Last week Officine Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati paid a visit to Moscow, where Haute Time had the chance to speak with the head of the legendary brand. We met in the new Panerai boutique in the “Berlin House,” for what proved to be both Mr. Bonati’s and our first visit since the store opened in December 2013.
Here is our exclusive interview:
Haute Time: Let me start with a compliment. Your company has done the impossible: in less than 20 years you’ve made a cult of your product and created a “Paneraimania” trend. With respect to what you’ve done, I would like to ask: do you think that everything was done accurately? If you could go back in time, what would you change?
Angelo Bonati: In general, everything was done correctly, which proves the result: over the last 18 years we have become a market leader in the prestigious sports wristwatches segment. Now it’s easier to talk about the mistakes than to descry them in the daily work. For example, there were some failures in communications, but let us knock off here.
HT: Panerai was the first brand to set a trend of large cases. Now it seems that more compact watches are in vogue. Are you ready for this trend?
AB: Panerai and large watches are synonymous. We didn’t follow the market — it followed us. I think that we can’t stop producing big cases, because it is an integral part of the DNA of the brand, part of our identity. I’m not going to reject this idea just because someone said that large cases are not trendy anymore.
HT: I know that since the opening of the Moscow boutique, your sales in Russia have been strong — congratulations! What do you think is the reason for this? Do Russian clients have special characteristics? What percentage of Russian customers make up your global sales?
AB: Thank you, but our brand is not the most popular in Russia. We continue to be in search of this unique local niche. The boutique where we are is one of the main tools for promoting the brand in Moscow; it’s our embassy in your country. The task of our employees is to offer information about our unique history, about brand’s specifics.
In terms of global boutique sales, Russia makes up about 3%. It’s not a lot, but during this last year alone, we have seen growth in this segment by 50%.
Describing Russian clients, I have to say they are quite informed and advanced. This kind of customer is a rarity — they can still be found on some Asian markets and in Italy and, perhaps, nowhere else. Of course, we are impressed by the attention to the brand. It’s always a pleasure to deal with someone who understands and shares our values.
HT: Many brands that invested heavily in China are experiencing frustration right now. What is your opinion about what’s happening in this market?
AB: China is a great opportunity for all players. According to researchers there will be about 500 million people worldwide by 2020 that will be able to buy luxury goods. Half of them — 250 million — will be in China. Like Russians, they travel a lot and they are strong buyers on a global scale. As for investments in China, there is no need to rely on immediate recoupment of costs. This is investment in the future. Perhaps things are not going so sensationally now, but tomorrow everything will change.
HT: What role do you assign to modern digital communications in terms of brand promotion? What is Panerai’s strategy in this regard?
AB: The Internet is the new reality; there is no way around it. We have to learn how to use these new, previously unknown possibilities for the direct and targeted promotion of the information that digital technologies provide. But I want to warn against the rigid contraposition of two data storage concepts — traditional paper and digital — to avoid a situation like in the food retail segment, where supermarkets work for a mass demand, and small shops for the gourmet service. Print press should not be addressed solely to sophisticated clients, and the Internet to all the rest. I’ll be happy if my fears on this point would be wrong.
Photo credit: Haute Time Russia.