Panerai Interview with Jean-Marc Pontroué
Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Panerai since the summer of 2018, is often congratulated by Paneristi for having “changed everything without changing a thing”
At the 2019 SIHH you launched the concept of selling Submersibles packaged with experiences with your ambassadors. You’ve just announced a new Panerai ambassador. How do you choose them?
They all have a connection with the brand, beyond the fact of being a Panerai ambassador. Mike Horn has been associated with the brand for over 15 years, for example, and the Italian navy COMSUBIN commando frogmen have a connection going back decades. They also all have a connection with water – underwater, in the water or on ice. Not only are these exceptional athletes, the best in their field, they also stand out because of their intellectual honesty and credibility. And finally, they are all highly empathetic people, people that it’s a pleasure to work with. All too often, relationships with celebrities are limited to contractual clauses. These people are committed to fighting for causes, often environmental campaigns; they defend their opinions and are exceptional human beings. Guillaume Néry is not only a two-time free diving world champion and holder of four world depth records, he is also a superb underwater photographer. Our new ambassador Sun Yang is a triple Olympic swimming champion, but his first watch was a Panerai.
Guillaume Néry © Panerai
How do you deal with clients’ frustration when they’re unable to get their hands on one of the limited editions with experiences?
Historically, Panerai has always produced watches in limited quantities, and more recently products such as the Bronzo or the BMG-Tech. This generates both desirability and frustration. It’s a phenomenon our clients are familiar with! But clearly, the package with experiences was something completely new, and we could have sold many more. Even the Submersible Marina Militare Carbotech, which was the largest limited series with 33 pieces, represented just three watches and experiences for the Italian market, where we have four of our own shops. But the degree of frustration is nevertheless tempered by the price, or by the nature of the experience: not everyone wants to go diving with navy commandos, or trekking across the pack ice to the North Pole with Mike Horn. But all the clients who bought the limited series were very keen to take up the experience, and no one was interested in just one and not the other (fortunately so, because they weren’t available separately!). They were all regular clients of the brand, who bought the product in one of our shops having only seen a photo. Through these experiences, Panerai gains a new dimension, and our clients get an adrenaline rush!
Mike Horn © Panerai
What do you hope to gain from your partnership with Luna Rossa, the Challenger of Record of the 36th America’s Cup?
It’s about continuity. Panerai has been involved in major sailing regattas for over 10 years, including the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2016-2017, as Official Watch of the America’s Cup and of the Defender, which at the time was the US Oracle team. This time we’re giving the partnership a more Italian and perhaps more legitimate flavour, by sponsoring the Italian challenger, Luna Rossa. Luckily the other sponsors, Pirelli and Prada, also have their headquarters in Milan, which gives us the opportunity to get together regularly to discuss our common approach to the event. In parallel with the commercial dimension, we are very interested in technological exchanges, beginning with the materials used in the America’s Cup boats. We’re learning a great deal about the materials and design of the high-tech foiling monohulls from their R&D labs. Their experience with ultra-strong, ultra-light materials is a real boon for Panerai. In 2019, our clients were able to discover the Submersible Luna Rossa 47 mm in carbotech with fragments of carbon fibre sailcloth in the dial. In 2020 they will be offered a new limited series crafted from nautical materials, and a third in 2021 when the America’s Cup starts.
Submersible Luna Rossa © Panerai
What do Paneristi say to you, when you meet them?
Ever since my first day at Panerai, I have believed that our brand is incredibly fortunate to have such a close relationship with Paneristi. This community of highly motivated fans numbers 30,000 members and growing. They are uniquely devoted to Panerai, in a way I’ve never seen before. The more I meet them, the better I feel, because it gives me the opportunity to develop an incredible relationship with the people who support us all day long. Did you know that, on average, they write one post about Panerai every 7 seconds? One of the comments I hear most often is, “Thank you for having changed everything without changing a thing.” Initially, they were worried that we’d launch a load of new products, but most of them have said they were delighted to see the direction the brand was taking. All I did was reconfigure the existing products, by giving some of them greater visibility. Segmenting the products into four lines has clarified our range of historic products: Radiomir, Luminor, plus Due for the thinner models, and Submersible, which was just a sub-category of Luminor. It’s Panerai’s job to keep telling the same story. We’re not working on any new product lines, we’re looking at animations that play around with materials, movements and functions.
Submersible Chrono Guillaume Néry Editions © Panerai
How would you define Panerai to someone who has just discovered the brand for the first time?
Panerai creates watches for contemporary heroes, and perpetuates what was its signature style at a time when watches were smaller and lighter: a very masculine, massive and differentiating product. Panerai brings an Italian dimension to Swiss watchmaking, with a radical creativity embodied in its not-quite-round case and unique crown protection system. Its owners show their unconventional side by what they choose to wear. It’s an Italian touch for people in the know, an Italian style icon like Riva, Vespa or Ferrari. It lets people own a piece of this Italian mystique, while enjoying the advantages of Swiss manufacturing. I would recommend that they visit our manufacture in Neuchâtel, which offers an ideal opportunity to discover the brand from another angle. The crash-test area gives an understanding of why Panerai is more robust than any other watch. We also have an on-site boutique, and even a hall of fame, with photos of all the celebrities who have worn a Panerai, having bought one spontaneously, and been spotted by the media.
Submersible Mike Horn Editions © Panerai
Representing a blend of Italian design with Swiss watchmaking technology, Officine Panerai follows the inspiration of its home city of Florence, which was the cradle of the Renaissance movement and all the art and science for which it was famous.Find out more >
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