For many luxury watch fans, Panerai is an interesting brand. Based in Switzerland but with Italian roots, the manufacturer has enjoyed much success as a producer of luxury watches for the marine industry, as well as the military industry. The company was born more than a century and a half ago, yet its elite cult-like following stems back to only around two decades ago.
Around 20 years ago, Panerai watches were catching the attention of the avid luxury watch collector, mainly for their unusual military-inspired designs with impressive dive watch qualities and, of course, the brand’s noteworthy use of luminous materials to enhance the legibility of its dials. Panerai has a very modern-day iconic status. Some of the company’s wristwatches sell for a lot of money on the pre-owned market, yet for others, nothing beats the beauty of a brand new Panerai watch from the company’s best-selling Luminor or Radiomir collection.
Panerai was first founded in 1860 by Italian watchmaker, Giovanni Panerai, who began his business by opening up a small shop in Florence. This was no ordinary shop, however. It would operate as a watch service business as well as a watchmaking school before evolving into a military watch production site. Watches for the Italian Royal Navy were gratefully received and during the 1900s the demand for military wristwatches really stepped up. The first Radiomir watch was launched in 1935, surpassing anything else on the market at that time in regards to its luminosity. The radium-based powder used for elements on its dial delivered intense visibility in dark conditions, making it an indispensable tool for military personnel carrying out lifesaving missions and tactical timings on the frontline during this period. Military marine watches for the frogmen of the First Submarine Group Command of the Royal Italian Navy were considered companions for every light-limiting scenario. Collaborating with Rolex, the Radiomir watch case was enlarged and equipped with a pocket watch movement. They were classed as the first Radiomir prototypes.
Later, and milled from a single block of steel came the improved Radiomir watch for underwater adventure, the Radiomir 1940. Its reshaped crown went from conical to tubular. Then, with further advancements made in terms of its luminous materials, Panerai released the Luminor watch in 1949 and this luminous substance was developed from a tritium base as opposed to a radium-based powder making it much safer to use. By the 1950s, Panerai had risen to mainstream popularity with the likes of the Luminor watch. The Italian brand’s watches were now made available to the public and caught the attention of the likes of Sylvester Stallone who made the watch even trendier.
Today, the Panerai Luminor is regarded as an accessible luxury watch that began its story from very humble beginnings. Equipping a watch with a visible dial for dark and daring underwater depths would be pointless unless Panerai was going to integrate the Luminor with impressive water resistance, and so the manufacturer did just that. Although not carrying the same weight and robustness as some other luxury dive watches on the high-end market today, many Panerai enthusiasts will admit that owning a Luminor watch extends far greater than its capability underwater. In fact, the Luminor's many collectors are not even expert or amateur divers to begin with. The Luminor watch attracts a very niche audience including those that like to wear and enjoy a Panerai Luminor merely for its sleek, visible and simple mechanical designs, as well as its impressive luminosity.
Panerai Luminor watches have a very distinctive design. A softly rounded dial is framed by a similarly-shaped case and an instantly recognizable crown protector. This visible bridge covers the crown to provide extra protection against shock, knocks and bumps. The Panerai Luminor watch collection is also home to models with GMT functions, power reserves and date functions, as well as small second sub-counters. The predominant quality of the Panerai Luminor watch, however, is to deliver clarity and legibility. The special luminescent material applied to the essential elements of the dial makes each Luminor watch particularly easy to reference. Up until recently, the brand has used an ETA movement to power its most popular Luminor watches. However, in 2018 its Luminor Base Logo watch and Luminor Marino Logo watch both housed an independently manufactured movement. Today, Panerai offers a vast and diverse catalogue of Luminor watches. As well as marking the introduction of the brand’s crown lock, the release of the Luminor during the late 1940s signified the company’s departure from Radiomir lume to its tritium-based mixture, patented as the name “Luminor”. In addition to this, the appearance of the Luminor watch can be distinguished by its cushion-shaped case and integrated lugs.
If you’re wanting a watch to capture the essence of the classic Panerai Luminor watch but don’t want to pay top range, the Panerai Luminor Base Logo PAM0108 model is a great starting point. It comes equipped with an in-house movement and belongs to a sub-collection that offers several different dial colours. The Base Logo is offered in both Radiomir and Luminor iterations, some of which feature a painted dial, others of which offer a simple two-hand display. This 44mm model is crafted from stainless steel and features a black dial with luminous Arabic numerals and stick markers, a 100-meter water-resistant case, and a stylish brown Scamosciato strap with classic white stitching. Inside this popular Panerai Luminor watch is the P.6000 calibre, which provides a 3-day power reserve.
If the sheer size of the 44mm Panerai Luminor Base Logo is too much for your wrist, the smaller 42mm size of the Panerai Luminor Marina PAM02392 may be a better option for you. It came as a welcomed addition to the collection when first released (since Panerai Luminor watches can span up to a broad 45mm or 47mm diameter). This model is the complete package. Equipped, once again with 100-meter water resistance, the Panerai Luminor Marina watch is easy to reference the time from thanks to its classic black dial, whilst its cushion-shaped case and crown protection system are as present and eye-catching as ever. This model is crafted from stainless steel and topped with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal glass front to grant you a clear view into the dial without any undesirable glare affecting your view. The Panerai Marina watch is equipped with the P.9010 calibre, which features anti-shock technology, delivers a 3-day power reserve, and beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour. The dial of this Panerai Luminor watch features luminous central hands, large Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock, and features a small second sub-dial with a blue hand, balanced by a date window at 3 o’clock.
Case/Dial: 44mm Stailess steel, Black
Movement: P.9010, Self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, 72h power reserve
Strap: Black leather
As its name suggests, the Panerai Luminor Power Reserve watch offers an added level of technical sophistication to its dial – a chance to monitor the remaining energy of the movement that powers it. The watch features a power reserve indicator at 4 o’clock, together with sand-coloured luminous hands and hour markers that create a subtle vintage-inspired look. The Panerai Luminor Power Reserve PAM00423 is equipped with the in-house developed P.3002 calibre – a hand-wound movement that offers a 3-day power reserve whilst housed inside a beefy 47mm diameter. The watch is crafted from robust stainless steel and has been integrated with 100-meter water resistance. The top of the case is crafted from anti-glare sapphire crystal glass, which protects the surface of the black dial equipped with a small second sub-dial at 9 o’clock. A stylish brown Scamosciato leather strap with off-white contrast stitching enhances a retro dive watch look, securing with a matching stainless steel fastening.
Case/Dial: 44mm Stainless steel, Black
Movement: P.3002, Self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, power reserve indicator, seconds reset, 72h power reserve
If there is one area in particular that Panerai has excelled in when it comes to the Luminor collection, it is its research, experimentation and development of new materials. Carbotech not only enhances the aesthetics of a Panerai watch but serves on a practical level too. The case of a Carbotech watch from Panerai is formed from layers of thin carbon fibre sheets that have been compressed and controlled at a high temperature and combined with a high-end polymer that binds the composite material together. This Panerai Luminor Marina Carbotech PAM0118 watch features a broad 44mm diameter, a black dial, eye-catching green hour markers and hands treated with luminous material, and a 300-meter water resistance. Primed for great underwater exploration and fitted with a titanium caseback, this watch, powered by the P.9010 calibre, features a black material strap along with a date window at 3 o’clock, balanced by a small second sub-dial at 9 o’clock.
Whether opting for the simplest and most pared-down version of the Panerai Luminor watch or choosing to invest in a model with a little more technical sophistication - the collectable former military watch will always prove a popular choice for fans of Italian combat diver watches. The famous design of the Panerai Luminor, with its crown-protecting bridge, is a safe investment, as well as a practical tool for wearing underwater, out at sea, or on dry land.
Case/Dial: 44mm Carbotech, Black
Movement: P.9010, Self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, 72h power reserve
Strap: White Stitching, 24.0/22.0 Standard size