Panerai Watches – Beautiful and Scarce
Unless you really follow the watchmaking business, you may not be familiar with Panerai watches. The company is unusual in several respects; they’re actually an Italian firm, where most high end watchmakers are Swiss. On the other hand, they make their watches in Switzerland, so that’s not so unusual.
Although they were founded in 1860 and have been making timepieces for 150 years, they’re relatively unknown, because for a large part of that time period, they made wristwatches exclusively for the Italian military.
That contract ended about twenty years ago, and that’s when the company decided to change their approach and their products, deciding to target the luxury watch market.
Since then, they’ve developed a reputation for quality and for scarcity – pretty much all Panerai watches are limited editions, and some models are limited to as few as 500 pieces. That makes them scarce and desirable, since they always manage to make fewer pieces than the market would like.
Read on for the full Panerai watches review.
The build quality is quite good; they use stainless steel cases and rock-hard sapphire crystal. Their models are typically water resistant to 100 meters, though some of their sports models boast 300 meters of water resistance.
As is typical of companies with a long history of watchmaking, this brand offers mechanical movements, either manually wound or self-winding, depending on the model. Most of their movements are built in-house, though they do source a few from fellow Swiss watchmaker ETA.
In the past some of their military models had movements sourced from Rolex. Regardless of origin, these are all high quality, highly accurate movements and many of them are quite efficient, as well. You won’t find yourself having to wind your watch all the time.
We haven’t seen a lot of company-specific innovation in Panerai watches, although they do have a special guard to protect the crown on many of their models. They also offer a few left-handed watches, which makes them among the few luxury watchmakers who offer something for southpaws.
Their main innovation seems to be marketing; by making everything limited in quantity, they manage to keep demand ahead of supply, which keeps the public interested and the prices high. It’s working for them; their products generate a lot of buzz in the marketplace, and not just because they’re really good timepieces.
The styling is fairly traditional; they like leather straps and round faces, typically either in white or black. You’re not going to find orange or pink watches in this company’s lineup. Displays are all analog, and many models display the seconds in a smaller, inset dial. A few models display the date, and a couple have chronograph features and a second time zone display.
They do have a few models with metal bracelets, though not many. We’ve seen at least one model from the company that featured a tourbillon, but we don’t think that’s a feature that they regularly include in their product line. For a short time in the last decade, the company had a contract to produce watches in conjunction with Ferrari.
These were rather popular with racing fans, but not with watch buyers in general and were soon discontinued. They’re quite collectible now. The most distinctive feature found is the semicircular protector for the crown; this seems to be unique to the brand.
As these are precision mechanical devices, they should be treated with care and stored away from extremes of temperature or strong magnetic fields. Models with an automatic movement should be stored in a watch winder to keep them running accurately and smoothly.
While many high end manufacturers recommend that you send your watch to them for service on a regular basis, this brand only requires servicing if you notice that they are not keeping accurate time.
Aside from this, there is no regular maintenance schedule for this brand, which is a bit unusual for luxury watches.
The warranty is for two years from the date of purchase against defects in materials and craftsmanship. This is the industry average; we see more companies offering a two year warranty than any other. As these timepieces are thoroughly tested at the factory prior to shipping, defects are quite rare and the company will swiftly take care of any problems that should arise.
As you might expect from a company that produces high quality, Swiss-made watches with mechanical movements and all of which are limited editions, you’ll find that prices are somewhat expensive.
We’ve seen models for sale as low as $5000 or so; these are among the larger-production models, of which they may make 2000-4000 pieces. More limited models can run upwards of $100,000, though a good portion of the company’s product line can be purchased in the $10,000-$25,000 range.
We haven’t seen a lot of collector interest in the brand, but the discontinued Ferrari models and the older military models do attract some attention from collectors. We expect to see further interest from collectors in this brand as time goes on, but we can’t suggest buying as an investment just yet.
As with most luxury watchmakers, the company strictly restricts pricing and distribution of their products. You’ll find the brand for sale only at a few company-owned boutiques (there are 10 in the United States) and at a handful of authorized dealers around the world.
There aren’t many; it’s actually rather difficult to find them for sale in the United States. Of course, these are only the official dealers; you can also find them being sold online by a few other dealers, and sometimes, you can even them offering them for sale at a discount.
Be aware that due to high collector demand, replica Panerai watches are often found on the market.
Panerai watches are attractive, highly functional and accurate luxury watches. They have a diverse product line that includes a lot of features, but all of their products are limited editions and their distribution is rather limited, as well.
They’re fine timepieces, but you may have to shop around to find one. That said, should you find one, chances are good you’ll be the only one in your social circle to own one. If you like beautiful design, great quality and really limited availability, you’ll like Panerai watches.