Robb Reader: Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué

On how a brand associated with intrepid adventure is forging ahead through turbulent waters.

Why is the new Luminor Marina 44mm with blue dial such a talking point amongst ‘Paneristis’?
The novelty truly embeds the spirit of Panerai’s beginnings, being a rugged watch inspired by the sea with Italian design and a large cushion-shaped case. Evoking the brand’s history, the Luminor Marina 44mm (aroused the interest amongst Paneristi who well recognized the visual codes of the Luminor of the 1990s, yet the new execution is revived according to a new aesthetic dimension – as expressed with the blue dial, which gives the Luminor Blu Mare a slightly more elegant and contemporary feel. It’s an unusual combination, and will fit someone who likes the functional Panerai design but prefers a lighter colour palette.

What factors have affected Panerai’s performance lately?
It’s linked to its innovative marketing strategies and product assortment. The brand, despite the unprecedented Covid-19 scenario, has changed its digital projects, enabling remarkable growth in terms of online visibility and exposure in its digital channels and magazines. In terms of product, Panerai’s bet on the Submersible collection has been a winning move since clients are quite into large-size dials which combine a sporty look with reliable materials conceived for extreme conditions. Luminor was also a huge success thanks to its iconic shape, which has been stretched through a wide selection of innovative and cutting-edge materials, among which there are many firsts in the watch industry.

China gained a bigger sales share – it’s a market widely exposed to trends, as evidenced by their demand for lower sizes suitable even for female clients and smaller wrists.

The Panerai Luminor Blu Mare  ©

How important is digital engagement to your future?
We explored the great potential of digital channels during lockdown, rethinking ways to empower the engagement with our clients: that’s why our new digital project Pamcast came to life. We’ll continue to capitalize on this growing appetite, since younger consumers in particular are digital savvy and there are still several opportunities in the marketplace ready to be exploited.

The essence of luxury is clearly shifting from an emphasis on the physical to the digital and experiential, enabling products and technology to be more closely linked. Through Pamcast, the platform inspired by today’s streaming media networks, we leveraged high-quality, personalised content to stay close to our community members wherever they are, making the online and offline experiences more empowering and letting them have a 360-degree knowledge about our universe and lifestyle as a whole.

Filmmaker, photographer climber alpinist and Panerai ambassador Jimmy-Chin 

Is optimism on the rise in the watch industry, as we hopefully emerge from the coronavirus era?
The luxury watch industry is trying to get back to normal, day by day. We’ve all been involved, inevitably, in this unexpected downturn but Panerai has kept an optimistic outlook towards the momentum by exploring new opportunities, both in terms of product innovation and digital projects aimed at increasing engagement within the brand’s community.

Thanks to the power of digitalisation we’ve been able to uplift interaction with clients, partners and retailers, as demonstrated this year through the launch of our key highlights on Watches & Wonders digital platform; besides, we’ve become even more focused on e-commerce consolidation since the pandemic, and accelerated the growth rate that we had already seen in the recent years. We’re also rethinking the customer experience for the future in order to meet the expectations of new consumer behaviours and to secure the same level of experience at every touchpoint of their journey with us.

Extreme adventurer Mike Horn, after whom various Panerai models are named 

What ecological initiatives are in the pipeline?
Panerai is strongly committed to promoting sustainable practices in every aspect of its operations, an ethos that has been closely linked to the brand’s DNA since its beginnings: that’s why Panerai Ecologico Logo was introduced, in order to unify all the brand’s sustainability efforts under the same banner.

We’ve carried out several pledges, including to create a new manufacturing site in Neuchâtel which adheres to vigorous environmental protocols, as the brand consistently explores new ways to develop materials with exceptional hardness and scratch resistance while reducing their impact on the environment. Then there’s the Panerai ambassadors, who the brand selects on the basis that they demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainable practices and environmental conservation.

Why does, say, a high-achieving adventurer – rather than a household-name a-list actor – represent the Panerai brand so much more profoundly?
Adventure is at the core of Panerai’s identity, as evidenced by its ambassadors – iconic adventurers with impressive exploits behind them. The brand aims at empowering the lives of the audience by pushing them beyond limits. It’s all about exploring life to the fullest potential without being overwhelmed by fear – that’s what distinguishes a real Panerai adventurer: stepping out the comfort zone to meet new milestones.

What is most commonly found on your own wrist and why?
I would say the new Luminor Marina Carbotech™. This particular release is amongst the brand’s best-selling of the Luminor collection unveiled at the last Watches & Wonders. Thanks to the lightweight Carbotech™ case it’s an excellent option for those who love Panerai’s classic minimalist dial aesthetic but have perhaps been turned off by the weight and wrist presence of the brand’s more traditional steel offerings.

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