SIHH 2019 was a significant one for Panerai. In a year where many haute horology brands stuck to showing small, tighter collections, Panerai’s list of novelties was long and marked by material innovation. The brand showcased a recycled titanium case and PET straps in the Submersible Mike Horn Edition, and the strength and lightness of BMG (Bulk Metallic Glass) technology with the uniqueness of its Carbotech rotating bezel in the super shock-resistant Submersible BMG-Tech. There was also the Submersible Carbotech, featuring a material based on carbon fibre, lighter than steel and titanium, and highly resistant to shocks and corrosion. Another beauty was the Submersible Chrono Guillaume Nery Edition (named eponymously after the champion diver).
That Panerai is a popular watch brand in India is a known fact. Last year, they signed on MS Dhoni as their brand ambassador, and opened two new stores in the country, one each in Delhi and Mumbai. Their plans this year are dynamic as well, involving opening more points of sale.
We sat down with Gaby Bitarian, brand director, Panerai-Middle East & India, who was recently in town to participate in Luxury Lifestyle Weekend, to speak more about the brand’s plans in the country.
Panerai opened a boutique in Mumbai last year. Can you give us some insights into how the brand is doing in the country?
India is an interesting and significant market for Panerai and we enjoy quite good popularity here, and the market keeps evolving not just as a luxury watch market in specific, but as a whole as well. India is definitely a priority market for Panerai. It is therefore with confidence that we have opened two new boutiques last year, in Mumbai (Palladium Mall) and New Delhi (Chanakya Mall). We are committed to establishing our brand presence across the Indian market. Other than our boutiques in Delhi and two in Mumbai, we are also present in Bengaluru and soon in Hyderabad through our multi-brand stores.
You have been with Panerai for more than six years now, handling the Middle-East and India region. What had you identified as the challenges when you took over and your strategy for it?
Our main task has been, and continues to be, about touching our fans and prospect customers’ heart and soul through unique brand experiences designed to bring the brand DNA to life. The brand is evolving accordingly globally, and our newly appointed CEO, Jean-Marc Pontroué, is committed to transforming the brand into one that is able to provide as many experiences as the products it offers. Jean-Marc’s arrival allows us to really broaden the spectrum of creating unique experiences in our markets, beyond the global experiences the brand already provides.
What have you identified as the struggles of the Indian market, and how have you tried to counter it?
The challenges in India are mainly about identifying qualitative retail spaces, understanding and connecting with various cultures, and understanding their likes and dislikes based on which we can create some meaningful and qualitative brand experiences.
How would you define the Indian luxury consumer?
The Indian consumer is knowledgeable, know what they want, and do not compromise. They appreciate design, quality, and luxury, and are constantly evolving with more refined taste as well as deeper knowledge on global brands, trends, and offerings.
I think the best way to talk about the Panerai consumers is by talking about their mindset, rather than their socio-economic status. Panerai fans in India, like in the rest of the world, are people with a great taste for individuality, quality, design, and a good story, which accompanies every watch they wear. Exclusivity and rarity are also important characteristics that watch connoisseurs look for, no matter how young or mature.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for Panerai in India?
India is growing economically, and so is the luxury watch market. The consumers themselves are evolving, and are as knowledgeable and demanding as their fellow watch enthusiasts around the world. To further emphasise our deep connection with the Indian community, we have recently associated with MS Dhoni, who completely shares the same values as the brand. He is simple, daring, loves adventures, and has a passion for design and quality. He has also been a strong admirer of the brand for some time. His background and character perfectly match the DNA of the brand.
What are the plans for 2019 for Panerai? What are you going to be pushing out?
It is the year of Submersible at Panerai. Having long been a successful sub-segment of the Luminor collection, the Submersible is now stepping out as a distinct assortment. The Submersible family will be the recipient of high-tech, innovative materials developed in Panerai’s Laboratorio di Idee and will bring something new to the mix in the form of experiences. We will continue to bring those experiences to life for our consumers around the globe and in India.
What are the most popular Panerai models in India?
To be fair, all our models are doing well in general. Enthusiasts have loved both the Luminor and Radiomir. Luminor is an iconic collection and bestseller, and it is the same trend in India. Radiomir is an elegant classic, which is loved by a good portion of our fans. The Luminor Due is unlocking new markets in terms of consumer needs and mindsets. Its thinner case and smaller diameter have helped the brand reach consumers who were historically apprehensive of larger and thicker watches. The Submersible, which now is a line by itself, is also increasing its share of popularity with its adventurous sportsman character.
Panerai recently participated at Luxury Lifestyle Weekend. What was the scope of your participation and what was the experience like?
Luxury Lifestyle Weekend is a brilliant platform as it gathers luxury lovers of all ages and tastes under one roof. They all have a great appreciation of the finer things in life, so being at LLW definitely felt ‘at home’ for Panerai. This was our second presence at LLW and we had the opportunity to connect and interact with new clientele and highlight our new launches. We displayed the SIHH 2019 novelties, and they were received very well I’d say.
According to you, what role does Luxury Lifestyle Weekend play in bringing together India’s luxury community and advancing luxury lifestyle in the country?
It is undoubtedly unlike any other luxury event in the country. We see this as an excellent platform to promote the art of watchmaking and engage with collectors and luxury watch enthusiasts alike. I am confident that Luxury lifestyle Weekend will become a must attend luxury event on India’s calendar for years to come.
All images: Courtesy brand