Timeless Timepieces

Officine Panerai is confident its luxury timepieces face no threat from smartwatches.

By Jane Hosking

By creating a $17,000 edition of its new tech-laden timepiece, Apple is making an audacious grab at the multimillion dollar luxury watch market. But Officine Panerai’s managing director for the Middle East, Turkey, and India, is confident established luxury watchmakers and their artisanal products are here to stay.

Is there any concern that the arrival of smartwatches will be a threat to the more traditional watches such as those that Panerai makes?

We can’t be compared to smartwatches because a person who is buying a smart watch is really buying technology. We obviously have technology in our watches but it’s not the same. There’s a lot of craftsmanship that goes into our watches and they’re more than just a watch, they’re an accessory. Smartwatches target another type of audience. It could be possible that someone who buys a Panerai watch also has a smartwatch. But we don’t see ourselves as competing with them. When we discuss competition we don’t even talk about smartwatches.

How does this relate to your overall brand strategy?

We are really concerned with the exclusivity of our brand. We don’t want it to be seen everywhere. We could do it; we could produce more watches, but our marketing strategy is very controlled because we cannot be over exposed. We also have a business model that is very sensitive and the model is really to preserve the exclusivity of the brand. So that’s what sets us apart from others.

Panerai began as a supplier of watches to the Italian navy. How did this come about and how did the company make the switch to the civilian market?

Panerai originated as a family company founded by Giovanni Panerai in Florence in 1860. It started with a shop repairing watches but Mr. Panerai was an engineer and he began working with the navy to make compasses, torpedo launchers, and nautical instruments. From there it evolved and in 1938 the company launched the watches for the navy. It began as a collaboration, and when the agreement ended we went on a mission to work with the civilian market, going commercial in 1993. Richemont Group, the group behind Panerai, saw that the brand was performing really well and understood that it had great potential if further investment was made.

How did Panerai manage to scale itself, from a small family-run business to the globally recognized company it is today? 

It’s the culture and the value of the brand that we were able to transmit easily around the world. Thanks to Richemont Group’s network around the world we were able to integrate the brand and launch it successfully within different continents. It’s also our brand’s deep-rooted links with the world of the sea that attracts people, and the design is also very different. Panerai is a very recognizable watch. You can’t mistake it for any other.