All About Panerai

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As one of the most famous timepiece brands out there, one cannot ignore the longevity and consistency of the Panerai brand. Over 160 years ago in 1860, a gentleman by the name of Giovanni Panerai, officially opened his first watch and clock shop in Florence, Italy called “Orologeria Svizzera”.  His grandson, Guido Panerai, expanded the watch shop by merging his grandfather’s watch shop with a mechanical workshop that was owned by his wife’s family. This led to Guido Panerai inventing a luminescent radium powder, officially called Radiomir, for the use and military gun sights of the Royal Italian Navy, which was an innovation that helped shape the brand going forward. In the 1930’s, Parenai began to supply prototype water-resistant Radiomir watches that were manufactured by Rolex to an Italian special forces unit. These timepieces were completely innovative and the world had never seen anything like it. The design came in a giant 47 millimeter case, a sandwich dial construction that allowed for more luminescent material, and a long leather strap that was intended to be worn over diving suits. During World War II, Italian Navy divers used Panerai watches in combat. Even after the war, the relation between Panerai and the Italian Navy continued, which ended up leading to Panerai’s other iconic model, the Luminor, which was named for a safer and less radioactive luminescent material compared to radium. In the 1970’s, the rise of many innovative, capable, and inexpensive dive watches began to flood the market, Panerai chose to continue to only supply their military watches to the Italian Navy. This caused Paernai’s brand to fall into obscurity and the brand became largely irrelevant until the 1990’s when they finally decided to put their military models on the civilian market where it had a huge impact in the watch size of timepieces at the time. Shortly after, iconic actors Slyvestor Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were seen wearing Panerai watches in their movies and after that the brand took off. In 1997, shortly after Stallone and Schwarzenegger put Panerai on the map, the brand was bought out by Richemont, who is still the current owner to this day, and moved Panerai’s operations to the capital of watch making, Geneva, Switzerland. In the 2000’s, Panerai continued to experience massive success due to media coverage and the watch trends of the industry that Panerai had helped create, where many Panerai models would sell out immediately after its first release, similar to Richard Mille in today’s case. In 2002, Panerai released its first in-house movement, and paved the way towards the trend on in-house movements that is currently seen in today’s watch market. In recent years, the euphoria around Panerai has cooled off and left a divide in the watch community of collectors who are loyal to the brand and those who do not like Panerai at all. In this article, we will go over the three types of Panerai: Luminor and Luminor 1950, Radiomir, and Submersible; as well as discuss the differences between each model. 

First, to respect the history of Panerai, we’ll go over the model that the brand invented first, the Radiomir. When it comes to the two models, the Radiomir is much less desired and therefore can usually be picked up at cheaper prices compared to the Luminor. Due to the heritage of the original Radiomir being 47 millimeters, the Radiomir 47mm is still one of the more popular of the Radiomir models. The only issue with it is 47 millimeters will be far too large for most people’s wrists, the buyer pool is going to be much smaller than other models for that reason. Even though the 47 millimeters is the most common Radiomir, they also now come in 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, and a few other case sizes as well. Although the Radiomir models generally won’t bring a premium the way the Luminor model will, the Radiomir models that come with a rose gold casing definitely are highly desired. Keep in mind, the rose gold Radiomir models will generally go for $10k-$20k, which is significantly more than the typical ~5k range most Panerai Radiomir models go for, so if your wanting a rose gold casing, you better be ready to spend 2-3x as much. 

Panerai Radiomir Pam 00995

Panerai Radiomir 

Next, we’ll cover Panerai’s most popular model, the Panerai Luminor. When it comes to the Luminor, the 1950 casing which is Panerai’s signature crown lock, is definitely the most popular. These types of Panerai’s tend to be the most desired, and you can definitely pick up a lot of really good deals by finding lesser known variations of the Luminor 1950 casing because the models of the Luminor 1950 all look very similar. It is important to note that while the Luminor and the Luminor 1950 casing look similar, they are in fact different. From a front view, the two casings look the same, but the difference is seen when looking at the two models from the side. 

Cite Bob’s Watches

When looking at the Luminor vs the Luminor 1950 side by side a few things become noticeable. First, the Luminor has a streamlined case, shorter lugs, no markings on the crown guard, and it is typically fitted with a closed caseback. To contrast, the Luminor 1950 has a U-shaped middle case, longer lugs, markings on the crown guard that say “R.E.G. TM”, and typically fitted with an open caseback which makes identifying fakes easier (cite Bob’s Watches). 

Another type of Luminor model of the Panerai brand is the Submersible line. Back in 2019, Panerai decided to dedicate its dive watches into this category. Even though other models of Panerai could technically be considered dive watches judging by their level of water resistance, there are features of the Submersible that differentiate it from other Luminor models such as its rotating bezel and signature Submersible case and dial design. Usually the Submersibles will run in the $5k-$15k used so it’s not too crazy relative to other luxury timepieces. 

All about panerai

To conclude, we have covered the history of Panerai as well as the differences between the three models: the Luminor and Luminor 1950, the Radiomir, and the Submersible. Armed with this knowledge, you can now confidently go out and acquire your first Panerai with full confidence. 

Until next time, 

Matthew Thomas Pourroy

Citations:

  1. https://www.gearpatrol.com/watches/a566952/panerai-watch/ Allen Farmelo
  2. https://www.bobswatches.com/rolex-blog/watch-101/panerai-luminor-vs-1950-case-comparison.html Paul Altieri 
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