In the 1860, Giovanni Panerai opens his watchmaker’s shop on Ponte alle Grazie in Florence: serving not only as a shop and workshop but also as the city’s first watchmaking school, Officine Panerai’s history begins here. The shop later moves to its current location in the Palazzo Arcivescovile in Piazza San Giovanni, changing its name to “Orologeria Svizzera” in the twentieth century.
On the eve of the Second World War, Panerai creates the first prototypes of the model “Radiomir” for the frogman commandos of the Royal Italian Navy. Today’s Radiomir retains many of the prototype’s features: a large, cushion-shaped, luminescent numerals, mechanical movement, and a water-resistant strap long enough to be worn over a diving suit. The Navy’s historical archives record that just ten prototypes were produced in 1936.