Opening of the Officine Panerai Workshop
Giovanni Panerai opens his watchmaker's shop on Ponte alle Grazie in Florence: serving not only as a shop and workshop but also as the city's first watchmaking school, Officine Panerai's history begins here. The shop later moves to its current location in the Palazzo Arcivescovile in Piazza San Giovanni, changing its name to "Orologeria Svizzera" at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Officine panerai files the radiomir patent
To meet the military needs of the Royal Italian Navy, which it had already been supplying with high precision instruments for a number of years, Officine Panerai creates Radiomir, a radium-based powder that gives luminosity to the dials of sighting instruments and devices. Reference to the name "Radiomir" is documented in the supplement to the patent filed in France on 23 March 1916. The substance's high visibility and the paint's excellent underwater adhesive qualities immediately make the radium paste a key element in Officine Panerai’s production. The Radiomir patent will be the first of the many patents filed to mark Panerai's history of innovation.
The first radiomir prototype
On the eve of the Second World War, Panerai creates the first prototypes of the model now known as "Radiomir" for the frogman commandos of the First Submarine Group Command of the Royal Italian Navy. Today's Radiomir retains many of the prototype’s features: a large, cushion-shaped steel case (47mm), luminescent numerals and indices, wire lugs welded to the case, a hand-wound mechanical movement, and a water-resistant strap long enough to be worn over a diving suit. The Navy's historical archives record that just ten prototypes were produced in 1936.
Radiomir, a constantly evolving model
The actual production of the Radiomir models with the 1936 features takes place two years later. In order to implement the functions of the prototype, Officine Panerai makes a number of changes and starts producing a new Radiomir model with the following features: the use of overlapping plates for the dial, the upper part having perforated indices and numerals so as to make the radium paint more readable and luminescent; the wire lugs are made more resistant, comprising a metal bar folded at both ends and welded to the case middle. A further innovation that improves underwater visibility relates to the numbering of the dial, which has just 4 large Arabic numerals at the cardinal points and a series of indices, hour and minute hands, but without a small seconds hand.
Radiomir 1940 case
The Royal Navy’s requirements become even more specific: the watches have to remain underwater in extreme conditions for long periods. Therefore, their resistance to extreme tension must also be guaranteed. The lugs are reinforced to meet these needs and made from the same block of steel as the case for better underwater resistance. Some of today's models bearing the "Radiomir 1940" name have a cushion-shaped case made with edges that are more pronounced on the sides, a general reshaping of the individual parts and a cylindrical, tubular rather than conical, winding crown. The Radiomir 1940 Special Edition models presented at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2012 draw inspiration from these features.
Officine Panerai presents the prototype of a model specifically designed for deck officers: the Mare Nostrum, a two-counter chronograph. It is thought that only two or three of these watches were ever made, and all that remains of them are some photographs and a single example discovered in 2005. The research and planning for one of the fundamental steps in the Florentine brand's design began in the early 1940s: the crown-protecting device, a sort of steel half-moon designed to prevent infiltrations of water into the case and to protect the crown seal from the stresses of winding.
Radiomir is replaced by luminor
A new self-luminous substance, Luminor, supersedes the radium-based paste. Tritium (hydrogen isotope) based, this compound is protected by the patent filed on 11 January 1949 under the "Luminor" trademark. Officine Panerai draws inspiration from the name of its newly patented substance for its other historical model that follows the Radiomir watch - the Luminor.
The evolution from Radiomir to Luminor is completed. The Second World War having drawn to a close, the Florentine company continues the technical research begun at the start of the war, culminating in the development of the Luminor, characterized by the crown-protecting bridge, with reinforced wire lugs created from the same block of steel as the case, the cushion-shaped case as in the Radiomir 1940 and the flat, wider bezel. Nowadays the models with this case are known as Luminor 1950.
Officine panerai develops the "egiziano"
Panerai develops a Radiomir watch known as the "Egiziano" for the Egyptian Navy. It is characterized by its exceptional size (case diameter of 60 millimetres) and strength: it has great water resistance and a marked bezel for calculating immersion time. The patent for the crown-protecting bridge, which previously appeared in Panerai prototypes and supply documents provided to the Italian Navy, is filed in the same year, thereby becoming the distinguishing mark of both the Luminor models and of the DNA of the Florentine company's brand.
A year of transition for officine panerai
Giuseppe Panerai, son of Guido, dies. The management of the family business, along with the Italian Navy supply contracts long covered by military secrecy, passes to engineer Dino Zei, who changes the company name from "G.Panerai & Figlio" to "Officine Panerai S.r.L.", the name that had appeared on the very first models. Another chapter in Officine Panerai’s production relates to the instruments created for and supplied to the Italian Navy for many years - compasses and wrist depth gauges, as well as pressure compensation underwater torches providing greater resistance in the depths of the sea.
The first officine panerai collection
Officine Panerai presents a collection of three series of limited edition watches to the public: the Luminor, the Luminor Marina and the Mare Nostrum, which draw inspiration from the historical models created for Second World War commandos, and which immediately become highly sought after items for many collectors and enthusiasts. The presentation of the collection takes place in September 1993 on the Italian Navy cruiser "Durand De La Penne", with a ceremony attended by Duke Amedeo D'Aosta.
Officine panerai becomes a major player in the fine watchmaking market
The Richemont Group (then Vendôme Group) acquires Officine Panerai, with the consequent opening of a select distribution network in Italy. The following year sees its debut on the international fine watchmaking market. The collection comprises two models: the Luminor and the Luminor Marina in three versions. The Mare Nostrum version, previously presented in 1993, is re-launched in a new version with a narrower bezel, a screw-down case back and motion-work outside the hour circle.
Officine panerai: return to the origins
After a meticulous refurbishment, Panerai's historic boutique is reopened. A restyling of the original Piazza San Giovanni premises in Florence, following the acquisition of the family shop by Officine Panerai. This artisan’s workshop is a meeting point for brand collectors and enthusiasts, who can find not only pieces from the current collection, but also special edition watches and special productions that Panerai reserves exclusively for its boutiques.
Opening of the panerai manufacture in neuchatel
This year is a milestone for Officine Panerai, with the opening of the Panerai Manufacture in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Fine Swiss watchmaking, exclusive design and know-how come together in a single location where planning, development and continuous research offer new technical and functional perspectives. Officine Panerai also opens up to the Orient with its first Asian boutique, located in the prestigious Landmark Prince's Building in Hong Kong.