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The iconic boutique in Piazza San Giovanni, Firenze, is very famous and has become a place of pilgrimage for every Paneristi. While the boutique holds significant importance with the history of the brand, it had little to do with the actual Panerai company. The boutique, 'Orologeria Svizzera' was a watch shop and service center, representing famous Swiss brands such as Vacheron & Constantin, Longines, Movado, Eldis (the Panerai brand), Buren (Railways and Royal Navy watch), Angelus and of course Rolex.
Page from an original 1930's Panerai catalog
The actual development, design, experiments and production of Panerai tools and watches were done some 3 kilometers from the boutique at Piazza Galileo Ferraris.
'Villino Panerai' (Panerai Cottage), the Panerai family residence stands there and within its walls (and basements) most of the development and production took place. Its quite remarkable that the secretive nature of developing and producing military tools took place in a tranquil, upscale residential neighborhood of Firenze.
Following Giuseppe's death in 1972, Dino Zei became in charge of the company and realizing the premises were not spacious enough, decided to expand from the Villino Panerai to two buildings on the north-west side of the piazza. The smaller building was used for the mangement and adminstration offices of Officine Panerai s.r.l., while the larger building was used for the workshops and engineering departments. It is interesting to note that even in the 1990's (the pre-V era), watches were still stored only in the Villino Panerai.
This location was active until the Vendome takeover in 1997 and today it is used as offices for various companies. The Villino Panerai is partly used for offices, while the residential part is still the home of Guiseppe's wife, Maria Panerai.
Many of the old Panerai watchmaking tools as well as unique instruments and documents can be seen today at the museum part of Francesco Ferretti's shop in the town of Montecatini Terme.
The Piazza Ferraris.
A - Villino Panerai
B - The OP administration building
C - The OP workshops
Views of the Villino Panerai. The basement windows where secret developments were made are visible from the street level.
View of the buildings used after the expansion, Officine Panerai s.r.l.
The building on the right was used for adminstrative offices. The building on the left, for the workshops.
I hope you enjoyed this small weekend tour into the history of Panerai,,,,, HAGWE
Made my first and only visit to the Old Country in 2006, was a super rushed package tour. We were only supposed to walk through the square but I detoured and ran around like a crazy till I found the boutique, had time only for a few quick shots. As usual for a boutique, there weren't many pieces there But till today I still think it was the highlight of my trip
"Life's an adventure, you might as well wear a Panerai"
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