“We like to create heroes that also tell time”
CEO of Panerai, Jean-Marc Pontroué on leading India, the new brand ambassador and what’s next for the brand.
Jean-Marc Pontroué joined the Richemont group in 2000 after spending half a decade with luxury conglomerate LVMH. During his tenure at Richemont he worked with Montblanc and Roger Dubuis and after nearly two decades, he was appointed as the CEO of Panerai last April.
How has your brand experience been so far?
Joining a new brand is like starting a new chapter of a book and so far this chapter has been great. I don’t say that’s because I chose to join Panerai but because Panerai is counted among one of the top 20 icons in the watch world and I get to work with a brand that can be recognised at a single glance. To me, that’s amazing and a true mark of a wonderful brand. Watchmakers take eons to create that one star product and then get that kind of following, but with Panerai, it’s effortless. While they are constantly trying to create watches and looking for their ‘hero’ piece, we are creating heroes that also happen to tell time; there is a big difference.
How does Panerai seamlessly transition from being a 159-year-old brand to something that is
desirable to the young millennial and a collector?
We are a very emotional brand. And we create this connect with our consumers through our distinct style. And this is why I am so against books that explain each piece; we trust our consumer to understand the timepiece. If there was a book about the history of the brand, I am all for that as I believe we need to remember our roots; it’s like a museum of the brand. Over time we want to adopt a strategy where we only put our logo and nothing else on the watch as a demarcation of the brand. We know our look is unique and there are consumers from all age groups and parts of the globe that love it
Tell us about Panerai’s India presence?
At Panerai we are all about understanding your history and culture, and India has the most colourful one. Each city is unique, the fashion, the food, the emotions they evoke, are all so interesting, and we love that we are here. In the next ten years I see India as one of largest consumers for watches and we will be glad to say that we were one of the first brands to come here. There is always a premium for those who start the race before the others. I strongly believe that the country itself plus the number of Indian travellers we find in Switzerland, Paris London, Dubai, Singapore and so many other places are all people we want to engage with. People who are important for our brand. That’s why we signed with MS Dhoni as the face of Panerai in India.
Tell us more about choosing Mahendra Singh Dhoni as brand ambassador. What made you feel he was the right choice?
What we instantly fell in love with was MS Dhoni’s authenticity. We had been noticing him for a while and he has been seen wearing Panerai in magazines and other places, but it was his sincerity towards his craft and our label that drew us to him. I was never an advocate of paying someone to endorse a brand, but Dhoni does it because he actually likes our watches and this reinforced our choice in him.
What is next for the brand?
I have noticed that people are far more receptive to a concept when they actually experience it as opposed to reading about it and we wanted to work on that idea. We will soon be launching Panerai Experiences. They will be in tandem with our new watches and immerse the consumer or ‘Panerestities’ (as we call them) in what we want them to experience. The coming year will also be the anniversary for one of our legendary timepieces and we plan to celebrate it in every way possible. Think Luminor and all its shades and a special way to commemorate each hue.
Your favourite Panerai?
I have been asked this question a hundred times and each time the answer is different. In fact, I bought my son a Panerai for his 18th birthday before I even worked here, so its safe to say, I have always loved the brand. My preference keeps changing but for now I like the Bronzo and the BMG Tech.