Officine Panerai, also known as Panerai, is an Italian manufacturer of luxury watches. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A. They design, manufacture, and sell watches through authorized dealers and company-owned stores worldwide. Officine Panerai was founded by Giovanni Panerai in Florence, Italy, in 1860 and is currently headquartered in Geneva.
The watches are manufactured in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, using movements manufactured by Manufacture Horlogère ValFleurier.
Panerai watches, designed and manufactured by Rolex S.A., were worn by the divers of the Decima Flottiglia MAS during World War II. Notable watches include the Luminor and Radiomir wristwatches.
Giovanni Panerai (1825–1897) opened his first shop in Florence, Italy in 1860. Giovanni’s grandson, Guido Panerai expanded the watch shop, named “Orologeria Svizzera”, and took over his wife’s family business, a mechanical workshop.
Panerai became an official supplier to the Royal Italian Navy, supplying various technical equipment and precision instruments.
The main driving forces behind producing the first professional diving watches were Hans Wilsdorf from Rolex and Giuseppe Panerai.
The Florence workshop made wrist-worn diving instruments and delivered around 1,600 watches between 1935 and 1970, most of them to the Italian Marina Militare. All the watches, except for the GPF 2/56, were made by Rolex, and Panerai e Figlio produced the dials for these watches. Panerai dials were made luminous with Radiomir, a highly radioactive self-luminous compound, and later, in 1965, with Luminor, a harmless compound activated by tritium.
The Egiziano Grosso (GPF 2/56) was initially manufactured for the Egyptian Navy in 1956. However, by 1970, the company had stopped supplying watches to the Marina Militare as they did not meet the naval specifications and were not cost-effective. Eventually, in 1993, the company started selling its products in the civilian market. Later, after acquiring Panerai, Richemont rebranded it as a luxury watch brand and raised its prices.
Panerai offers watches in four distinct marketing lines: Historic, Contemporary, Manifattura, and Special Editions. The watches are produced in limited runs of 500, 1000, 2,000, or 4,000 units, each bearing its unique issue number on the case back.
The company also releases Special Editions annually. For instance, in 2006, the 1936 California Dial Radiomir special edition, which was a reissue of the very first Panerai model, was presented to the Italian Marina Militare. The production of this model was limited to 1936 units.