In 1860 Giovanni Panerai (1825-1897) opened the first watchmaker’s shop in the Italian city of Florence on the Ponte alle Grazie. Giovanni was in contact with some of the most prestigious and established of Swiss watch-makers, and so established what was to become a leading family run Italian watch manufacturer. Florence is still the home of Panerai watches, and the following provides a brief background to this luxury Italian watch Manufacture.
Under the stewardship of Giovanni’s grandson, Guido Panerai, the family business grew from strength to strength, and moved to the Piazza San Giovanni, where the boutique is still located today.
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In these early days of the company’s history Panerai had already became the official supplier to the Royal Italian Navy and Italian Ministry of Defence, providing precision optical and mechanical instruments as well as wristwatches.
Bringing together the best of Swiss technology and Italian design, Panerai have over the years produced some exceptional and lasting timepieces. From the Radiomir, created for the commandos of the Italian Navy in 1936; the Luminor collection, created in 1950 and designed under commission for the Italian Navy; to the more contemporary Ferrari Collection, produced under license of Ferrari Spa by Panerai. Each of these shows technical innovation that was produced specifically for the model in question.
The Luminor, for example, has features specifically suited to conditions necessary for a military dive watch. The watch had a hand-wound mechanical movement that had an eight-day power reserve. This enabled the frequency of winding operations to be reduced. An innovative feature then because, the fewer winding operations meant a lower risk of water seepage when divers rewound their watches. This innovative feature of the 1950s is one that has been re-developed for use in more recent models.
Panerai has been at the forefront of a number of technical and design innovations for more than a century now. And the family business was not only interested in wristwatches, but also compasses, depth gauges, and torches. Over the decades a enormous collection of instruments, documents and photographs, all closely associated with the history of watch-making, has been accumulating and gathering dust in the original family-run Florentine boutique.
Recently this collection of artefacts and documents has been expertly collated, catalogued and curated to form the basis of the Panerai Historical Archive; This archive tells the history of watch-making like no other, and bears witness to the work of the Panerai family from the very first watchmaker’s workshop opened in Florence over a hundred years ago.