Photo by Éric Sauvage and Nils Herrmann
Officine Panerai, founded in Florence in 1860, makes some of the most coveted wristwatches in the world. They only produce a limited number of timepieces every year, and there's usually a long waiting list for new models costing several thousands of dollars. The company is credited with perfecting the world's first underwater watches in the thirties; many have imitated its oversized style and the numerous devoted Panerai collectors around the globe are known as "Paneristi." Since 1996 the company has also produced a line of watches for Ferrari and serves as the marque's official timekeeper. An impressive new slipcased volume, called simply Panerai, about to be published by Flammarion, details the fascinating history of these beautiful watches.
Early on the company became the official supplier to the Marina Militare (the Royal Italian Navy), initially providing optical and mechanical instruments. In 1910 they began experimenting with luminous materials to make the instrument dials visible in the dark. In 1936 the Marina Militare asked Panerai to develop a wristwatch suitable for use by commandos under extreme conditions. Thus was born the oversized, water-resistant, luminous dial Radiomir, production of which began in 1938, cementing a place for Panerai in the pantheon of the world's great watchmakers.
Gallery: Panerai: Past & Present