Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroue On The New Ultra-Luminescent Luminor Marina
You are celebrating 2020 as the ‘Year of Luminor’ to mark Luminor’s 70th anniversary. How important has the watch been for Panerai?
The main foundation of the rebirth of the brand in the 1990s was Luminor. Panerai is Luminor, and Luminor is Panerai. People who don’t know the brand remember the model because it is very eye-catching. It is a mythical watch. We were helped by people like Sylvester Stallone, who made the brand popular in the US and around the world by wearing a Luminor.
What was the idea behind making these watches Luminor’s ultra-luminous?
When you concentrate all your energies, resources, and creativity into one thing, it helps you come up with new ideas that are out of the box. This year, for the first time, we are doing a big focus on Luminor. The 1312, for me, is an emblematic product. Our creative team in Milan was given the freedom to push the boundaries of the luminescence. The ultra-luminous SuperLuminova material is not just on the indexes and watch hands but also on the bezel, the crown, safety lock system, the stitching, the crown etc. It’s a feature that speaks of what Panerai stands for.
Panerai is setting a new standard with the 70-year warranty, with the new watches. Is this a way to tide over the coming challenges?
The 70-year warranty is a part of the programme, where I believe that the brand has to be a pioneer in new concepts. At Panerai, we are constantly looking at ways to reinvent ourselves in all areas — service policy, experiences, material, movement, sizes etc. The brand exists to not only make watches, but also to bring this additional dimension or emotional element, which makes the brand different. The 70-year guarantee is a result of all the work we have been doing in terms of movement and reliability. 70 years is a major statement for us. We were among the first brands to move from a 2-year guarantee to 8 years, in the past. The additional 62 years guarantee is a way of telling our customers that you are not just buying a watch, but also the service.
Panerai has been a pioneer in introducing new materials for watches. Tell us about Fibratech, which has been used this year, for the Luminor Marina?
Panerai is known for innovations in materials. Bronzo, Carbotech are among some of the new materials that we introduced in the past. Our mantra is to bring one new material every year. The concept and ideas come from Panerai Laboratorio di Idee, Panerai’s Laboratory of Ideas. Our inspiration for new materials doesn’t come from the watchmakers, but from other industries. I am open to looking at any industry that is exploring new materials, like automobiles, medical industry, etc. Fibratech, the material that we have introduced this year, is made from basalt elements. The idea came from our friends at Luna Rossa, the sailboat racing syndicate, when we worked with them. Their mission was to make the boat faster, and lighter. We also want our watches to work on the same principle. We have big watches, so we want them to be lighter. We also want the material to withstand our crash test, where we drop the watch from a height of one metre. Fibratech met all these requirements.
How has COVID-19 affected Panerai?
We were taken by surprise by the pandemic. While we were aware of what happened in China, we never thought that it could travel so quickly to the rest of the world. Our first priority has been to try and keep the staff of the organisation safe. It’s been a nightmare to handle, as each country and sometimes, cities in the same country, have different regulations on lockdown, or partial lockdown. Our second priority has been to see how we can keep the business running. Our contribution has been to mainly help Italy. Richemont has produced five million masks at its facilities in Italy, which were distributed locally. 2020 has been a severely impacted year in many ways, but we hope 2021 will bring life back to normal.
What is your forecast on the Indian market for the rest of the year?
The Indian market remains a very promising one. All the plans we had before this crisis remain valid. It remains a priority market, first because there is less competition. Secondly, India is a growing economy. The country will have a lot of people who will be able to afford our products in the next 10 years. We don’t see a market for just the next six months. We see what the brand will be like in a decade — how many doors, how many boutiques, how many people, how many after sales service points, etc. With the three boutiques, we have 10 doors in India, and we hope to have more in the years to come.