Although based in Switzerland, Officine Panerai’s roots are in Florence where Giovanni Panerai started it in 1860 as a watchmaker’s shop as well as the city’s first watchmaking school. In 1916, they patented their creation, Radiomir, a radium-based luminescent powder employed in their watches, especially useful as they supplied the Italian navy with timekeeping instruments. 1949 saw the patent of a new substance, Luminor, which replaced Radiomir. A new collection of watches was named after it in 1950, characterised by the now-iconic crown protector, cushion case and flatter bezel.
The brand also famously introduced the concept of the sandwich dial where a base layer is applied with a luminescent substance, then finished with a top layer which has cut out numerals and indexes to reveal the luminous layer below.
In 1997, the Vendôme Group (now known as the Richemont Group) acquired the brand and launched it into the international fine watchmaking market with the Luminor and Luminor Marina. Eight years later, the brand introduced its first in-house movement, the self-winding P.2002 with GMT function and eight-day power reserve. Today, the brand has its workshop in Neuchâtel, along with the rest of the big players in the watch industry—testament to how far it’s come since the days of its founder Giovanni Panerai.
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