With Panerai poised to open their first boutique in Delhi and a second one in Mumbai, HOT sat down with Milvin George, Managing Director, Middle East and India for the brand to learn more about Panerai’s plans for the future.
Milvin George holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada and has almost two decades of experience in the luxury watch industry, starting out in 2000 as Regional Brand Manager, Middle East, North Africa and India for TAG Heuer. In 2003, as Regional Brand Manager for the region, Milvin set up the Omega Middle East Operation for the Swatch Group owned brand.
He joined Officine Panerai as Managing Director in 2007.
Panerai is opening another boutique in India. What are your views on India as a market for Luxury watches and for Panerai in particular?
Yes, we have our first boutique in Delhi scheduled to open soon, followed by a second one in Mumbai.
The luxury watch market in India is definitely growing and is expected to grow further in the future. There are new international brands entering the market every year as these brands sense the potential and demand in the market. The new age consumer is evolving with more refined taste as well as deeper knowledge of global trends, offerings and brands. This definitely makes the Indian market extremely promising for a luxury brand to enter and invest in. There exist a good number of watch enthusiasts in the country who understand movements and have an eye for innovation. Since our advent in the Indian market, Panerai has attracted this independent group of loyal collectors. Their enthusiasm and passion for the brand have always been much appreciated.
How has GST and the increase in import duties on luxury watches affected sales in India?
We have full confidence in the Indian Government and the regulations that have been instituted when it comes to GST and import duties. We understand and know that the government is aware that the Indian customer today enjoys the fine things in life including luxury goods, watches, cars and other products. We comply and try as much as possible to harmonize and have attractive prices in India for our end customers.
How has the last year been for Panerai in the Indian context?
It’s been a year full of work for us to be honest with you! As a brand we finalized the allocation for our second boutique in India at DLF Chanakyapuri (Delhi). In fact, the boutique is opening in couple of weeks from now and we have also worked on obtaining another boutique in Mumbai, and this will be our third boutique in India at Palladium Mall.
In 2017, we wanted to make sure that we would present the brand in the best way and today we have 3 mono boutiques that can serve our customers in India. We also took on the challenge of streamlining our network and making sure that we have productive point of sales and shops throughout India. We’ve had a very good perception and reception of our SIHH 2017 novelties leading to great demand for the novelties and I can assure you it will only be the same for our SIHH 2018 pieces.
Recently, with pieces like the Oro Rosso, Panerai has moved into creating smaller dials. What are your views on that? How has the market responded?
Yes, smaller dials presented at SIHH this year garnered excellent eyeballs and created great excitement amongst the attendees. The demand looks promising and will most certainly be alluring to a new range of consumers who will now be thrilled with a diameter that suits their wrist, and colorful straps to suit their taste and dress for the day.
What are the popular trends in luxury watches for men and women, in your opinion?
Technological innovations, smaller sizes and some modern-looking versions of classics have been among the stronger trends this year for us. Women are getting more experimental in terms of preference for movements, bigger dials and sports watches. Above all, the demand for exclusive/ limited edition pieces will always be paramount in our category.
Luxury watch brands have been talking about accessible luxury. What does this mean to you and to Panerai? What are your views on the concept?
Panerai is a very exclusive brand and this is something that was embedded in the DNA of the brand since its early start. As you are aware, Panerai earlier made watches exclusively for the Italian Navy and it was the project that we had taken upon ourselves. At that time, the Panerai family was involved and we had presented our first watch in 1938. From 1938 to 1993 we produced only 300 watches exclusively for the navy.
From 1993 onwards we started producing watches for the civilian market. Today the brand is exclusive in the sense that all our watches have numbered production, so we always stick to the quota of the watches that we claim to produce every year and this is something that again ensures that we are an exclusive brand.
We have upgraded and updated our entry level watches like with the Luminor Logo, Luminor Base, Luminor Marina and simultaneously ensuring that the watches that are available in the market are again of accessible range that bring you into the exclusive world of Panerai. Having this access point into the brand does not take away the exclusivity aspect of Panerai.
Again with the Oro Rosso, Panerai has introduced an interchangeable strap. Other luxury watch brands have also introduced this trend. Why do you think luxury watch brands are creating interchangeable straps? What do you think about the idea?
Interchangeable straps help you to add new looks to your timepiece, wherein you create a bespoke look depending on the mood, outfit and occasion that you are opting for. It adds more variety to your watch wardrobe, and is ideally a smart move by brands. With our new Luminor Due collection which adopts an instantly interchangeable strap (on the 42mm and 38mm diameters), we will most certainly be attracting a new set of consumers.
What can you tell us about some of Panerai’s newest launches and the brands highlights from SIHH 2018?
Again, for Panerai, technological innovations, smaller sizes and some modern-looking versions of classics have been among the highlights at SIHH 2018.
Two timepieces to look out for this year are definitely the L’Astronomo – the first of Panerai’s creations to have moon phases indication and an innovative system using polarized crystal to indicate the date, and the Lo Scienziato – our ultra-light 3D-printed Titanium case Skeletonized Tourbillon. Beyond that, our versatile Luminor Due collection which now extends for the first time into a 38mm diameter, and adopts an instantly interchangeable strap (on the 42mm and 38mm diameters) will most certainly be appealing to a new range of customers, of which many customers who will now be delighted with a diameter that suits their wrist, and colorful straps to suit their taste and dress for the day.
Watches like the Lo Scienziato use technology like 3-D printing to create a highly technical timepiece. Can we expect to see more novel technology like this being used by Panerai in the future?
Panerai has always been about innovations in technology. Our watch makers at the Panerai Manufacture in Neuchâtel are constantly working on introducing new innovations and movements in horology. I can say we have exciting things lined up for the future too.
What can we expect to see from Panerai in the future?
Stay tuned for more novelties in terms of movements, design and technology.
What are your plans for the Indian market?
India is an interesting market for Panerai. In terms of brand expansion, we are opening two boutiques in India this year, in Delhi and Mumbai respectively.
We would love to continue offering unique watch experiences and curating engagement opportunities for the watch aficionados. Our product portfolio keeps changing to cater to a good mix young as well as mature consumers. Spreading awareness about the brand, its strong roots, the DNA and the niche offering has been key. We do this by keeping a clear identity and respecting the DNA of the brand. Strong presence in the e-commerce space as well as on social media helps communicating with the end consumer. We are investing and expanding in the country. We have one boutique and the second is scheduled to open soon. We are constantly committed to continue to establish our brand presence across the Indian market. We are present in Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad through our multi-store partners, and are keen to develop the brand in upcoming cities.
What role does India play in Panerai’s global market?
India is an evolving market and is significant for the brand; the Indian luxury space is growing at a rapid pace and is a key market for brands.
What, according to you are challenges that Panerai is likely to face in the Indian market?
The current challenges in India are the limited availability of premium retail space as well as the high taxation on watches.
What do you feel about the future of the luxury watch industry and specifically Panerai in India?
It is interesting to see how the luxury watch industry has evolved as a whole, with intriguing parallels seen across several of their new offerings. Consumer demand for watches remains strong and luxury watch makers continue to offer exquisite pieces to entice the market. The future of the segment looks promising in India, and we are extremely excited as a brand to continue engaging the consumers.
What do you attribute to the brands’ success in the Indian market?
There is no easy answer to this question because Panerai is a mix of so many special things that have made it successful. Our strength has always been our novelties, true to the brand DNA- unique, authentic and coherent. I believe this is where we give our customers thorough value, and make them feel like they are a part of an exclusive club. Also, Panerai never tries to follow the market because we consider our heritage our opportunity.
In terms of offering, our product portfolio keeps changing to cater to a good mix young as well as mature consumers. Spreading awareness about the brand, its strong roots, the DNA and the niche offering has been key. We do this by keeping a clear identity and respecting the legacy of the brand. Strong connect with the consumer by creating experiential properties and also building a strong presence in the e-commerce space as well as on social media helps communication.
Your perfect Panerai wardrobe (for men)
I would say when it is classic look; one could opt for the Panerai Luminor Due in a 45mm gold PAM00675, whereas if you are looking at a watch for your casual look – the Submersible range is apt!
Starting out in the early 1900’s as watchmaker to the Royal Italian Navy, Officine Panerai has established itself as a luxury watchmaker par excellence. Specialising in the highest quality sports watches, Panerai is known for creating a perfect balance between innovation and aesthetic.
The brand’s Radiomir and Luminor collections have evolved over time to include numerous special edition timepieces and showcase some of the finest horological complications as well as the highest levels of artistry and craftsmanship.