BRAND / Panerai

Which is the best choice for a unique timepiece? Rolex or Panerai?

So, which is best, Rolex or Panerai? And how do you make the right choice? Here’s a comparison guide to both brands, highlighting the differences and similarities shared between two of the world’s most prestigious watch brands.

        
Panerai vs Rolex:

What makes the comparison between Rolex and Panerai so unique is that Rolex had a role to play in Panerai’s success with their iconic Radiomir watch. Not only that, but both brands have pioneered a number of their own innovations too, creating firsts along the way. Rolex watches are more expensive than Panerai’s offerings, yet both companies have created cult watches that are highly sought-after and desirable within the watch collecting universe. So, which is best, Rolex or Panerai? And how do you make the right choice? Here’s a comparison guide to both brands, highlighting the differences and similarities shared between two of the world’s most prestigious watch brands.

History

Founded by Giovanni Panerai in Florence, Italy in 1860, Panerai had already been enjoying almost half a century of expertise in the field of fine watchmaking by the time Rolex was established in 1905. Panerai’s grandson Guido was taking over the family-run company, turning his focus towards perfecting the beauty and performance of precise mechanisms. This research and development ultimately led to Panerai’s close relationship with the Royal Italian Navy, supplying them with robust, precise timekeeping tools that would promise longevity and legibility on the wrist. In 1916 Panerai created the luminous, radium-based powder, Radiomir. A decade later Rolex had created the world’s first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch. A few years after that, the two companies formed a partnership. Panerai liked the sound of Rolex’s pioneering work in waterproof technology, so they collaborated on a military tool watch with diving capabilities – the first official Radiomir watch. The masterpiece came before Rolex’s Datejust model in 1945 – the first automatic watch to display a date feature and the iconic Submariner in 1953.

Founded by Giovanni Panerai in Florence, Italy in 1860, Panerai had already been enjoying almost half a century of expertise in the field of fine watchmaking by the time Rolex was established in 1905. Panerai’s grandson Guido was taking over the family-run company, turning his focus towards perfecting the beauty and performance of precise mechanisms. This research and development ultimately led to Panerai’s close relationship with the Royal Italian Navy, supplying them with robust, precise timekeeping tools that would promise longevity and legibility on the wrist. In 1916 Panerai created the luminous, radium-based powder, Radiomir. A decade later Rolex had created the world’s first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch. A few years after that, the two companies formed a partnership. Panerai liked the sound of Rolex’s pioneering work in waterproof technology, so they collaborated on a military tool watch with diving capabilities – the first official Radiomir watch. The masterpiece came before Rolex’s Datejust model in 1945 – the first automatic watch to display a date feature and the iconic Submariner in 1953.

Popular Panerai collections:

Panerai Luminor

The Panerai Luminor watch collection is a safe investment. There are rare collector’s editions but models from the company’s core range are weather-hardy, water-friendly and robust enough to face any challenge with. The top models from the collection feature tourbillons and flyback chronographs. Furthermore, these sports watches are equipped with a crown protecting bridge that not only protects the crown from impact but also presses it firmly into the case to prevent water damage. The Base models from the range feature a simple two-handed dial design.

PAM00774 - Luminor Base Logo 3 Days Acciaio - 44mm

Panerai Luminor Base Logo

Reference: PAM00774
Caliber: P.6000
Functions: Date, Luminous hands
Case Diameter: 44 mm
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Manual winding
Case Material: Steel
Water Resistance: 10 ATM (100 meters /330 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Fabric
Dial Colour: Black
Crystal: Sapphire crystal

Panerai Luminor Submersible

Limited edition versions of the Submersible, in particular, make for a sound investment from the Luminor range. The models vary from 300-meter water-resistant case to ones like the BMG-Tech, equipped with astonishing 2,500-meter water resistance. Flyback chronograph Submersible watches, as well as timepieces crafted from Carbotech, are also on offer within this collection.

SUBMERSIBLE BMG-TECH™ - 47MM PAM00799

Panerai Submersible

Reference: PAM00799
Caliber: P.9010
Functions: Date, Calendar, Small seconds, Rotating Bezel
Case Diameter: 47 mm
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Self-winding
Case Material: Carbon
Water Resistance: 30 ATM ( 300 meters / 1000 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Rubber
Dial Colour: Black
Crystal: Sapphire crystal

Panerai Radiomir

The Radiomir is the former official watch (created in collaboration with Rolex) for the Italian Navy. The large case of the Radiomir creates a huge wrist presence when worn. The Radiomir is a bona fide industry icon. Its cushioned case and conical crown are instantly recognizable. The models vary from steel to ceramic to rose gold cases. Models like the Panerai Radiomir PAM00624 feature a GMT function and an incredible 10-day power reserve.

PAM00624 PANERAI RADIOMIR 1940 ROSE GOLD BROWN DIAL 45MM

Panerai Radiomir 1940 GMT

Reference: PAM00624
Caliber: P.2003/10
Functions: Date, Dual Time Zones, Power Reserve, Seconds Subdial, AM-PM Indicator
Case Diameter: 45 mm
Power Reserve: 240 hours (10 days)
Winding: Automatic
Functions: Rose gold
Water Resistance: 5 ATM ( 50 meters / 160 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Leather
Dial Colour: Brown
Crystal: Sapphire crystal

Panerai Luminor Marina

With cases crafted from materials like Carbotech (a carbon fiber composite), the Luminor Marina is distinguishable for its attention-demanding crown-protecting bridge and a small seconds dial. It’s a safe investment if you’re looking to invest in a watch that will hold its value. Coveted collector’s watches like the Daylight Slytech are worth up to around $25 000. There’s an 8 Day version of the Luminor Marina available in either a steel or a lighter-weight titanium case, powered by the brand’s sophisticated P.5000 movement.

Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days GMT Power Reserve 44mm Steel Watch PAM00329

Panerai Luminor Marina 1950

Reference: PAM00329
Caliber: P.9001
Functions: Date, Calendar, Small seconds
Case Diameter: 44 mm
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Self-winding
Case Material: Steel
Water Resistance: 30 ATM (300 meters/ 1000 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Steel
Dial Colour: Black
Crystal: Sapphire crystal

Popular Rolex collections:

Rolex GMT-Master II

The Rolex GMT-Master II, similar to the Panerai Luminor GMT, features a second-time zone indicated by an arrow-tipped hand. The colored rotating bezel on the case of the Rolex GMT-Master II completes a full rotation every 24 hours - its bi-color design indicating the difference between day and night with a red and blue (Pepsi GMT) and black and blue (Batman) aesthetic.

OYSTER PERPETUAL GMT-MASTER II Oyster, 40 mm, Oystersteel

Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II

Reference: 126710BLRO
Caliber: 3285
Functions: Date, Calendar, GMT
Case Diameter: 40 mm
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Self-winding
Case Material: Steel
Water Resistance: 10 ATM (100 meter / 330 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Steel
Dial Colour: Black
Crystal: Sapphire crystal

Rolex Submariner:

The Rolex Submariner was launched in 1953. It set a benchmark for all diver’s watches thereafter. The unique thing about this diving watch was that is was crafted from Rolex’s innovative Oyster case which features a middle monobloc piece of steel and a screw-down crown. Today the Rolex Submariner is equipped with a 300-meter water-resistant capability and features a Cerachrom ceramic bezel for enhanced resistance to color fading.

ROLEX SUBMARINER 5513

Rolex Submariner

Reference: 5513
Caliber: 1520
Functions: Date
Case Diameter: 40 mm
Power Reserve: 48 hours
Winding: Self-winding
Case Material: Steel
Jewels: 26
Water Resistance: 20 ATM (200 meters / 660 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Steel
Dial Colour: Black
Crystal: Plexiglass

Rolex Daytona:

The Rolex Daytona is a racing-inspired design geared towards the sporty individual. If you like a chronograph watch but prefer the traditional style of one as opposed to Panerai’s more modern, dynamic case shape - the Daytona is a great option for you. It will hold its value, if not increase in value with age too. Rolex Daytona watches have increased in value by around 5% every year for the past decade.

OYSTER PERPETUAL Cosmograph Daytona Oyster, 40 mm, Oystersteel

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona

Reference: 116500LN-0001
Caliber: 4130
Functions: Date, Calendar, Chronograph, Tachymeter
Case Diameter: 40 mm
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Self-winding
Case Material: Steel
Jewels: 44
Water Resistance: 10 ATM (100 meters / 330 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Steel
Dial Colour: White
Crystal: Sapphire crystal

Rolex Sky-Dweller

The Sky-Dweller is defined by Rolex as “the watch for all travelers”. Function-wise, it can be compared to Panerai’s Luminor GMT since it provides an additional time zone, yet the Sky-Dweller offers more than just that. It boasts a different aesthetic with a round, fluted bezel, creating a classic look. An annual calendar is marked out along the hour track, indicated by a colored square for each month of the year, whilst the 24-hour sub-scale offers a second-time zone for keeping on track of local time and home time when working or exploring overseas.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Stainless Steel Blue Dial Watch 326934

Rolex Sky-Dweller 

Reference: 326934
Caliber: 3135 (Movement 9001)
Functions: Date, Calendar, Second time zone 
Case Diameter: 42 mm
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Self-winding
Case Material: Steel
Jewels: 40
Water Resistance: 10 ATM (100 meters / 330 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Steel
Dial Colour: Blue
Crystal: Sapphire crystal, cyclops lens over calendar

Prices:

Whilst there are many Rolex watches certain to hold their value, not all Panerai watches do. The limited-edition models tend to do very well on the second-hand market but some are simply popular for their cult-like status, especially if you’re in the market for steel sports watches. One of the most expensive Panerai watches is the Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT which sells for around 395,000 USD. It features a 49mm rose gold case and a view into the skeletonized in-house caliber P.2500/MR through its dial side. More affordable watches like the Radiomir Base logo watch cost as little as $3,500. Mid-range are the Submersible models costing around $7k. Rolex’s most expensive models are the Day-Date and the Daytona which reach up to around 20,000 to 30,000 USD, so it’s clear to see that some of Panerai’s prices cross over into the Rolex realm. That said, however, there is more choice offered by Panerai within your affordable selection, costing similar to the average retail price of the Rolex Submariner.

Conclusion:

Whilst Panerai has specialized in creating watches for the Italian Navy, Rolex developed its own in-house materials like their Cerachrom bezels for ultimate color-fading resistance, their own tone of rose gold – Rolesor, and the Parachrom hairspring for overall better mechanical efficiency. Even though Rolex watches are more expensive than Panerai watches, the Italian company has created watches like the Luminor Marina, which will appreciate over time like some of Rolex’s GMT-Master II and Daytona models. If you want a watch that will get people complimenting on your style as soon as you walk into a room – a Rolex watch is for you. If you want a watch that will create a good talking point however, Panerai’s rich heritage and innovative designs will keep any watch enthusiast enthralled for hours.

Visit the official site of Panerai here, and the Rolex here, for more information