Interview with Jean-Marc Pontroue, CEO of Panerai on the brand’s new novelties introduced at Watches & Wonders 2021.

“We’re all embarking this mission together, the mission being – Saving the environment.” said Jean-Marc Pontroue, Panerai’s CEO on the inspiration behind the brand’s new collection for 2021. If you really know Panerai, you’ll know what defines them in the watchmaking market today. Consistent material innovation and a dedication towards mother nature. More so, their craft manages to intertwine the two, which allows them to create some of the unique novelties the industry has to offer today.

It’s the second edition of Watches & Wonders and Panerai have upped the ante once again with innovation and eco-consciousness with new watches for men and women and new materials in the mix. Jean-Marc Pontroue talked to us about the new novelties and reinventing the iconic Luminor Marina for 2021.

Interview: Panerai CEO, Jean-Marc Pontroue at Watches & Wonders 2021

Panerai Luna Rossa

From all the new novelties, which one do you think is the rising star of Panerai’s 2021 collection?

I really can’t choose between the two but I’d say the new Chronograph and the Piccolo Due.

Panerai has always been a sports brand. Hence, introducing the new Chronographs, we aim to build this the same way we built the Automatic and Manual movements, which stand as pillars of the brand today. The Luna Rossa stands at the forefront of this line. On the other hand, the Piccolo Due, which is new territory for Panerai and is a truly special ladies watch.

The Piccolo Due was a real wildcard for Panerai this year, how did it find its place in this year’s collection?

Over the years, we noticed a growing number of lady customers and we wanted to create something exciting that’s dedicated exclusively to them. We decided to introduce a 39-mm Piccolo Due, especially for the ladies of the Panerai family this. It encapsulates every ingredient one would find in the Panerai DNA. More so, we’ve also included a mother-of-pearl dial which truly stands out as a ladies piece. It’s one of our key highlights this year alongside the Ecological and Luna Rossa Chronographs.

Panerai eLAB-ID

Sustainability and nature has always been at the heart of Panerai. Where does it stand in this year’s collection?

For 2021, Panerai made a promise of producing eco-friendly straps and packaging methods. This year we strived towards crafting a timepiece that’s nearly 100% recyclable. Right from case to calibre and dial to strap, everything made eco-consciously and recyclable. This is the new Submersible eLAB-ID™, which stands as a beacon of sustainability in watchmaking history today. It’s a concept that we’re limiting to only 30 pieces. I unveiled this at W&W highlighting the names of suppliers to express that we’re all embarking the same mission. The mission being, to save the environment. The new concept watch, the Submersible eLAB-ID™ is made out of a variety of recycled elements. We’ve used e-steel, recycled titanium, plastic bottles and brass gears. We spent the last two years developing this concept and we’re very happy with the result.

Panerai eSTEEL

Material innovation has been the cornerstone for the brand. What’s the magic ingredient and new focus material for 2021?

Alongside the Eco-Titanium, this year, Panerai also have a new element called eSTEEL. If you know Panerai, you know that we’re known for one watch and that’s been our bestseller worldwide, the Luminor Marina. We’ve applied this new element to the icon. For this innovation, 58.2 % of the watch is made out of recycled materials. We have the strap, buckle case and packaging, that’re all made from recycled materials. What makes this watch different from our previous concepts is its dial. The dial is made of eSTEEL which is complimented by a crown of the same make and colour. We could say that’s the signature mark when identifying a new eSTEEL Panerai.

Panerai eLAB-ID

Tell us about the philosophy behind the brand’s dedication to innovation

I think innovation has always been a rewarding challenge. To be the very first brand to come forth with an environment friendly approach which is not limited to straps or packaging. We wanted to much more ambitious than that. More so, to be a pioneer in this affair. Because of our strong Italian military roots, we learnt not to be afraid to be daring it all. That’s something we hold, hand on heart, till date. To dare to innovate and lead a mission. The mission of course, is to be eco-conscious. With new materials, we’re striving to have a majority of our assortment focused on crafting environment-friendly products.

Last year was a truly gloomy year for the watchmaking industry, how did Panerai still manage to reach its customers?

Well, that’s an interesting question. I remember last year, we had one week where the entire world was shut down. If this had to happen 30 years ago, it would have been much more critical. But thanks to the avalanche of smartphones, computers and the digital communication services we have today, we’ve had a medium to conduct business. Last year, we saw a spike in the e-commerce division, this also includes retailers like Mr. Porter, WatchFinder and more. Our boutiques as well, in various regions, we made it a point to reopen right after the lockdown was lifted. We recognized that there’ll be customers with savings during the prior months looking to buy a new timepiece, we simply wanted to be ready and reconnect at the earliest. Overall, I think the key learning from this time was understand the power of the digital world and maintaining a strong online network.

In your opinion, what will the watchmaking industry look like post the COVID-19 crisis?

I think the big brands, will get even bigger. The one’s who had problems before COVID, will have much more problems today. At Panerai, we haven’t reduced our investment in retail one bit. We install a new boutique, every three weeks around the world. We did this in the US, China and Japan. What happens is, if you stop your investments, it becomes harder to recover. If you continue your investments even in tough times, when you’re back in the game you’ll have a head-start.

All images: Courtesy brand

Mikhail Gomes
Senior Features Writer
A watch aficionado, Gomes also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.