-barrel system” allows for a larger power reserve to be stored inside the movement. This is probably one of the main strengths of Panerai.

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A Review of Officine Panerai’s movements

Panerai Radiomir

(Image By Guy Sie)

The first Panerai in-house movements were released in 2002. Some of Panerai’s movements are in-house made but most movements utilised by Panerai are actually generic and commonly used ETA/Valjoux movements from Swatch Group.

This is interesting, since the Swatch Group is a competitor of Panerai’s owner – the Richemont Group. Panerai is absolutely a prestigious brand, but you would expect this prestigious brand to have more in-house movements, to warrant their high prices!

Panerai Luminor Marina:

  • Panerai in-house mechanical hand wind movement P. 2002, with 21 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a whopping 8-day power reserve.
  • Panerai in-house automatic movement P. 2003, with 25 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a whopping 10-day power reserve.
  • Panerai in-house mechanical hand wind movement P. 3000, with 21 jewels, 21,600 vph, and a 72 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai in-house automatic movement P. 9000, with 28 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 72 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai in-house automatic movement P. 9001, with 29 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 72 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai in-house automatic movement P. 9002, with 29 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 72 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai automatic movement OP III, base movement Swiss automatic Valjoux 7750-P1 with 21 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 42 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai automatic movement OP VIII, base movement Swiss automatic Valjoux 7750-P1 with 21 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 42 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai automatic movement OP IX, base movement Swiss automatic Valjoux 7750-P1 with 21 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 42 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai mechanical hand wind movement OP X, base movement Swiss ETA 6497 with 17 jewels, 21,600 vph, and a 56 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai mechanical hand wind movement OP XI, base movement ETA 6497/2 with 17 jewels, 21,600 vph, and a 56 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai automatic movement OP XII, base movement Valjoux 7753 with 27 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 46 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai automatic movement OP XIX, base movement Valjoux 7750 La Joux-Perret with 30 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 42 hour power reserve.

Panerai Luminor Submersible:

  • Panerai automatic movement OP III, base movement Swiss automatic Valjoux 7750-P1 with 21 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 42 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai in-house automatic movement P. 9000, with 28 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 72 hour power reserve.

Panerai Radiomir:

  • Panerai automatic movement OP III, base movement Swiss automatic Valjoux 7750-P1 with 21 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a 42 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai mechanical hand wind movement OP XI, base movement ETA 6497/2 with 17 jewels, 21,600 vph, a 56 hour power reserve.
  • Panerai in-house mechanical hand wind movement P. 2002, with 21 jewels, 28,800 vph, and a whopping 8-day power reserve.

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A Review of Officine Panerai’s reputation

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Jan)

Panerai is an old Italian luxury wristwatch brand which was established in Florence, Italy, in 1860. The name Panerai, is derived from its Italian founder – Giovanni Panerai. The Panerai brand was pretty much out of business between the 1950s and 1997, when it was purchased by the Swiss Richemont Group, and was revived as a cult watch brand which honors the history of the Panerai brand. The brand combines Swiss technology with Italian design – the true trademark of Officine Panerai.

Today, Panerai is owned by Swiss Richemont Group, so in similarity to most Swiss luxury wristwatch brands, this isn’t an independent watchmaker.

Among watch enthusiasts and collectors, Panerai is a well known brand, although the brand may not be very well known to most people. If you want a very rare brand – this is definitely the right choice!

Panerai probably belongs to the top 15 luxury wristwatch brands in the world. Panerai watches are available at a limited amount of retailers across the world. Panerai watches are rare among watch retailers. It’s a very small brand with a very small and limited volume of production.

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

Panerai is known for making limited editions of several collections and turning them into collectible timepieces. This might interest you if you are a watch collector!

The earliest Panerai wristwatches of the early 20th century, actually used Rolex movements.

Today, most movements used by Panerai are actually ETA/Valjoux movements – even though Panerai did start making in-house movements in 2002. Panerai isn’t famous for complications, chronographs or higher watch making. The brand likes to stick to the basic time functions – and sometimes not even a second hand or a date function!

What do I think of Panerai’s in-house movements?

According to users and owners across the world who wear Panerai watches with in-house made movements, it appears that even though Panerai has made the important step of manufacturing some of their movements on their own, their in-house made movements still don’t match up against say Swatch Group’s generic and common ETA and Valjoux movements.

Panerai’s in-house made movements are known across the world for having gargantuan power reserves, but such power reserves are meaningless if the watch isn’t accurate and reliable. If we take the accuracy, reliability and number of jewels in Panerai’s in-house movements into consideration, it appears Panerai’s in-house made movements are somewhat mediocre.

I wouldn’t say that Panerai’s in-house made movements are “bad”, but they definitely aren’t in the same league as say Swatch Group’s ETA/Valjoux movements, Omega, Rolex, Breitling, Zenith, IWC, Blancpain, Breguet, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet or Jaeger LeCoultre.

What do I think of Panerai’s ETA/Valjoux movements?

They are procured from Swatch Group – meaning they aren’t in-house made movements. Mechanically and technologically speaking, Panerai’s ETA/Valjoux movements are rather accurate, reliable and tested movements. Nothing fancy, but they are robust and reliable movements. They do the job they are designed to do and they do the job well. I would personally trust Panerai’s ETA/Valjoux movements more than Panerai’s in-house made movements.

Panerai Radiomir(Image By Guy Sie)

What is Panerai famous for? A few things come to my mind:

  • Panerai was the official supplier of watches/divers watches to the Italian navy in the 20th century.
  • Panerai is a cult brand that honors its past – I sense that Panerai bases its identity and reputation on making collections that pay homage to its history.
  • Panerai is known to manufacture large, hefty, bulky oversized watches with minimalistic black dials, and large burly leather straps.
  • Panerai straps that are easily exchangeable – usually made of leather or rubber. Panerai offers the buyer a tool kit which you can use to change straps in the comfort of your own home. This excites people who like to experiment with their watches at home. Usually, when you buy a Panerai watch, two easily exchangeable straps accompany the Panerai timepiece in the Panerai watch box. That is: one strap attached to the watch, and an extra strap inside the watch box.
  • Panerai aficionados are commonly referred to as Paneristi – these are die hard Panerai enthusiasts.
  • Panerai watches have a retro style design – they are deliberately made to look old-fashioned. The modern Panerai brand intends to emulate the Panerai watches manufactured in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
  • Panerai is also known to be a “tough guy watch” – its admired and worn by several iconic Hollywood action movie heroes such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Jason Statham just to mention a few. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have used Panerai watches in several of their action movies back in the 1990s, and Sylvester Stallone opted for the Panerai brand in the recent action movies Expendables 1, and Expendables 2.

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

Personally, I do think that Panerai watches are way overpriced considering the fact that they mostly employ ETA/Valjoux movements (procured from Swatch Group – a competitor of Panerai’s owner Richemont Group!), Panerai rarely makes their own movements and rarely places those in-house made movements in their watches. Panerai rarely makes any movement complications or chronographs, and their watches and dials are just equipped with the bare essentials.

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Guy Sie)

But if Panerai rarely makes their own movements, rarely makes any complications and if their watches and dials are usually just equipped with the bare essentials, then why exactly are Panerai watches so expensive?

  1. A small volume of production and a large demand for them. This is a matter of economics: supply and demand. A small supply and a very large demand naturally drive the prices up.
  2. Panerai’s watches, automatic and mechanical movements, are assembled by hand to a certain degree. A certain aspect of the Panerai manufacture is done by hand. The manufacture isn’t entirely automated and the artisans and watchmakers need to be paid for their ambitious work.
  3. Panerai uses automatic or mechanical movements, and since there are more things that can go wrong with old fashioned movement technology, they are more likely to incur an in-warranty service, which needs to be factored into the premium price.
  4. Panerai might use precious metals such as 18 carat gold. However this is a lame excuse since most of their watches are actually made of steel. Some of their watches are made of ceramic, but this too is unusual for the brand.

I would say that the main reason why Panerai watches are so expensive, is the first reason – reason nr 1: Panerai is expensive because Panerai deliberately manufactures a very small volume of collectible sought after cult watches. A small supply and a large demand leads to high prices, irrespective of the commercial product’s true quality.

Panerai Radiomir

(Image By Jan)

You would essentially buy Panerai watches because:

  1. For aesthetical reasons. You would basically buy Panerai watches because of their looks, and not because of their technology or movements. Panerai’s in-house movements are quite mediocre compared to other brands. The ETA movements utilized by Panerai, are generic and standard movements.
  2. They’re very rare and collectible timepieces that most people either have never seen or have never heard about. The very rareness of the Panerai brand and your Panerai watch makes it an interesting topic of a conversation whenever a person takes an interest in your wristwatch.
  3. Panerai watches are deliberately designed to look like vintage watches or watches with a retro style design.
  4. You won’t find too many retailers around the world offering Panerai. Panerai remind you, has a very small and limited volume of production.
  5. Most Panerai watches are water resistant and suitable for swimming, snorkeling or diving. This means that they have a highly valued practical aspect which might come handy for daily use.

The Panerai Luminor Marina Collection is water resistant but lacks a diver’s bezel – they are mainly suitable for swimming and snorkeling despite that some of them have a 300 m water resistance. The Luminor Collection dates back to the 1940s.

The Panerai Luminor Submersible Collection is the real divers watch collection equipped with diving functions – such as a diver’s bezel. The Luminors date back to the 1940s.

The Panerai Radiomir Collection is the oldest and most dressy collection of all three. The Radiomir Collection dates back to the 1930s. This isn’t a proper full-fledged divers watch, and lacks a diver’s bezel. Rather, the Radiomir Collection should be defined as sailors watches, with a water resistance of 100 meters/330 feet. You could use this collection for swimming and snorkelling but not diving. Most Panerai watches – the Radiomir watches included, have leather straps. If you want to use the watch in the sea or under the sea, please make sure that you replace the leather strap either with a rubber strap or a metal bracelet.

Panerai is a very niche specific luxury watch brand – it only appeals to a certain taste. If the description of the brand appeals to you, you might fall in love with Officine Panerai.

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A Review of Officine Panerai’s ranking

My ranking of Panerai: 14th.

It’s debatable how you actually rank a brand, and a ranking is never objective, but the best way to turn a subjective ranking into an “objective” one is to rely on certain criteria. My ranking criteria of course are entirely subjective, and they aren’t set in stone.

I use 14 criteria in determining the ranking of a particular brand, such as (1) a long and respected history, (2) limited supply and large demand, (3) reputation/status/prestige, (4) whether the brand is independent or not, (5) pioneering spirit and innovations, (6) impact on watchmaking history and modern culture, (7) general in-house production, (8) whether the brand relies on in-house made movements or not, (9) whether or not the brand makes movement complications, (10) steel grade, (11) build quality, (12) price range, (13) good resale value, and (14) market presence.

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Prices for Panerai Watches

  • Panerai Luminor Marina can be found in the $6,000-$20,000 price range. Most of them though can be found in the $6,000-$8,000 price range.
  • Panerai Luminor Submersible can be found in the $6,000-$20,000 price range, although most of them can be found in the $6,000-$10,000 price range.
  • Panerai Radiomir can be found in the $6,000-$40,000 price range, although most of them can be found in the $6,000-$10,000 price range.

 

Panerai Luminor Marina(Image By Manuel Rebic)


Panerai Official Website


*Technically speaking, the Panerai Luminor Marina- and the Panerai Radiomir Collections aren’t real divers watches since they lack the diver’s bezel. The Panerai Luminor Marina- and the Panerai Radiomir Collections, should be classified as combined water resistant sports/dress/military watches.
The Panerai Luminor Marina- and the Panerai Radiomir Collections fulfill the minimum water resistance requirement for divers watches, which is 330 feet/100 meters. Panerai Luminor Marina can either offer you a 330 feet/100 meter water resistance or a 990 feet/300 meter water resistance. Panerai Radiomir offers you a 330 feet/100 meter water resistance.
Only the Panerai Luminor Submersible Collection can offer you real full-fledged Panerai divers watches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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