Panerai isn’t just steeped in the tradition of making good watches. As a sustainability leader, it’s making luxury watches that do good, too.
The line between luxury and sustainability is erasing as quickly as the passage of time. Nowhere is that perhaps more evident than in Italian watchmaker Panerai. The century-old watchmaker is steadfast in its commitments to sustainability, which includes a 2023 target to use recycled materials in all packaging as well as eSteel, made from recycled metals, in all steel watches.
Last year, Panerai announced a decade-long partnership and sustainability commitment with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) to develop ocean literacy activities as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development from 2021 to 2030.
The century-old watchmaker is also aiming for a more collaborative and inclusive industry. Last year it revealed the names of all of its suppliers for the Submersible eLAB-ID watch, which was made from 98.6 percent recycled materials.
Collaborators, not competition
According to CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué, who recently headlined the watch industry’s Watches & Wonders event, is only at the early stages of integrating sustainability into business practices.
“When we allowed our competitors access into our ecosystem last year, it was so they wouldn’t spend another three years doing the same research we did,” he said. “Accelerating the process to include other operators that believe in the same goal means we can all create an ecosystem. This gives us critical size and drives the prices down.”
Pontroué says its commitments mirror the shift underway in the luxury market.
“We work with a number of authorities in our business model, such as Prada, as well as our ambassadors Jeremy Jauncey and Mike Horn, who are advocates for environmental preservation,” he says. But it’s also evident in partnerships like with UNESCO.
Pontroué says the organization gave the label access to “hundreds” of scientists “who know better than us where it’s urgent to intervene in the world,” he adds.
With Horn, it tied its limited-edition 2019 Submersible Mike Horn Edition 47mm to an opportunity to join Horn, widely considered one of the greatest adventurers alive, on an expedition to the Arctic. Pontroué says the brand recognizes the need for experiences that “enrich the platforms, the surroundings, the worlds associated to each of our product categories.”
Panerai isn’t the only watchmaker firming up responsible business practices or prioritizing experiential deliverables that go beyond luxury wares. Luxury leader Rolex was born out of altruism and has lived up to that ethos ever since, with quality and ethically sourced materials including recycled metals. But it’s also been driven by its conservation efforts.
Most recently, Rolex announced an Amazon River Basin preservation project with National Geographic. The two-year excursion helmed by National Geographic Explorers, will see some first-of-its-kind data collection in hopes of preventing further forest and river loss.
Panerai is stepping into modern experiences, too, like its recent 50-piece limited-edition timepiece that comes with an NFT and an opportunity to sail Italy’s Amalfi coast in Panerai’s Eilean boat.
“We don’t want to behave like a brand that’s always integrating some gimmick. We are a serious technical brand and we are serious about our products. This NFT is about how we can enrich the customer experience,” Pontroué said.
The NFT is really the start of something bigger, though. Like others in the space, it’s the start of blockchain technology to bring transparency and traceability to the luxury watchmaker’s offerings. Last year saw Cartier along with Prada Group, LVMH, and OTB Group, announce blockchain efforts to bring more transparency to the jewelry and watch industries.
“We don’t want to enter a new field if it is not proven to be an added value to our customers,” he says. “Technology for us is not the final goal. It’s a tool to enrich the customer journey in the Panerai world,” says Pontroué.
Last year, Panerai announced it was joining the Cartier and Kering-led Watches and Jewelry Initiative 2030 to develop shared sustainability objectives for global watch and jewelry brands.
The brand is also bringing attention to the secondhand market and circular economy in a new partnership with pre-owned watch specialist Watchfinder & Co.
“This is the time to learn, absorb, fail, recover, and the time for things to happen. We progressed from a concept watch last year (the ELab ID), to one that we could produce in volume (the eSteel), and an extension this year; in the next few years, our goal is to extend this practice to 75 percent of our assortment,” says Pontroué.
Its recent Submersible collection also highlights its commitment to sustainable horology. Diving deep into the Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro eSteel collection, featuring three models: Verde Smeraldo (sage green), Grigio Roccia (grey) and Blu Profondo (navy blue). They’re all constructed with recycled steel as the base material. Its trademarked Steel is made from 95 percent recycled steel and five percent pure elements. The eSteel makes up 52 percent of total watch weight. Other sustainable materials are used throughout the timepieces, including recycled PET fabric.
For Panerai, all of these initiatives aren’t separate. Like the watches themselves, all the pieces are essential, and are more valuable as part of the whole.
“What we do here allows us to go beyond watchmaking,” says Pontroué, “we are able to create a network of knowledge that allows us to be more impactful.”
Last April, Panerai partnered with gaming giant Razer to support Conservation International.
In an exclusive interview with The Peak, Pontroué and Tan Min-Liang, CEO of Razer, stressed the collaboration’s emphasis on sustainability. “Our focus is on our joint sustainability initiative,” Tan said. This shared environmental vision was evident from their first meeting. “It was two sides of the same coin,” said Tan, adding, “So Jean-Marc and I chatted about our focus on the environment and what we could do together.”
Conservation International’s crucial role, which aligned Razer with its #GoGreenWithRazer initiative and Panerai’s Ocean Conservation Initiative developed with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. Both brands now support Conservation International’s marine species research, including tagging manta rays to gather essential conservation data.
“Five years ago, nobody in the watch business had any idea what sustainability was,” Pontroué said. “Panerai was one of the first watch brands to open that chapter.” This commitment led to collaborations with organizations like IOC-Unesco and Conservation International. “I have no idea what the priorities in the protection of the environment are,” Pontroué admitted, explaining their reliance on external experts for guidance.
Though not the core focus, the partnership has yielded a co-branded luxury timepiece – the Luminor Quaranta Razer. This limited-edition watch, crafted in recycled steel, features hues of neon green and black synonymous with Razer, and it glows in the dark.
“When we first launched our recycled watches, we had people who were hysterical, saying things like, ‘I would never spend money on a watch made of garbage’, and so on,” Pontroué said. “Today, the same people ask us, ‘How can it be that you don’t use recycled components in all your products?’”
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