Sustainability is a hot topic for luxury brands, with conglomerates such as Richemont, which owns Panerai and several other leading watch brands, building multi-pronged initiatives to help solve the burning problems of our time.
For Richemont, one such initiative is building environmentally friendly manufacturing facilities, such as Panerai’s in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, designed to reduce the carbon footprint of 100,000 square feet of buildings with solar power, geothermal pumps, water conservation practices, and more.
The brand is also starting to look for creative ways to incorporate recycled materials into its watches. “This started to occupy us in Panerai about two years ago,” said Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Panerai. He recalled discussions with extreme adventurer and brand ambassador, Mike Horn, who told Pontroué, “’We see pollution not only in places like New York and Geneva, but also in the most remote parts of the planet. As a Panerai, you have to be one of the brands that takes action so that it stops. ” ‘
In 2019, Panerai launched the Mike Horn Submersible made of Eco-Titanium (recycled titanium), a first in the industry. One of the two versions is the XPerience watch, a super limited edition that includes a once-in-a-lifetime experience of joining Horn on a glacier journey in Svalbard, Norway, in the Arctic Circle. The band is made from recycled PET plastic bottles and the packaging is 100 percent recyclable. Last year, Panerai followed up with the Mike Horn Submersible Tourbillon with a case made of metal recycled from the amphibious shaft Horn, Pangea.
As Panerai announced its partnership with the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, Italy’s challenger for the 36th American Cup race in New Zealand, which is currently underway, Panerai released a collection of four 2019 Luna Rossa watches with dials made from ship’s recycled sails. racing cruise. . Last year’s limited edition Luminor Luna Rossa GMT features a dial made of Scafotech, a composite made of carbon fiber residue collected from the hull and hydrofoil of the team’s AC75 yacht. The recycled material is forged into polymers for use in dial.
New for this year, the Guillaume Néry Special Edition Luminor Marina features a PET recycled strap and is named after the brand’s dive ambassador.
“Panerai was connected to the ocean from the start,” Pontroué said, “and we believe we must take action in that area.”
Five recently spoke with Pontroué, 56, about sustainable watchmaking and why the brand is so committed to it.
FIVE: How has sustainability in watchmaking evolved in recent years?
Jean-Marc Pontroué: We believe Panerai will always be a pioneering brand – a pioneer of great watches, a pioneer of new materials and experiences, just as we did two years ago. We believe it is also part of our mission to lead in what is one of the most important subjects in the world. We believe that at our small level we must also take action.
In the past, we started thinking about it when everything was done, and today’s ecology program made us think about it before we started product development. So, the packaging will be recycled and bonded, and in the future, the movement, the case, all the products will be recycled.
This year’s watch with Guillaume Néry is part of our warm-up workout, much like when you warm up before a race. It’s the same concept. That’s how you mobilize 740 people in our organization to prepare for this new mentality, which consists of developing greener products, using more Zoom than taking a plane, updating boutiques with low-intensity electricity – the way you keep the environment in mind at every turn. action that you do.
What were the easiest and most difficult parts of making this a priority?
Easy is not the right word, because you start from scratch. We started two years ago, and we didn’t really know how to start. We’ve worked with [several] companies in the US, France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany, and we don’t want this to be a secret story. We want the business model to be as open as possible, because to be sure, Panerai alone will not save the world. We told the people in the US who supplied our new generation of rope, who in France could propose recycled steel, and so on.
How challenging is it to get the right material and produce such work?
It’s like when you bought an old house, and you sure need a few bucks to restore it. Then you find out at the end of the process, it will cost more than if you started from scratch. It’s the same with recycling. More investment, more expensive, more painful. If you asked an auto manufacturer if it was more complicated and more investment in building an electric car than building a regular car, they would probably tell you the same thing. This is a revolution that we must take. Across all the different industries, it will be more investment driven because you are starting from scratch. Maybe 20 years from now, electric cars will be the same price as cars that exist today. Maybe it will be the same for us. Currently, launching this kind of activity is less profitable, but it is a must in our business mindset.
What is the demand for such items – did the client ask for them?
Two things: First, the new generation is paying more attention to it. Second, they don’t say, “I want recycled products,” but they’ll ask why you didn’t take the initiative to be a part of this movement, as we’ve seen in the car business, the airplane business, the hotel business. Many industries have large programs, and I guarantee you, in the watch industry you should start doing it. It will be like being in fashion – something very important for brands to communicate, to prove that what we are doing is right and not a marketing concept and trying to be an open book story – we are open to any input to help us and to improve our processes . The more we can work with other brands, the better.
How important is your America’s Cup Luna Rossa partnership?
It was a great partnership with our friends at Prada and Pirelli in Milan to be able to support the Italian team to win. We have a great exchange [the aforementioned] material exchange concept – they work at the lightest possible performance, so we are in the same business, only in different industries. So, we learned a lot from them. The last Luna Rossa program is based on material. We’re the first to put them in making because we reuse the screen on our dial. It’s a very close partnership in our hearts and, of course, we think of Italy when we do that. This allows us to restate that we are an industry-unique pure watch operator originating in Italy.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This interview has been updated with new information.