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The Decline of Panerai – Unlimited Limited Editions

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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.