Monday, December 18, 2017

The Transfer Window Opens...

At Panerai -

The word around the campfire last week was that the new captain of the good ship Panerai is going to be Jean-Marc Pontroué.  So if the murmurs are to be believed, it appears that Mr. Pontroué, of late calling the shots at Roger Dubuis, will be putting on his swim fins and adjusting his snorkel in a lateral move from one Richemont brand to another.  To the best of my understanding, this is still unofficial news, so I thought I'd let it breathe for a few days to see if there were any comments of refutation forthcoming from Richemont, and as of Monday morning at 6:40 AM Eastern, not a sausage.  So...

The former helmsman, Angelo Bonati, will hand over the bridge some time in April of next year.  Which is slightly curious timing, but I am sure that Panerai, (and let's be honest, Richemont) have their reasons for handling this the way that they are.  I suspect it has more than a little to do with contracts both new and existing.

There are some some out there that fear that Mr. Pontroué will morph into the Ghost of Christmas past from Zenith, a former Champagne CEO who like Icarus flew too close to the sun before flaming out and disappearing into the luxury wilderness.  The assertion being that he may, at times, have been a little too "wild and crazy" with his designs and ambitions for the house of RD.  

Panerai is a brand that is still very admired and will always have an appreciative audience.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the former Florentine brand must die of blushes with every other Kickstarter or thinly veiled "homage" offering to come down the chute.

In speaking with other colleagues from the fourth and fifth estates, the consensus is that Panerai would be a pretty difficult ship to sink.  But by the same token, it is also an unwieldy boat to turn with any real finesse.  Panerai is, to some extent, in the doldrums.  Not too bad, but also not what they once were, or what many of us feel they could be.  When Bernard Watch has 31 pre-owned Panerai watches for sale, it tells you something.  And that something is that certainly Panerai is known, and there are people out there who want them, but the number of people buying them might be running in close tandem to the people looking to sell the ones that they have.

And this is where our old friends supply and demand but heads with exclusivity and desire.  As the customer, should I buy from Panerai or a Panerai retailer for one price, or roll the dice on a pre-
owned version?  And when the pre-owned and grey markets are so saturated, does this represent a wise purchase for me?

Now I'm hopping into the time machine back to 2003 when I bought a pre-owned Panerai B series while working at Tourneau.  Back then, a pre-owned Panerai of ANY description was about as common as an honest politician.  But I snapped it up (paying full price), and then flipped it a few months later for a tidy profit and a Rolex Explorer I into the bargain. 

Panerai can be something better than it currently is.  But it is not going to be made great again by making watch cases out of Unobtainium, or developing the "Unicorn" movement.  No, for Panerai it is a very simple equation:

fewer watches / more customers unable to lay hands to one = greater exclusivity x greater demand.

At any rate, bonne chance to Mr. Pontroué as he takes the wheel, we shall see what develops.


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