Giovanni Panerai founded his company in Florence in 1860; it was not only a workshop and shop, but also a school of watchmaking. In 1916, Guido Panerai, Giovanni’s grandson, invented Radiomir, a radium-based luminant. Guido’s son, Giuseppe, took over the business in 1934, shortly before the Italian Navy commissioned Panerai to produce a timepiece. The watches needed to be designed for use underwater and at night by submarine pilots; these were the first models bearing the Radiomir name. The commission had a very large watch face, excellent water resistance and could be read both in the dark and underwater.
Panerai watches have become increasingly popular due to their unique oversized designs, and have been seen worn by celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
In 1993, they launched three limited edition styles based on the original Navy timepieces: the Luminor, Mare Nostrum, and the Luminor Marina. These were the first Panerai watches available for civilians and are highly sought after timepieces among collectors.
The success of these watches led to the company being acquired by the Richemont Group in 1997; this launched the brand into the international market. Today, Panerai develops and crafts its movements and watches at its Neuchâtel manufacturing base, combining Italian design flair and history with Swiss horological expertise.