During our last conversation about six months ago, Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué surprised us with his ambitious intention to launch a 100 percent recycled mechanical watch. Now, shortly prior to the unveiling of the brand’s latest pieces at Watches & Wonders 2021, we caught up with him once again. There was one key question to ask: did he manage to reach his goal? Alongside numerous other exciting innovations, and discovering why 2021 will be the year of the chronographs, we were able to find out the answer to this question from Pontroué himself.
98.6 percent recycled: The Submersible e-LAB-ID PAM01225
In the past few years, Pontroué has been progressively promoting the issue of sustainability at his company. This had begun even back in 2014 with the building of the new manufacture. The aim was to be as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible. In fact, the real goal was for it to be zero-impact. However, this goal did not only apply in-house, but also to Panerai subsidiaries across the globe. In every Panerai boutique, for example, the brand installed a new lighting concept. The new lights were to use up to 80 percent less electricity than regular lights.
Pontroué about the world’s first recycled mechanical watch
Naturally, this focus on sustainability was also needing to apply to Panerai products. Thus, in 2019, Panerai introduced the first Submersible Mike Horn Edition to use straps made from recycled PET bottles. Several other versions followed behind it, each of which increasingly focused upon sustainability. One example of this to follow was the PAM01108; its case, crown protection bridge, bezel and caseback were all made out of recycled metals; Pangaea and EcoTitanium.
Innovative new materials
Last year, Pontroués brought forth his boldest idea yet; he wanted to create the first ever mechanical watch to be made out of 100 percent recycled materials. This goal was essentially a pledge from himself, that he, as CEO, would aspire to achieve. Now, his time has come at Watches & Wonders 2021, as Panerai launches its Submersible e-LAB-ID, made out of 98.6 percent recycled materials. But why not 100 percent, you ask? The answer is fairly simple. There is a small part of rubber in the watch that is not recycled, as this would use more energy than reproducing it. Not only are the strap and case, as well as the 161 components in the calibre, created from recycled materials, but also, Panerai is officially the first luxury watch brand to reach this milestone – let alone that wanted to achieve this goal.
The case, sandwich dial, and bridges are EcoTitanium. Meanwhile, the hands and indices use 100 percent recycled SuperLumiNova, while the balance spring uses 100 percent recycled silicon. The strap is made with recycled Grigio Roccia fabric, which comes from the Italian manufacturer Morellato.
New partners for sustainably produced resources
The new watch required Panerai to completely reconsider its suppliers. The list of external suppliers necessary to create the timepiece consists of nine companies that have expertise in particular areas of sustainably produced resources. This ranges from the company Novo Cristal, who supply Panerai with the recycled sapphire crystal, and Pro Cadrans, a supplier for recycled dials, to several suppliers specialising in the recycled production of luminous material. This feat demonstrates exactly how seriously Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué takes the future. He is not concerned with being the first and only one in this field. “We can save the world on our own,” he tells us. “It would be wonderful if everyone in our industry in Switzerland, as with wherever else in the world, would work with these suppliers and use their recycled materials.”
Getting everyone on board
Ultimately, the Submersible e-LAB-ID is the consistent and material quintessence of Pontroué’s vision, which he pursues at the horology house in the form of the “Panerai Ecological” project. With this project, Panerai strives for alternative, environmentally friendly methods of transport for all of its employees – again, not only in Switzerland, but worldwide. “Public transport and bicycle instead of a car” is the simple slogan. Endlessly long instruction manuals are no longer physically printed and distributed worldwide – this saves at least 20 tonnes of paper per year. In the event that printing is necessary for catalogues, brochures, guarantees, and so on, this is done on FSC-certified paper. Additionally, there is a range of energy-saving measures at the boutiques and the manufacture, not to mention numerous further initiatives.
Pontroué about project “Panerai Ecological“
Continuing with this theme, Pontroué tells us of a new initiative with UNESCO. Together with the organisation, Panerai is developing an educational programme that will discuss the idea of eco-friendly behaviour with staff, as well encouraging the practice of sustainable thinking. In the end, the decision was made to work alongside the organisation as it involved the least bureaucracy. It also simultaneously had the greatest added value, in that it would set something new into motion.
Pontroué about the project with UNESCO
The new Panerai Submersible e-LAB-ID is a so-called “concept watch”, of which 30 pieces will be available from December 2021. The price is available upon request.
Leading the way: Luminor Marina eSteel
PAM01157, PAM01356, PAM01358
In our conversation, Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué announced that in the future, all new products would incorporate a certain amount of recycled materials. This could be the packaging, or certain components of the watch, case, strap, or dial.
Alongside the “concept watch” Submersible e-LAB-ID, the new Luminor Marina eSteel is a role model for the future of Panerai products. It consists of at least 58.5 percent recycled materials. This includes a case and dial made out of the new recycled-based steel alloy eSteel.
The watchmaker and home of the Laboratorio di Idee insisted that e-steel should have the same qualities as ordinary steel. First and foremost, this means robustness and corrosion-resistance. The Luminor Marina eSteel is available in three variations, each with a different dial. This includes blue (Blu Profondo), grey (Grigio Roccia), and green (Verde Smeraldo), with matching straps, created from recycled PET bottles.
All three versions have a case diameter of 44 mm. Powering them is the automatic calibre P.9010, with a three-day power reserve. Each model is 8,500 euros.
The year of Chronographs: inspiration from an icon
According to Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué, 2021 is the year that Panerai chronographs will at last have their moment in the sun. Even if for many there is no obvious connection at first glance, Panerai can actually testify to having experience in this field. Its work with chronographs actually goes all the way back to 1943 with its first chronograph model, the Mare Nostrum, a timepiece for deck officers in the Italian navy. However, with around 900 units, it was – and remained – a prototype. In the decades that followed, the subject of chronographs was largely neglected.
Then, in 1993, the first re-edition appeared on the market in the form of the Mare Nostrum Reference 5218-301/A. This was kept, as much as possible, in line with the original in terms of its look and feel. However, to the astonishment of many “Paneristi”, it featured a rotatable bezel with a tachymeter scale. This did not exactly fit its maritime history. Following this came two further chronograph references, which no longer featured the unique round chronograph case, but rather gave way to the recognisable cushion-shaped case.
Only in 2011 – and thus already in the Richemont-Panerai era – did the Mare Nostrum PAM00300 come forth and cause a sensation. Finally, there was an almost identical recreation of the original chronograph. Unfortunately, however, it was a limited edition of 99 pieces. In 2015, a titanium version (150 pieces) in brown was launched, the PAM00603. Both renditions are powered by the external calibre OP XXV, which uses the Minerva calibre 13-22 as its base.
Panerai Chronographs 2021
Now, however, let’s return to the here and now. In 2021, Pontroué would like to build Panerai a reputation as a technical sports watch brand. For him, there’s no doubt that the brand enjoys a reputation as an automatic watch brand. However, the business with chronographs has always been characterised by the fact that there has been a limited edition here and there, then nothing for years. Now, the company will push the chronographs once more into the limelight and, alongside automatic watches, take an equally important place in the manufacture’s portfolio.
Pontroué about the Panerai Chronos
At Watches & Wonders 2021, Panerai is introducing three new initiatives. This includes a core collection, which is available in three variations, featuring black, white or blue dials. It also includes a Luna Rossa collection, as well as a line that the CEO dubs “Complicatione”. First up will be the Luminor Chrono Monopulsante GMT Blu Notte – as the name states, a monopusher chronograph with a GMT function.
- Luminor Chrono 44 MM PAM01109.
Price: 8,900 euros.
- Luminor Chrono 44 MM PAM01218.
Price: 8,900 euros.
- Luminor Chrono 44 MM PAM01110.
Price: 9,700 euros.
- Luminor Chrono Luna Rossa 44 MM PAM01303.
Price: 8,900 euros.
- Luminor Chrono Monopulsante GMT Blu Notte 44 MM PAM01135.
Price: 21,900 euros.
While Pontroué is sending out an important signal, it would ultimately be nice, not to mention consistent if, after ten years, the original Mare Nostrum were to be reissued in its original design – but with an in-house movement please.
A younger, bronze brother: Bronze Blue Abisso 42 MM PAM01074
Exactly ten years ago, Panerai kicked off the bronze watch hype with its PAM00382. The very first models should, by now, have developed a unique patina (depending on use). Unlike many other manufacturers, Panerai uses a pure copper and tin alloy (CuSn8) for its bronze models. This is predominantly to protect the watch case from corrosion. Two Bronzo models with green dials (back in 2011 and 2013) were followed by a blue version in 2018, and a brown version with a matching brown bezel in 2019. All of them have a fairly imposing case diameter of 47 mm.
Pontroué about the Bronzo Blu Abisso 42 MM
Now, to celebrate ten years of the Bronzo, Panerai is introducing a 42 mm version for the first time. The Bronzo Blu Abisso 42 MM features a pretty cool blue dial, as well as a wild leather strap, also in blue. “Blu Abisso” roughly translates as “the blue deep”. Accordingly, the dial exudes a maritime feel with its strong dark blue tone, and mysterious depth of colour. With the reduction of case size, Pontroué appears to have heard the prayers of some “Paneristi”, as he explains. “With the 42 mm Bronzo, we wanted to speak to a new clientele who are fans of the Bronzo but found 47 mm to be simply too big.”
Although the bronze shade seems somehow more golden, it’s the exact same alloy as used in the bigger models. Meanwhile, the caliber P.9200 is new to the Bronzo Blu Abisso and replaces the P.9100 which would simply not fit into the 42-mm-execution.
Once again, this bronze watch will be a limited edition. The combined production of the Bronzo Blu Abisso and the 2019 PAM968 will not exceed 1,000 pieces in total. These pieces will be for sale exclusively in Panerai boutiques. Along with the blue leather strap, the wearer will also receive a blue rubber strap. Finally, the price is 15,500 euros.
Does a luxury product need to be sustainable?
This is not a question for Pontroué. One does not exclude the other, he argues. This is because in the future, we will have no choice but to address the issue of sustainability and upcycling in the watch industry. Furthermore, there are no government-regulated requirements in the watch industry, unlike in the automotive, tourism or food industries. Therefore, each individual has a responsibility to make their own contribution.
Pontroué about luxury products and sustainability
Pontroué about sustainability in the watch industry
How Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué intends to convince his loyal and rather traditional clientele to join this inevitable change of course is as of yet unanswered. But, says Pontroué, one thing is for sure: the next generation is strongly engaged with the issue of sustainability. What’s more, it no longer matters to them whether they are simply wearing a luxury product. Rather, they look for something whereby it feels good to own a high-quality product, which is not going to further harm our environment.