Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué Talks Sustainability, Protecting The Oceans and the Latest Novelties

Lindsay Judge   |   13-07-2021

Throughout history, Panerai’s connection to the sea has been intrinsically linked to the heritage of the brand and been a core value of its DNA moving forward. The Italian watchmaker started its journey in the 1800s, supplying technical watches to the Royal Italian Navy. These now iconic diving watches were the start of the brand’s beautiful connection to our oceans and today that chapter continues as Panerai announces a new partnership with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. This collaboration will develop programs and actions with the final objective of developing transformative solutions to the existing and future challenges that face the ocean.


The collaboration with IOC-UNESCO is further evidence that sustainability is an essential part of the company’s purpose, and this is reflected in the latest novelties that were presented at Watches and Wonders, especially the Submersible eLAB-ID™ watch which is made almost entirely from recycled materials.


The goal now for Panerai is embracing the future and being a leader in its field. Taking on the challenge is CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué. Since taking on the role in 2018, Pontroué has pursued a vision of respecting the brand’s heritage and values but continuing to move forward into the future to produce watches that truly benefit today’s customer. As we talk to Pontroué we discover more about the latest launches and the next steps for the Italian watchmaker.


Tell us about the feedback you have received from the 2021 Watches & Wonders presentation so far?

All the feedback received from the press has been extremely positive as we were able to launch several products all characterized by strong stories. The novelty that created the biggest buzz was the Submersible eLAB-ID™, the watch with the highest percentage of recycled-based material ever made. We are very proud of this project as it allows us to open a new chapter in our history, bringing environmental awareness and more circular practices in the watchmaking industry.


Luminor Chrono Luna Rossa


What is the main focus of Panerai for 2021? 

 Firstly, the Ecologico project. Our work so far is just the beginning with the launch of the concept watch and the UNESCO partnership. Throughout this year we will have important moments with our ambassadors and partners but also international events, to launch new activities and sensitize the audience. Then Panerai has the big challenge of the Piccolo Due, facing new territory with an audience that is constantly growing and showing its interest in our watches and lifestyle. To amaze and surprise this new and sophisticated target is one of our most important missions of 2021.


Tell us some of the highlights of the new novelties and why did you decide to launch these watches at this time?

 This year we decided to broaden our chronograph product line, particularly because it is the sportiest complication ever and it is an essential tool to track not only time but also the results of challenges. All Luminor Chrono Novelties reaffirm Panerai’s role in the sphere of chronography and provide the right timepiece to ensure a long-lasting accuracy in every moment of life.


In your opinion what makes a watch an icon? 

A watch can be described as an icon because of its history, the storytelling that has been shaped around it and its most distinctive traits. Panerai collectors and enthusiasts consider our brand as an icon due to its recognizable design: the crown protecting device of the Luminor, the sandwich dial, the SuperLuminova: Panerai is unmistakable.


Luminor Chrono Monopulsante


How important is it to you to express the brand’s Italian heritage through its timepieces?

Panerai has always been known for its strong bond with the Italian Navy, as that is what we first started producing timepieces for. For this reason, it is important to keep this relationship alive because I think it defines a big part of our brand’s history: what Panerai is and a source of inspiration for what Panerai will be.


Tell us more about Panerai’s partnership with UNESCO and the importance of this for the brand moving forward?

 From the very beginning, Panerai’s destiny was inseparable from the marine environment. With its history of inventing state-of-the-art instruments for the Italian Navy and daring modern-day heroes, the brand’s watchmaking heritage is derived from its profound respect for the ocean. Partnering with IOC-UNESCO is a milestone on the road of Panerai’s achievement of its brand mission. This collaboration contains a futuristic vision, as we will develop a programme of work around ocean literacy to ensure that citizens, stakeholders, and institutions understand the interaction with the ocean and apply this knowledge to develop transformative solutions toward building a more sustainable, equitable society. Sustainability has always been an essential part of Panerai’s purpose, and Panerai is willing to be the being one of the first in the watch industry to raise awareness towards such an important topic as well as changing the rules.


The Submersible eLAB-ID watch is a first for the industry – is this a taste of what’s to come from Panerai moving forward? On a broader level, what would you like to see happen in the luxury industry regarding sustainability?

 The eLAB-ID™ is undoubtedly a rule-breaking masterpiece in Panerai’s history and it emphasises the deep concern of Panerai towards the status of the global environmental crisis. Our goal is not only to create sustainable watches but to develop a strong network of suppliers who are all eager to work towards creating a more sustainable future based on a circular use of natural resources. Through this Open Source Project, we hope that our competitors will follow our path and will start producing more sustainable products, also supporting environmental projects.


Luminor Chrono


How important are strategic partnerships to the brand and what does Panerai look for when working with partners such as the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team?

Strategic partnerships are essential to every brand because they allow brands to step into new segments and to discover new territories. When Panerai started working with the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team, we immediately felt a strong connection, because of the love and passion for the sea and the importance of precision. For us it’s important to work with a brand that shares our values, otherwise, we can’t align our goals.


How does Panerai create a lifestyle around its products and how are you continuing to communicate with your clients today? 

 All Panerai watches are characterized by strong storytelling and the goal is to create ad-hoc stories, accenting the distinguishing traits of each watch. During Watches & Wonders 2021 we presented the new Piccolo Due Madreperla PAM1280, characterised by a vibrant and dynamic attitude. We keep alive the conversation with our customers through events and client meetings and try to maximize this interaction through all the available touchpoints.


Luminor Chrono


What is a major challenge you have faced throughout your time at Panerai and how did you overcome it? 

 Since I was appointed CEO of Panerai the biggest challenge I’ve experienced has been the global pandemic. It took us by surprise because, even though we were aware of what was happening in China, we never imagined that it would arrive so quickly in the rest of the world. Initially, it was a nightmare to handle because there were different regulations, principles and protocols on lockdowns and partial lockdowns in different countries and cities, but the aim was to keep the organization safe.


What can you tell us about Panerai in the Middle East and what can we look forward to?

The Middle East market is a very promising one and it will continue to have a lot of customers and passionate collectors. 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. And 2021 will see the opening of new pop-ups and boutiques.


Submersible eLAB-ID


What is a message you would send to your clients in the region? 

For Panerai, The Middle East has always been a very interesting area characterised by a high number of watch lovers with refined taste. We can’t wait to open the new pop-ups and boutiques, meet all our customers and plan ad-hoc experiences and events there, to enhance our presence in the market.