Strategic Sailing: Exclusive Interview with The CEO of Panerai, Jean-Marc Pontroué
by The Time Place Magazine
Panerai’s booth at this year’s Watches & Wonders presented a captivating spectacle. Standing proudly within the booth was the majestic 22-metre-tall Eilean, an iconic sailboat meticulously revived by the Maison—a symbolic homage to Panerai’s storied legacy. However, it wasn’t just the vessel that drew the crowd’s attention. Enthusiastic visitors flocked to the booth, eager to engage in conversations with Panerai’s CEO, Jean-Marc Pontroué. Under his leadership, Panerai successfully intertwined its rich heritage with the modern era through compelling storytelling, ingenious novelties, and synergistic partnerships. The brand’s visionary approach stood out as it reintroduced its Radiomir timepiece at the industry fair. The Time Place Magazine took the exciting opportunity to gain insider knowledge and engage in conversation with Mr Pontroué regarding the recently unveiled Radiomir, Panerai’s brand identity, and forthcoming prospects.
This year, Panerai turned its focus to Radiomir. Could you share the story behind this?
Jean-Marc Pontroué (JMP): We did the 70th anniversary of Luminor a couple of years ago, afterwards, we highlighted the Submersible collection which has been a huge success and now comprises about 30% of our business. Subsequently, we announced our sustainability programme which has occupied our team because we need two years to develop that programme.
We started to say how we didn’t spend enough time on Radiomir. So, we were thinking that it is time to restate the history of the brand with an emphasis on Florence, Italy and Eilean—a Bermudan ketch made in the same era of Radiomir’s debut in 1936 that my predecessor acquired about 17 years ago and spent four years to restore. Today, Eilean is one of the nicest boats for its type and it’s a great platform to stage Radiomir which for me is a conservative line in our assortment.
Panerai has two fundamental watch styles: the Radiomir and Luminor. Do you think this brings an advantage or a limitation to the brand?
JMP: It’s a very strong advantage. When you have a watch like the Radiomir California (PAM01349), it’s probably the only watch at Watches & Wonders 2023 that doesn’t even need to carry the Panerai’s name on its dial because people already have the knowledge that it is a Panerai watch. The biggest asset of our brand is our strong product platform. We are at the beginning of creativity for the next 100 years to develop new sizes, movements, colours and experiences.
Talking about experiences, Panerai started selling watches alongside experiences in 2019. What did you learn from it and how would you like to continue with this strategy?
JMP: What works extremely well is when we offer a limited edition that you will get only if you are part of the experience at Panerai. Mike Horn, a professional explorer and a Panerai ambassador, hosted one of our experiences entitled “XPLORE YOUR LIMITS” in Verbier, Switzerland, in 2021. He said, “It’s like a trophy, your watch becomes a prize”.
In May, 15 of our customers joined a 48-hour training with an anti-terrorist unit, GIGN, in Paris. After that, we also had the opportunity to take our customers to Ibiza and Mallorca for supercar driving and super boats sailing experience which was hosted by an independent automotive tuning company, BRABUS.
It’s important to note that our experiences are not like a fantasy touristic organisation, but it’s a very serious story. We are bringing something that you can’t easily buy. Composing creative ideas and getting the authorisations take time, but we are dedicated to continuing to present these experiences to our loyal customers.
From this year’s novelties, the Radiomir Annual Calendar PlatinumtechTM Experience (PAM01432) will provide lucky customers with an immersive journey to the roots of our brand in Rome, Italy, through dedicated events that combine artisanal knowhow, culture, lifestyle and tours of historical sites.
Since last year, Panerai has collaborated with Watchfinder for the brand’s secondhand market. Could you tell us more about this?
JMP: Yes, I’m very proud of that. Bringing new products is very easy, but keeping your residual value is challenging. So we have invited Watchfinder to our booth at Watches & Wonders because they can source historical Radiomir timepieces which are a good complement to the story of the new models we are bringing. So, we work very closely together because they help us and we help them in some countries to be able to feed that secondhand market.
My daily job is to create the best potential product, to produce them with the lowest return rate and to develop the best stores possible in the world. I’m not in charge of doing all the retail networks in the world, that’s why we work with external partners. For example, I’m very happy with the fact that we are opening a new boutique in one of the best malls in Jakarta and that is with our partner, Time International.