Are you an admirer of both Swiss technology and Italian design? If you’re researching for the perfect watch, then you’re in luck because there is a brand that fuses the two exceptionally well: Officine Panerai. You can add the love for the sea to the equation, too.
For the longest time, it was unavailable to civilians, being the exclusive watch manufacturer for the Italian Navy. But as soon as it released its first collection that is intended for something other than for military purposes, the name gained its Paneristis, a name watch enthusiasts brand lovers of the Italian horologer.
The brand doesn’t have the recognition that other watch manufacturers have, but that is what makes it desired among those in the know. The non-flashy treasures are understated, functional and silently beautiful. They may be hiding in plain sight, but with a Panerai you just know that your wrist possesses a wonder.
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Born at the cradle of the Renaissance
While many European watchmakers have their roots in Swiss valleys, Panerai was conceived in 1860 right into the heart of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. It borrowed its name after its founder, Giovanni Panerai. It initially manufactured underwater equipment which explains its affinity for the sea. The leadership was passed along the family, with Giovanni’s grandson Guido holding the position at the turn of the century, and the company soon found itself being commissioned by the Italian Navy to supply its watches.
Since then, it was recognized as a highly specialized laboratory, respected for its precision while possessing an undeniable Italian design. Panerai was deemed a military brand for a considerable amount of time before it decided that the venture was no longer sustainable. In 1993, it went on to break into the civilian market and found a niche among connoisseurs who valued the company’s history and its simple yet elegant designs.
The Swiss connection
Besides partnering with Rolex to design and manufacture watches for the better part of the last century, Officine Panerai also is wholly owned now by Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A. Although it maintains its headquarters in its birthplace, Panerai manufactures its watches on the lake of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, renowned for being among the oldest Swiss cities proud of a watchmaking culture.
The establishment of the manufacturing plant soon led to the launch of the P.2002, which marked a new era for the brand. Panerai’s Manufacture opened doors to producing in-house watches that incorporate fine watchmaking the Swiss are known and putting them into exquisitely designed watches that showcase Florentine tastes. The manufacture can also be seen in another light: it is representative of the label’s insatiable thirst to explore, improve and innovate in its timekeeping capabilities through research and application while remaining true to its Italian roots.
Panerai’s biggest selling point
Simply put, its exclusivity.
For years, the watches were beyond anyone’s reach, as it was limited to those serving the armed forces. The pieces produced at the time are especially in high demand, considering that very few people outside the military were issued one.
Besides rarity playing a role, its military background probably adds to the overall appeal as their needs had to be very specific. It’s seen as a tough, utilitarian watch crafted especially for military needs. The dial with large numerals that are prized for their function as they can be read at a distance is especially attractive to a watch collector, sometimes even more so than one with a complicated, busy display. This design had not changed for decades, proof of its function. With Panerai watches, less is more.
Justifying Panerai’s high price tag is the high quality materials used to manufacture one. The watches have a beautiful, premium finish to them that can make them last even in the harshest water conditions. Even the movements supplied to it are tweaked further to take it one notch higher.
Have the prestige of being a Paneristi
Many people of means can buy any a watch from a luxury brand. But only a few can claim that they know and appreciate what it really is they are purchasing. Being the latter is what differentiates a Paneristi.
One can opt for a flashier piece to serve as a conversation starter, usually after gawking at a big name. But with Panerai, the people who would be drawn by it more often than not have an appreciation for the long and old culture of watchmaking. It is a statement piece, more often than not. And what it says is that while you care for names, it is ultimately the work behind the product that tries to achieve perfection and the rich history that makes a timepiece more attractive.
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