Panerai watches aren't the most well known of men's watches but this esoteric brand is becoming highly desirable among men who want a watch that has masculinity written all over it, all be it, written in a fine, understated handwriting style.
Few other watches can claim the kind of diving watch pedigree of a Panerai. Originally an Italian watchmaker (the company has since relocated to Switzerland) the company had a long history of producing precision diving gauges for the Italian Navy. During the Second World War, it was commissioned to produce diving watches for Italian commandoes. Its watch designs were even considered to be ‘top secret’ at the time; how many other watch brands are as James Bondish as that?
However, the company went into almost total obscurity after the WWII, being only appreciated by a select band of connoisseurs. Things changed when it was bought by the luxury giant Compagnie Financiere Richemont. Although, the owners have been successful in aggressively marketing Panerai watches out of obscurity, thankfully, they haven't interfered with the general ethos of making superlative precision watches.
Unlike some other, supposed, luxury watch manufacturers, Panerai only produces a limited number of watches each year, keeping its place in the very top echelon of Swiss watches.
Today, the company makes two lines of watches; the Historic Collection and the Contemporary Collection. The Historic Collection feature copies of classic designs with manual winding mechanisms while the Contemporary Collection has taken classic designs, updated them very slightly and given them automatic mechanical movements. Within these two collections, there are only three basic models, Luminor, Luminor Marina, and Radiomir (ranging in price from $4,000 to $20,000).
There's no denying that Panerai watches are liked by men because of a certain machismo in their design. Of course, many men would deny that is why they've bought one, citing instead, the history and craftsmanship of these timepieces. Sure, but they also appeal to the ‘action man’ inside all red-blooded men don't they?
So, what makes them so macho? Well, for starters; Panerai don't do ladies watches, which kind of makes owning one feel like you're joining a men's only club. They're also big, typically with a 44 or 45mm wide case. The corundum glass is 3.5mm thick. And, most have a very chunky crown guard and a locking lever - originally developed to improve water resistance back in the days when these watches were actually used as dive watches. The crown guard has really become the trademark of Panerai watches.
While being a macho accessory, Panerai watches are for the thinking man. You won't find any vulgar subdials, boy-trying-to-be-a-man bezels or cheap gimmicks. They are understated timepieces. You get simple, unadorned dials, with simple, plain hands and discrete date apertures. What you get is what many can't appreciate; craftsmanship. They may be a macho watch but there aren't for Rambo; they're for the smooth, educated, urban but deadly James Bond type. They're for the thinking macho man. Does such a thing exist?
Panerai watches are very beautiful. Their large, chunky lines are subdued by their understated styling. You don't have to be macho to wear one; you just have to appreciate their subtle beauty.
Follow the links for Panerai watches and for more swiss watch reviews on brands such as Patek Philippe, Longines and Oris watches.