Panerai Panerai, 2020 and beyond
WorldTempus met CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué, who outlined the forthcoming developments for the world’s most famous Swiss-made Italian watch brand.
Jean-Marc Pontroué has an orderly mind, and he likes an orderly life. After putting the final touches to a presentation at 10 pm, he gets up for a run the following morning at 7.30, has a couple of meetings from 8.30, then heads back to Geneva. He’s a man on a mission, and he’s putting his pedal to the metal at Panerai. Over at Roger Dubuis, he expertly steered a three-way marketing relationship between the watchmaker, Lamborghini and Pirelli.
So is this a case of... different ingredients, same recipe? Jean-Marc Pontroué certainly has no qualms about taking this kind of best practice and applying it to Panerai. Experience first, product after. It might seem obvious, but the Panerai CEO implements this strategy by turning it on its head, just as he did at Roger Dubuis. Clients don’t buy watches that give them access to an experience: they buy an experience, and a watch is part of that. The “COMSUBIN” commando experience, enjoyed by a select few clients, has generated enough column inches by now to keep people dreaming about Panerai for a good few years to come. Obviously, Jean-Marc Pontroué is intending to repeat the exercise.
“The watch has to be dramatised,” the CEO explains. “We will also be focusing on anniversaries. Between 1950 and 2020 our Luminor case was never celebrated.” Translation: the Luminor will be the main theme of 2020. Another theme will take its place in 2021, and so on over the next few years. In concrete terms: “At Watches & Wonders we will be introducing 44 new models, with a new immersive booth, half digital, half underwater, including a real shipwreck.” We don’t yet know the products concerned, but we do know that we can expect to see a new calibre and a new material, and a focus on dual material construction, which is a new departure for Panerai. The backdrop to all this is the recently introduced “Pam.Guard” client programme, which offers a minimum 8-year guarantee. Yes, minimum. Panerai has already announced a limited edition model that comes with a 70-year warranty! Nevertheless, while this is all great publicity, it’s not necessarily a driver of growth.
Luminor Marina Carbotech © Panerai
Luminor Sealand Year of the Rat © Panerai
The driver remains the Luminor, “which represents considerably more than half our business,” as Jean-Marc Pontroué notes. “But the Submersible, which became a 100% independent collection last year, comes a close second. It’s our second major pillar and a real success.” At the same time, the average price of a Panerai watch has increased significantly. “When I arrived, it was between 7,000 and 8,000 euros. Now, it’s 10,000 euros. Given that we’re not about to increase our output, the only way to drive growth is to raise our average prices.”
Submersible Verde Militare © Panerai
Fewer retailers, more boutiques (plus airports)
Retailers will certainly feel the effects, but they will also be thinner on the ground in any case. “We currently have 550 retailers: 400 multi-brand and 150 Panerai boutiques. We’re cutting back on the former and increasing the latter. We opened 15 of our own-brand boutiques last year,” the CEO continues. There will be other targets, “such as airports: 50 airports account for 95% of traffic worldwide. That’s where we’re going.”
These developments are unlikely to affect Panerai’s main markets, such as the United States, which remains Panerai’s biggest market by far. And what about the internet? “Not for the time being. We launched a very successful operation recently. We made available three hundred 42 mm Submersibles for CHF 8,900. They sold out in 10 days. But for online sales to work, you need to have a very good story to tell. That’s not something our boutiques can do. You have to have something more. The same goes for our limited series. We rely on them for visibility, but they represent no more than 10% of our sales. You have to be careful with limited series. We can’t overdo them, or our clients will quickly lose interest.”
Those clients, should they wish, can also buy a CPO (certified pre-owned) Panerai in a few selected shops (Paris, Hong Kong, Munich and London). It’s an operation that Panerai has kept relatively low-key. But the market for certified second-hand watches is growing and, as Jean-Marc Pontroué explains, it also provides access to some incredibly valuable data on clients and what they’re buying, which is also the backbone of the Pam.Guard programme. “We’re still in the very earliest stages,” Jean-Marc Pontroué points out. “First we have to acquire the data, then we need the IT systems to collate that data, and finally analysts to exploit it. It’s a very costly evolution, but it’s the future.”
Every Panerai watch is as unique as the story it tells. Since 1860 Panerai has produced high-precision instruments and watches, developed and created to meet the most rigorous military standards. Today the very essence of Panerai remains the creation of technological innovations and remarkable instruments, that draw inspiration from the epic exploits of past and, at the same time, explore new disruptive paths.Find out more >
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