Like a number of other luxury watch brands, Panerai’s success was founded on the nineteenth century’s obsession with technological developments in the manufacture of precision instruments. And, like those other watch manufacturers that retain a strong pull for the discerning customer exactly because of their proven track record of being the preferred provider for working aviation or marine concerns, Panerai’s early evidence of excellence meant, for example, that it was contracted to provide instruments for the Royal Italian Navy at the start of the twentieth century. This was an honour that it maintained for many years, least of all because of its pioneering of luminescence technology that allowed easy vision under difficult conditions.
Originally founded in Florence in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai, the now Switzerland-based brand was always keen to underscore its connection with Swiss precision manufacture, the brand’s founder having originally worked closely with Swiss watchmakers to learn all of their celebrated tricks of the trade. By the 1930’s, the company’s links with the Italian navy were already established. Under the high-stress conditions of the Second World War, the brand’s expertise saw it jump to the front of the queue for manufacturers able to produce a watch that could perform reliably under harsh battle conditions. One of the key factors to this success was its ongoing innovation in luminescence technologies: the underlying expertise that saw patents granted of the Radiomir and Luminor watches in 1949.
However, one of the reasons that Panerai watches have become so collectible is not purely to do with the numerous technological innovations developed by the brand – in addition to the developments of luminescent faces, for example, Panerai was one of the leading lights in developing water resistance technology and the now standard rotating bezels used on diver’s watches- but also to do with appearance. Anyone who is fortunate enough to encounter one of the brand’s timepieces from the late 1930’s, for example, cannot but admire its elegant form. It may have been produced to work hard, but it certainly makes the task at hand look effortless.
Thus, it’s not hard to understand why the second half of the twentieth century would see the brand retaining its prestigious contracts with various navies around the world, but also embark upon an era of unrivalled success in attracting the attention of customers from the international luxury leisure market keen to own a watch with proven achievements under even the most demanding conditions.
2011 sees the brand continuing with its ongoing offer based around the stable of marine and diver’s watches that made it famous. As always, cutting-edge innovation and commitment to extreme precision are the bywords for Panerai, not to mention that almost innate ability to combine these qualities with beautiful designs that are big on aesthetic detail.
The crowning glory is the addition of the new P.3000 movement to its collection, a hand-wound mechanical calibre with a power reserve of three days. Its robust and elegant construction is the stuff of dreams for all those who get turned on by precision engineering while the rest of us can simply admire how good it looks. The introduction of the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo is a bit of a stroke of genius, something that seems so obvious on reflection and yet so far no one else has successfully pulled it off. Bronze is, of course, the perfect material to evoke the Luminor’s long maritime history. But, with its almost steam punk Jules Verne retro hipness, it’s exactly on the money for capturing the contemporary spirit in which the masculine stability of a material like bronze is far more attractive than luxury metals that wear their pedigree literally on their sleeve in an ostentatious manner.