Panerai’s newly re-opened its Florence flagship store and museum in Florence at Piazza San Giovanni. It represents the fulfilment of a destiny that arose with the very first Radiomir. Incidentally, at roughly the same time, renowned French Auction House, Artcurial, was holding a sale of unique pieces of high quality watchmaking in Monaco, 430 km away.
The collection of fine watches included a rare Radiomir which once belong to Helmut Rösel, a frogman of the German navy during the second World War. This legacy of robust, precision timekeeping is front and centre within Panerai’s new Piazza San Giovanni flagship – a museum sits on the first floor, along with the original furniture and archival documents from the time of Giuseppe Panerai.
The brand’s namesake founder sits in the centre at his original desk, as if lifting his head slightly at your approach. “The wax figure is the work of the Musée Grévin in Paris’s IX arrondissement,” says Maggini. “The clothes were made by an Italian designer and the hair is real. If it is true that the eyes are the window to the soul, well, thanks to those eyes the soul of Giuseppe Panerai still inhabits his studio.”
“The flagship store in Florence, including the unique features of the museum, will guide the aesthetic development of all our spaces,” says Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué, whose signature seals the Panerai passport; it is a bordeaux color, like an official Italian travel document, but with the Luminor 1312 dial on the cover.
The first copies have been delivered to customers during the reopening. “To be an active part of our club, members can collect stamps from the three most representative Panerai destinations,” continues Pontroué. “They are, in addition to the Florence flagship, our historic Bermudan ketch Eilean and our Swiss manufacture in Neuchâtel.” Stamps in the Panerai passport attest to a journey through space, but also a journey through time.
Alongside historical Panerai artefacts, the boutique’s retail displays resemble rectangular portholes, windows into the underwater world, the Italian brand’s raison d’etre; source of naval exploits since it received its first order from the Italian Royal Navy in 1936. Four displays mirroring Panerai’s centuries-old evolution: Radiomir, Luminor, Luminor Due and Submersible. Each is distinguished by a color — military green, deep brown, 1970s yellow, navy blue.
Housed in displays composed of coloured corrugated glass and bronze, historical pieces that were the foundation for subsequent innovations are on view: in essence, ideas from the early decades of the 1900s finally expressed with cutting edge technology married with age-old handcrafted techniques in the 21st century. Together, Panerai’s Piazza San Giovanni headquarters tells a compelling story to visitors of how the brand has evolved while providing clarity amidst another traditional Italian element – hospitality; duly represented by the presence of a counter bar serving authentic Italian liquors, a feature that will eventually appear in boutiques around the world.
German Navy frogman Helmut Rösel’s 1940s Radomir was eventually hammered by auctioneer François Tajan for 110.500 euros, beating its estimates by over 20,000 euros. The exceptional Panerai diver’s watch was accompanied by: a commando compass, the diver’s logbook of the period which testifies the evolution of the young soldier’s military career as well as the various missions in which he participated, a military decoration, his combat swimmer badge, an original photograph and two handwritten letters from Helmut Rösel in person. Provenance at its finest.
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