Robb Reader: Alessandro Ficarelli

Panerai’s Product Development Director on the Swiss/Italian house’s exciting next chapter.

Since 2005, Alessandro Ficarelli has helmed the creative direction of a watch manufacturer which made its first prototype dive watches for Italian military divers in 1936.  

What timepieces are you most excited about right now?
This year we’re presenting the Submersible for the first time as a standalone collection. What we wanted to do was to clarify the offering with four lines with different aesthetic codes and different target audiences. So we have the Radiomir which is more associated with more classical models; then we have the Luminor which is an iconic watch characterised by the device protecting the crown, and is aimed at the sportier clients; the Luminor Due is another version, and is aimed at clients who like Panerai design but feel they’re too big to wear under a shirt. Finally there’s the submersible – a professional diver’s watch, characterised by the rotating bezel. So our objective is to return to the brand’s nautical origins, supplying timepieces to the Italian navy.

The Panerai Submersible Pop-Up At Harrods 

Does this mean a change of direction for Panerai?
With the arrival of the Jean-Marc Pontroué, our new CEO, we’re presenting Panerai as more of a lifestyle brand: a new way of experiencing a brand which is more immersive. The objective is to create a more exciting emotional link with our clients. So there’s been a shift from simply producing high-end, technical sports watches to creating emotional experiences as well. Those who buy a limited edition Submersible Guillaume Néry Watch are becoming part of a club, and enjoying an experience, a trip with professional adventurers, that money usually can’t buy. It’s a different way of experiencing the brand.

Why are partnerships with outlets such as Harrods so important?
Harrods is an important partner for Panerai – our main partner in the UK in fact – which is why I’m so proud to be invited to such surroundings.

Where do you see Panerai’s product development heading in the future?
A brand like ours needs a continuous evolution. We devote a lot of the present to the future! We try to listen to future generations, and can engage more thanks to social media and other digital means. We listen to [the unofficial fan group] Paneristi, for whom Panerai is almost a kind of religion. We have to listen to clients.

Alessandro Ficarelli, Panerai’s Product Director  ©

The whole industry seems to be cottoning onto sustainability…
Sustainability is key to engaging with tomorrow’s watch buyers. This year at SIHH we introduced the first of our watches whose cases were made from recycled “eco-titanium”. The strap is made from recycled bottles from the ocean, and it’s a really comfortable textile. With the Submersibles, we’ve stopped using wood even for the boxes – they’re now made of recycled plastic. Next year we’re going to present watches with even more components made from recycled materials. It’s not enough not to create plastic – we want to recycle waste plastic.

How important is Panerai’s Italian-Swiss dichotomy to its identity?
It’s very important. As an Italian, I share a lot of values with the brand. My time with Panerai since 2005 has been the most exciting professional journey of my life. And the brand’s Italian culture and creativity is a big part of that, even though its technical and engineering know-how is very much Swiss. It’s a merging of two souls, and makes the brand unique. The brand reflects an Italian lifestyle and mentality. We want to also open our minds to technologies which exist outside of horology, and outside of Italy and Switzerland – this is very important for our development.

What’s your biggest creative inspiration, inside or outside horology?
The history of Panerai. I manage a team of product managers and designers and we’re very loyal to each other. And when someone new comes in the first thing they have to do is learn the history of the brand – all of our four lines are inspired by historical models. Then they need to know about innovation when it comes to materials, about novelties and ideas and how they fit into the DNA of Panerai. The authentic story of Panerai is of paramount importance.