Living Large

Collectors are drawn to Officine Panerai watches for their size and substance

If fans of officine Panerai watches—an ardent bunch known as Paneristi—had a motto, that would surely be "Bigger is better." Almost singularly responsible for the current craze for oversize watches, Panerai was all but unknown to the general public just a decade ago. Founded around 1860 by Giovanni Panerai in Florence, Italy, the company thrived for decades as a watch-repair shop and mail-order catalog. In 1936, already the official supplier to the Italian navy for precision instruments like mechanical calculators and compasses, Panerai created a prototype watch able to withstand the extreme conditions naval usage would subject it to. In 1938,...

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