I can say that I have had very different and enjoyable moments since I started to deal with mechanical watchmaking. I had the chance to make new friendships and meet many valuable people. In summary, I can say that I had the best experiences that could have been achieved through a hobby.
Last weekend, together with my dear friend Mustafa SANDAL, we added a new one to these experiences. We knew it would be an enjoyable trip, but we couldn't even guess that we would have such a special and unforgettable time. We had no chance to say no to the invitation from the director of the brand, Mr. Giammaria VARRIALE, during the premiere of Officine Panerai in Watches and Wonders Europe, which was recently held in Istanbul.
The trip, where our dear friend Özgür Bayoğlu of Officine Panerai’s İstanbul Boutique that was opened in Nişantaşı two years ago and became the fastest developing boutique of the brand, started with the flight to Bologna from Atatürk Airport. After the flight, Giammaria greeted our team and we set off with a private car for Montecatini Terme, the first stop of our trip.
This small town in the Toscana region, where approximately 25,000 people live, has been accompanied by the influx of tourists thanks to the hot spring health centers back in the day. However, there is a different reason why this cute and quiet town, which has not received the same attention lately, is interesting for us.
Francesco FERRETTI is one of the most important Panerai collectors known along with his many different features. Montecatini Terme, whose name you may have never heard of before, is where this important personality lives.
After a short tour of the town that took about an hour to arrive, we have a delicious lunch in one of the most known restaurants in the region. Then, while smoking our cigars, we talked about the details of our special edition project limited to only two pieces. Words are insufficient to describe the pleasure we got in those minutes that were 'boring' for our beloved friend Giammaria. After these joyful moments, we started walking towards the boutique of Mr. Ferretti, which he has turned into a museum.
Francesco Ferretti is a prominent figure in the world of mechanical watches for many years. When it comes to Panerai, the importance increases drastically. Those who follow the brand know that Officine Panerai, which had been supplying the Italian navy with many different tools and devices for years, was sold to the Vendome Group at the end of 1996. While the brand handed over all of the timepieces to its new owner, the tools that were not taken by Vendome remained in the warehouse of the Italian company. Mr. Ferretti, whom we finally had the chance to meet, was the person who bought the entire remaining inventory.
When I ask about this during our conversation, Ferretti's reply was very clear:
“I did not want to allow the history of the brand to be lost in any way or to be dispersed to different points. I thought all this heritage should be kept together. ”
Francesco Ferretti is also an authorized dealer of Panerai. The exterior of the store, where we will experience exciting moments in the following minutes, was very simple and sincere. When we walked into the parking lot near the place, which was 3-4 minutes away from the center of the town, and told that we were the guests of Ferretti, I could say that we realized once again how important the person we would visit from the attendant’s face and the special service he offered.
The calm and quiet personality of Mr. Ferretti, who greeted us when we entered, caused my excitement to disappear a little. After a short meeting session, Ferretti, who worked with his son and an assistant in the store, restored my excitement with the watch box that he took out of the safe. When he opened the box, I didn’t know where to look first, but a model that I had seen in different books before and knew that it belonged to Mr. Ferretti was the first timepiece I wanted to look at. The Ref. 2533, from 1936, was thought to be the first Panerai with a prototype dial made by Rolex.
While I was trying to enjoy this unique piece, on the other hand, I was following Mustafa and Özgür, who jumped to the watch box. The box was full of surprises!
There was another Ref. 2533, which was thought to be dating from 1939 and belonged to Mario Giorgini, one of the Italian Army commanders of the time. The watch was a very rare one, just like the 'Extra Prima' Rolex Ref. 663 movement beating inside.
Panerai launched its first collection to the public market in 1993 with the models that started with the Ref. 5218. The models produced until 1997 are called Pre-V (Vendome) watches. There were so many of these rare models in Ferretti's box that it took a while for us to notice them.
I started to look at one of the special pieces again. Being one of the two models I enjoy the most on my wrist, the Ref. 6152-1 was the first model issued back in 1955 with the patented Radiomir dial and classic crown guard device.
Then, I switched to another dimension with the no-crown guard Ref. 6152 powered by the Angelus movement. It was an indisputable piece of art with its incredible comfort in the wrist, sword-shaped hands and the 'fourliner' dial with Marina Militare meaning Italian Navy. Thanks to the transparent case back, we could enjoy the legendary Angelus movement.
Right there, I saw an interesting model on Mustafa Sandal's wrist. I had to consult Mr. Ferretti since the "Rolex Oyster" text that I saw on the dial of the model, which I had no idea about, was beyond my knowledge. He explained that the model was one of the prototypes of the Ref. 6152.
I would be truly surprised if I did not see the mighty, 60mm diameter Ref. GPF 2/56, aka ‘Egiziano’, exclusively designed for the Egyptian Navy among the breathtaking watches in the box. Mr. Ferretti managed to add this model to the box as well.
Despite its bold presence, I thought even the Ref.5218-301 "Mare Nostrum" seemed plain.
While I was cooled down a bit, I noticed the booth next to the table where we looked at the watches. There were the pieces from Mr. Ferretti's personal collection, which were not for sale. All of the models were special editions selected from Panerai's current collection.
PAM00203 with the legendary Angelus movement, ‘Egiziano’ of the current collection, PAM00341, 52mm Mare Nostrum Ref. PAM00300 and the last ‘Marina Militare’ model PAM00587, which was introduced last year with a limited span of 1000 units only.
While we were talking with Mustafa Sandal about them being all beautiful and valuable models, we saw Özgür, who managed to leave the watches for a short time, coming down from the top floor of the store. We started to wonder more about what was waiting for us on the upper floor him saying, “don't go upstairs”.
We went up the top floor and lost for words. What we saw there took as to a journey to the brand’s history where we learned how different and important things Panerai has done in the past.
In addition to the dials of old watches and the carrying boxes of the movements supplied from Rolex, the bezels and crown guard protection parts used in different models were the first things that we looked at. We had the chance to examine depth-meters, compasses, underwater flashlights, bomb timers and many similar tools made by Panerai.
It is possible to see even the Morse code device that divers used by wrapping around their necks at Ferretti's boutique. Wines produced for Panerai, invoices issued by Rolex, wall clocks, calendars, and many accessories to be used on the desktop were displayed in the store.
The time that we spent upstairs turned into a visual feast for us. We examined different parts that we do not even know what happened and returned to the lower floor.
After a short chat with Mr. Ferretti and his team, it was time to say goodbye to him. We thanked him very much for his time and hospitality. When I said that I was planning to visit him again with the fans of the brand in the coming days, he was very happy and said that he will be pleased to welcome us again.
After leaving the boutique and a short coffee break, we jumped into our car and set off for Florence.
Of course, our trip did not end there, but that’s all for now. I will share with you the details of the time we spent in the Panerai boutique in Florence, as well as the secret sections of the Historic Duomo Cathedral that can only be visited by special permission.