Many of us at Revolution were surprised when we received an invitation from Officine Panerai for an event in Florence, Italy. After all, the brand had just unveiled a host of new introductions at the SIHH in January, what could they possibly have for us in May?

Well, the short answer is quite a bit!

Check out Wei Koh’s story on the new pieces Panerai introduced while here, but they also unveiled an incredible historical exhibition in the crypt of the former church of San Pancrazio, home of the Marino Marini Museum in the center of Florence.

Prior to unveiling the exhibition, we were treated to a fascinating 3D presentation from CEO Angelo Bonati, which illustrated the intriguing past of Panerai, spelled out the brand’s present position and detailed its future.

At one point in the presentation, Mr. Bonati appeared in the 3D image, then came on stage to stand next to…himself. Bonati looked over at his digital self and quipped, “I think one Bonati is more than enough so the other one can go now.”

The presentation gave us a glimpse into the focus of Panerai going forward – squarely on the customer – and its commitment to keeping the same design aesthetic while tweaking the collection, upgrading and modernizing where necessary.

The “Dive into Time” exhibition was up next and as we descended into the aforementioned crypt, a vintage commando sub led us into where the “buried treasure” was – in the form of probably the most comprehensive collections of Panerai watches, clearly illustrating how far the brand has come since its mainstream introduction in 1997.

In the first room were incredible historical pieces from the brand’s own museum and archives, ranging from the Radiomir of 1936, the first military diver’s watch in history, through the Luminor of the 1940s and 1950s, to the Slytech models created at the request of Sylvester Stallone in 1995. Behind this room, there was another with 60 curated watches handpicked by Mr. Bonati to show the evolution of the brand over the years.

The first chamber spelled out the brand’s “ancient” history, while the back chamber showed how Panerai has moved from a watch brand focused on its past to a modern brand committed to the highest quality and to in-house production of its base movements AND its complications. The brand’s emphasis on quality and in-house capability was on show, as was its mastery of unique materials and advanced technology, all the while keeping with its focus on its distinctive design.

After seeing the history, we were then treated to hands-on time with the new Radiomir 1940 minute repeater, the new Luminor Marina collection (featuring the new, slimmer P.9010 automatic movement) and the new Luminor Due case, which combines the Radiomir and Luminor cases in an elegant way.

RADIOMIR 1940 MINUTE REPEATER CARILLON PAM600

The takeaway from this incredible day in Florence?

I left the presentation and the exhibition with an increased appreciation for Officine Panerai, a brand I have always respected for its emphasis on continued development – new materials, in-house movement development, new designs and more – when they could have survived by selling watches solely on their unique aesthetic.

Over the years Panerai has developed into a brand that combines real high watchmaking content with a unique and distinctive look, no mean feat in today’s competitive watch world.

Grazie, Panerai!