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Panerai proves that big is beautiful

Words by Eduan R Maggo

PANERAI Jean-Marc Pontroue


Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroue

As he approaches his first anniversary as CEO, Panerai boss Jean-Marc Pontroué says that, when it comes to watches, size does matter.

“We were born in Italy. Our inspiration, creativity and ideas come from Milan but we produce our watches in Switzerland…

I think having two nationalities is a beautiful cocktail. There are no two cities that are more different than Geneva and Milan in terms of lifestyle and philosophy. Geneva is a serious, organised city whereas Milan is creative and flamboyant, disruptive and surprising. The combination of the two makes the richness of Panerai.”

“Watches are like the comfort blanket you had as a baby…

You’d hold it when you slept because you can smell your mother and you feel comforted. A watch has the same function. People don’t need a watch today, they have the time on their phone, so a watch is what I call a daily companion. Without it, you feel naked.”

“Panerai began with military instruments for Italian commandos…

That makes us very specific in the landscape of watchmaking brands. If you lose your watch or your watch stops you will still survive the day, whereas if you’re a diver and your watch stops it doesn’t tell you that you don’t have any more oxygen in your bottle, which can spoil your day.”

“In our business you have many brands which are 100, 200, 300 years old…

Panerai is not in that area, the boom of Panerai has been in the last 20 years. We came alive after 1997 when the company was acquired by Richemont and they made it a watch brand. Compared to many brands, 22 years of history is very small. That’s why we position ourselves as an Italian icon, which is of course a provocation in our industry where it’s Swiss or nothing.”

Watch experts carefully handle Panerai watch at event.


Panerai Supreme care and attention goes into every Panerai watch.

“Sometimes my friends tell me, ‘This watch is too big for me, I’m not a big guy, I can’t wear it’….

If you wear big watches you will never go back to small watches, it’s a habit. Twenty years ago I bought watches that were half this size and now I think they look like ladies’ watches so I can’t wear a small watch anymore. Today I love 44mm, 45mm, and 47mm watches. But we shouldn’t get watches from 52mm up to 60mm – that’s ridiculous.”

“I compare watchmaking to the haute couture business…

Haute couture is broadcasted to millions of people in hundreds of countries but it loses money. However, in terms of coverage it’s a very important message. Are you going to write about a normal dress in a magazine? No. It needs to be spectacular. Ours is a similar industry.”

“We are inspired by what’s happening in other industries…

Our research into new materials is inspired by super cars and aerospace, even the dental and medical industries – that’s why we look for suppliers who are not necessarily part of the watch industry. If it works for cars and aerospace, why not for us?”

“The biggest lesson the brand has learned? Everything is possible…

We’re in an industry where it’s not easy to enter the top 25 brands. Look at the car industry, Tesla didn’t exist 25 years ago and today it is leading electric cars.”

“The good thing about being a new CEO is that you see things…

When you arrive, you are surprised by the colour of the walls, the lights, the carpets – you are discovering. I needed to understand the story of Panerai and make the brand logical.”

“The Submersible is for the real Panerai guys….

This watch is for adventurers who want to be first in what they do: diving, running, jumping, sailing, and so on. They’re not afraid to wear a big watch. You never have a 38mm Submersible, a Submersible is big. If you want a small watch, you won’t come to Panerai.”

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