The Decline of Panerai – Unlimited Limited Editions

By August 11, 2018 August 22nd, 2019 6 Comments
Reading Time: 2 minutes

What brand do you think of when I mention oversized watches, a historical connection to Rolex, and a dive watch without a bezel? You guessed it, we are talking about Panerai. Its probably been a while since you last heard that name, and that is going to be the topic of today’s blog: whatever happened to Panerai?


Back in 2007, Panerai was THE brand to own. When supersized timepieces where still all the rage, the naturally large designs from Panerai where poised to take over. Back then the demand for the watches with the Italian flair was so big that getting your hands on a Panerai in the first place was a challenge. Inventory was low which lead to people being lucky to find a boutique which offered one of the more popular models in steel and discounts were out of the question.


Today things are looking very different. Following 2007, however, the traffic on their website never reached the same levels again. On the secondary market selling a Panerai has proven inexplicably difficult. And if the frequency of wrist-spots are any indication the UN would already label them as threatened by extinction. But why? The watches, after all, design-wise did not change much and if anything horologically gained value as Panerai switched to in-house movements. To understand the why is going to be our mission today.


First of all, I believe that at this point we can say that the trend of oversized watches has ended. Sure, while certain remnants of one of my least favourite fads remain, as can be seen with the  5976/1G, it seems noticeable that we have already reached critical mass. Naturally, then the brand who suffers most under this will be the one that gained most from it too, Panerai.


While trends are something outside of the control of Panerai, it cannot be said that this was solely a case of force majeure. Panerai has been one of the most egregious abusers of the concept of limited editions, yes, even worse than Hublot. Not only, however, did they make more limited editions than normal ones, they also brought out more versions of popular watches which people initially presumed limited, a major faux pas as it left previous buyers feel cheated by the brand.


So what does this mean for Panerai? Unfortunately for the Paneristi out there they will have to brace themselves with the fact that their collection has taken a serious hit in terms of value and the downsizing of their favourite brand. Maybe the brand is cyclical and Panerai will get back to their former glory. Regardless we enjoyed the ride while it lasted and the brand will serve as a case study in terms of how not to do limited editions.



  • Neville Brown says:

    Mmmm, the trend for bigger watches has ended, I suppose that is why Rolex have increased the size of the Explorer, Explorer II, also a version of the ubiquitous Datejust to 41mm, the 50th Seadweller is 43mm and the DSSD at 44mm and never mind the thickness. Hublot, Muller, the 40th Nautilus all increasing in size etc etc. So sorry you opinion does not really stand scrutiny. I am lucky enough to have a collection with the manufacturers mentioned above plus Panerai models, they were bought as pieces i liked, pieces to wear, those elements have not changed regardless of whether the value has decreased or indeed increased. The 372,233 and 232 that I have were, are and will remain iconic pieces and are a pleasure to have and to wear.

    • simon schneider says:

      This is no attack on Panerai, but exploring the reasons why they have lost a lot of demand. I personally like Panerai a lot too, and their loss of value does not change that for me as I am sure it does not for you. As to the trend for making bigger watches, I said it is ending not it never occurred. I will be very surprised to see the Rolex collection to grow much more in the future, and in fact, I predict some models will reduce in size by a few millimeters in the years to come.

    • Chris Launder says:

      But large watches for Rolex are the exception , rather than the rule . One 44mm watch and one 43 mm watch does not constitute an overall change for Rolex , rather a couple of pieces that give a nod to the large watch trend , also , the slimmer case and/or smaller diameter models pre 2013 are in some cases actually becoming more desirable as collectors pieces than some of the larger models . Panerai , however , relies almost solely on its reputation for building large watches , and going to 48mm & 50mm was making the pieces unwearable for most people . Yes , the Datejust has a new size of 41mm , but it also retains the 36mm and smaller models . The big problem for Panerai , however , is not its size but the size of the unending ltd editions , pre 2007 , or more precisely , pre GFC , some regular production models only numbered 500 ( or less ) per year , now ltd editions number 1500 in some cases . BTW , I love Panerai and own 2 .

    • Tony P says:

      Either you’ve been rendered slightly myopic by your own collection, or every watch company CEO and industry pundit in the world is wrong. I don’t think there is any real doubt that (a) there was a trend to larger and larger watch cases beginning in the early 2000s, and (b) that trend is well and truly over.

      If any companies are still releasing new large watches, it’s most likely because of the time lag between conception, development, production and release – which can be several years, especially when involving new or modified movements.

      Of course, there will always be a place for large watches, especially for gents with large wrists. The problem with the large-watch craze was that far too many of the punters buying them had tiny wrists, making their purchases effectively unwearable (although that didn’t seem to stop them from trying…)

  • PalauBlue says:

    Quite aside from the problems outlined by the learned contributors above, I just don’t like the clumsy look and movements of Panerai.

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