The history of Officine Panerai, makers of Panerai Watches, goes back to 1860, the year Giovanni Panerai started his first shop in Florence. The company grew in both size and prestige, earning a reputation for making timepieces that were as accurate as they were elegant. In time, the Italian government commissioned the company to make precision instruments for its navy. These included various optical and mechanical instruments as well as timepieces.

This work continued through World War II, leading to commissions from Egypt and several Mediterranean nations to produce watches for their navies.

It was during this long period of military production that Panerai made some of the key innovations still in use in today. These included the invention of the luminous substance Radiomir, which made possible the first glow-in-the-dark dials, and its successor, Luminor. Each of these inventions led to the production of a line of precision watches which became a favorite with watch aficionados. These classic lines are are still in production today. Panerai also succeeded in designing watches that would resist water to a depth of 300 meters, an unprecedented development at the time.

These achievements were only the beginning of an illustrious history culminating in Panerai becoming one of today's most honored and beloved watchmakers. Their present-day products still emphasize the nautical look with their porthole-style bezels and large hands and hourmarkers for easy reading. Both Luminor and Radiomir have branched off into series with chronograph features, power reserve indicators, small second hands and other complications.