The Complete Calibre Guide to Panerai
By Amanda Evans | 6 minute read
Giovanni Panerai opened his first watchmaking shop, known as Orologeria Svizzera, in Florence, Italy, back in 1860. Home to a watchmaking school as well as an establishment for the sale and servicing of superior pocket watches, Giovanni’s successful business soon expanded and by the end of the century had become a family business with additional premises in Piazza San Giovanni. By the early 20th Century, Panerai had ventured into mechanical engineering where the Italian watch house designed and supplied precision instruments and underwater navigation tools for the Italian navy. It was this relationship with the Italian navy that nurtured the beginnings of what was to be a long-standing connection with the ocean which propelled Panerai into the world of luxury watch houses.
A glowing innovation
Panerai’s relationship with the Italian navy was born out of the introduction of distinguishing techniques to suit military requirements within the dive watches it supplied to them. These techniques made the indexes and numerals of watches brighter – a necessity within the depths of the ocean. First came the introduction of a radium-based powder with a high self-luminescence from which the Radiomir was born and subsequently patented in 1916. Further innovation led to the patent of an additional self-luminous material known as Luminor, a far safer substance which went on to become the representative name of Panerai’s flagship collection of timepieces and the common identifier of the Panerai diving timepiece.
Panerai timepieces harness a unique and instantly recognisable aesthetic with their distinct luminescent dials. From creating functional and legible military-grade timepieces for the Italian navy during the Second World War to today’s large cushion-shaped cases that echo the features of the early Radiomir days, Panerai is a luxury Italian watch brand like no other. With iconic designs throughout four key collections, the historic Radiomir; the much-admired Luminor; the robust Submersible and the elegant Luminor Due, Panerai’s underwater icons merit recognition and celebration.
The Panerai Luminor collection is the essence of Panerai. Instantly recognisable with its iconic cushion-shaped case and safety lock system, it has a bold aesthetic that has been reinterpreted throughout the collection without losing the emblematic identity that has become the DNA of Panerai. Luminor evolved during the late 1940s as Panerai moved away from the use of the radium-based self-luminous powder that inspired the Radiomir to using using the tritium-based substance, used in the Second World War, which was patented as Luminor and subsequently inspired the Luminor collection.
We say that Panerai is Luminor and that Luminor is Panerai and that it is very much associated with this iconic case, the safety lock system, the dial, with its very well-known graphics and indexes, and finally the luminescence. JEAN-MARC PONTROUÉ, PANERAI CEO
It wasn’t until 1993 that Panerai presented Luminor and the newly evolved Luminor Marina to the general public. Previously Panerai timepieces had only been available to the military but now this iconic watch, drawing inspiration from its heritage had evolved for civilian purchase. Although exploring aesthetic reinterpretation and innovation, Panerai Luminor watches retain a unique identity characterised by a protective bridge over the crown, cushion-shaped case with a flat, wider bezel and reinforced wire lugs. Panerai Luminor is a powerful and prestigious collection with a history spanning over 70 years.
The Panerai Submersible collection is inspired by the brand’s history with roots firmly cemented in the depths of the sea. This collection of professional divers’ watches presents unrivalled visibility at the greatest of depths. Previously part of the Luminor collection, The Submersible became a collection in its own right in 2019, a welcome move that highlighted the Submersible as the watch of choice for the professional diver. Robust and dependable, the Submersible presents excellent technical solutions and through its interpretations has coined surprising innovations.
The Submersible’s fearless and commanding presence has been reimagined in a variety of high-specification materials to include titanium, AISI 316L stainless steel, red gold, bronze, Carbotech™ and the revolutionary BMG-TECH™ which has an unprecedented resistance to corrosion and external shocks. The Submersible collection is a testament to Panerai’s continuous research into design and new materials.
Released in 2016, the Luminor Due collection was a marked evolution in the history of the brand. Although still unmistakeably Panerai, the collection features reimagined proportions presenting an altogether sleeker aesthetic that harnesses sophistication and urban Italian chic. Although slimmer, lighter, and sleeker, features most often seen in the dress watch category, the Luminor Due still retains the mechanical structure of its forerunners.
Another key point of differentiation and one with huge appeal is the variety of case sizes available. From 38mm to 45mm, there is a watch to suit all tastes and arguably a more unisex appeal. Together with watch straps in a variety of colours and materials, the Luminor Due will charm a variety of personalities seeking a luxury, high-performance timepiece that pays tribute to its heritage yet embraces a more contemporary vision.
Named after the radium-based luminous substance used to make the numerals and indexes glow, the Radiomir remains steeped in history. Designed as a prototype in 1936 at the request of the Royal Italian navy, the Radiomir was Panerai’s first watch. Characterised by a 47mm cushion-shaped case, an over-sized crown and luminous hands and indexes on a clear and simple dial, the Radiomir marked the beginning of Panerai’s journey. Covered by the Military Secrets Act for many years, it wasn’t until 1997 that the Radiomir was launched on the international market, along with the Luminor, when the brand was acquired by the Richemont Group.
Since its debut on the international market, the Radiomir retains its historic characteristics found in the case and crown, yet the case size has expanded to suit a range of preferences from 42mm up to 48mm. The visual cues from its predecessor harness technical expertise that enable greater precision and power reserves, more consistent with contemporary watchmaking. With a defined aesthetic and impressive history, the Radiomir is equally admired by both watch enthusiasts and new collectors.
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