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Interview: Jean-Marc Pontroué, Chief Executive Officer at Panerai

Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO at Panerai

After studying business economics at Nantes Business School, Frenchman Jean-Marc Pontroué started his career as a Sales Director, first in leather goods then, starting in 1995, at Givenchy, part of the LVMH Group.

Five years later, he joined Montblanc, a member of the Richemont Group, as Product Strategy and Development Executive Vice President and bringing to market new categories of ultra-luxury products.

He then joined Roger Dubuis in 2011, becoming CEO in less than a year. After six years at the helm of the Geneva Maison — and almost 20 at the Richemont Group — Pontroué was named CEO of Panerai in April 2018, immediately emphasizing the importance of the universe that inspires every Panerai product.

On the occasion of the launch of the new Panerai PAMCAST digital platform, Alessandro Mazzardo, founder and executive editor at Time and Watches, had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Here are Jean-Marc’s answers.


Time and Watches: When appointed as CEO of Panerai, you said:  “I won’t change the way Panerai produces its watches. I’ll change the way our customers engage with experiences through Panerai watches”. I think you offered an anticipation of these "experiences" last year through some special edition watches. For example, the 33 owners of the Submersible Marina Militare Carbotech PAM961 had the chance to join a training session with COMSUBIN, Italian special forces and 15 Panerai customers who bought the Submersible Chrono PAM983 had the opportunity to dive in French Polynesia with brand Ambassador and free-diving champion Guillaume Néry. Now that you have announced the new Panerai PAMCAST project, the vision behind your initial statement is taking shape more evidently. Would you please summarize your vision and explain the new PAMCAST initiative?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: 2019 was a warm-up exercise that has been offered to 48 customers in total. These first few experiences have gotten great feedback from the customers and press. The principle is to offer our VIP clients “dream experiences” that would be inaccessible without Panerai. In the same way, we adopt a disruptive use of  social media communication to involve our international community of Paneristi and followers. The rapid evolution of the digital landscape, especially in those last months, has created so many opportunities to strengthen client engagement. PAMCAST is a digital editorial platform conceived to share inspirations, immersive stories, behind-the-scenes details and lifestyle tips to stay connected in an evocative way with our audience. This new project revolves around four key thematic pillars associated to 9 new watches : Lifestyle, Laboratorio di Idee, Entertainment and Brand's Accessories which truly express the distinctive value proposition of Panerai. On June 29th, the brand released the first episode of PAMCAST featuring the Italian colors: an immersive and invigorating travel destination including details on our latest product hero: the Luminor Marina Carbotech (PAM01661).

Panerai PAMCAST
The 4 thematic pillars of the PAMCAST platform 


Time and Watches: The PAMCAST project sounds very entertaining. How did you come up with the idea of a digital editorial platform to empower the experiences - both online and off  of your customers?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: The brand was receptive enough during the confinement to conceive new ways for strengthening the engagement with its clients, that is why PAMCAST was born. We came up with an integrated online experience which can be browsed through an array of touchpoints allowing our clients, enthusiasts and followers to fully experience the brand’s lifestyle as a whole wherever they are.


Time and Watches: What are the main goals of the initiative? And about contents, how often will the platform be updated?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: Surely, the first goal is to entertain clients and engage with them. At the moment we have thought about 8 brand series which will be broadcasted on a monthly basis with weekly updates.

Panerai PAMCAST
The first eight stories that will enrich the Panerai product narrative


Time and Watches: Will your “offline” experiences be open to wider audiences or will they remain pretty exclusive? How many people do you expect to engage in these experiences each year?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: To remain exclusive, they must be limited to few people in order to build a real tailored and unique program. We are still working around the plan for the next year but we aim to plan 10 experiences in 2021.


Time and Watches: Connecting through the digital world, and leveraging the opportunities arising from it, is definitely important for any brand. A limit that we see in social media communication is that - somehow inevitably - it remains on a superficial level most of the time. To balance this, here at Time and Watches we strongly believe that it is also crucial to educate watch enthusiasts and those who approach the world of watchmaking about the history of the brands, of their products (see for example our article "The history of the Panerai Luminor") as well as their technologies and savoir-faire. Understanding the "why and how" of features and design brings the watch passion to a totally different level. Does your heritage remain a guiding light in your communication or do you think that younger generations need a different message - for example more based on desirability, exclusivity and luxury - for them to be attracted to high-end watches?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: New generations like high-end watches and they are curious about the watchmaking industry. To connect with them, we need to share emotions, inspirations, and authentic adventures as a lifestyle brand like Panerai can do. Digital communication is important for the younger generations and that is why we are developing spectacular and inspiring video contents on our web and social media to communicate our history, identity and new products in a more innovative and direct way.


Time and Watches: The Panerai brand has been seen as an eminently "masculine" brand for most of its history. With the Luminor Due, you introduced a collection that is very appealing also for Ladies. How much important the female audience has become to Panerai? I guess that the future PAMCAST contents will also be an indicator! Any specific target in terms of sales percentage?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: We have many women clients wearing Panerai watches and I love it! With the Luminor Due 38mm, we thought about the thinner wrists and those products were really appreciated and well sold. We do hope to see more and more women wearing Panerai but we are not planning to change our strategy and core business.


Time and Watches: Where do you see more growth potential among these three segments: mid range (say up to €/$ 20,000), high-end complications, models for Ladies?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: Speaking about Panerai, I would say mid-range and high end complications and surely our limited editions associated to the experience concept.


Time and Watches: With many of your watch models being produced in various sizes (for example, the Luminor is available in 42, 44 and 47 mm cases while the Radiomir in 42, 45, 47 and 48 mm), you are in a good position to register an ongoing trend for smaller watch cases compared to just few years ago. Can you confirm this tendency or Panerai lovers remain stick to larger cases?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: Depending on our clients, we have big cases lovers, especially among our Paneristi, but also Luminor Due 42 mm lovers, especially among the younger target. Our product families made up by Luminor, Luminor Due, Radiomir and Submersible can meet the needs and request of a wide international audience so, in general, I can say that we will continue producing all the cases sizes that you mention.

Panerai product families


Time and Watches: From a technology point of view, Panerai seems to be very focused in the research and development of new high-tech materials, as evidenced by many of your latest releases. Are there other “themes” that we will see in the upcoming releases? And more in general, do you see emerging trends in the watchmaking industry?

Jean-Marc Pontroué: Eco-sustainability is an emerging trend and one of our priority and main product theme for the coming years. That is why we are exploring the idea of producing a 100% recycled watch which will be a great innovation in the industry.

Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO at Panerai

Find more about the Panerai timepieces at panerai.com

COMMENTS

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Time and Watches | The watch blog: Interview: Jean-Marc Pontroué, Chief Executive Officer at Panerai
Interview: Jean-Marc Pontroué, Chief Executive Officer at Panerai
Time and Watches interviews Jean-Marc Pontroué, Chief Executive Officer at Panerai
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