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Panerai and looooong straps... what's the deal?

I don't claim to be a historian regarding the minutiae of vintage Panerai watch straps, my goal here is to give you a brief and easy to understand explanation of why when it comes to custom Panerai straps, especially leather Panerai straps, longer is often better, and really long is often preferred by collectors.

An example of the dry suit used by the Italian frogmen c. 1940s

A (very) brief history of Panerai and WWII

During WWII Guido Panerai and his family were pressed into work for the Italian fascists making dive instruments for the Decima Flottiglia MAS, which was the Italian frogman commando unit specially trained to engage in underwater "rideable torpedo" attacks on the Allies.  The allies had anti-torpedo netting around many of their ships stationed in the Mediterranean and the Flot MAS commandos would literally ride huge torpedos designed for this purpose up to the nets, cut the nets, then send the torpedos off to their target.  Due to the murkiness of the water the divers needed a very large, readable dial on their watches in order to properly time their daring underwater attacks, which led to the oversized watches Panerai has since become famous for.  But the straps were oversized for a practical reason as well: The frogmen wore bulky dry suits, and to be able to wear their compasses and gear over these suits required very long watch straps made out of leather, most likely due to the expediency and availability of leather as a material at the time.  

An example of a long strap from "From the Depths of the Sea" by Giampiero Negretti

 From necessity to daily wear

The Italian frogmen would often wear their watches while not on missions.  In some cases the straps could not be removed from the fixed lugs of the watches, in other cases it was most likely simply more trouble than it was worth to swap straps; these were instruments of war, pure tools, so fashion was not a concern.  The result was that the long watch straps, designed to fit over the bulky dry suits, would wrap well around the frogman's wrist, leaving a lot of tail sticking out and a buckle that would be clearly visible from above when viewing the watch.

An example of a buckled historic leather Panerai strap

From a war tool to a style statement

In modern times, as Panerai was morphed into a consumer brand rather than a tool of war, people began to become interested in the deeper and mostly forgotten history of the brand, as did Panerai themselves, recognizing that their own history provided a path to the future and a highly unique and desirable vision of what a watch could look like.  Where Panerai has done little to engage in the custom watch strap market and provide watch straps that cater to the historic style of the brand or demands of their customers, strap makers have filled the void.  Those who have sought out and found interest in the history of the Panerai brand have found that a very long custom leather Panerai strap greatly enhances the historic style and look of even the most modern Panerai watch.  And that's why, to this day, longer is better on a Panerai:  Yes it's a style statement, but one based on a historical reality that enhances the overall enjoyment of the brand!

My Militare strap in very long 160/110 length, showing buckle and tail

Sometimes an extra keeper helps, available on request



August 22, 2019 by Micah Dirksen

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