According to Panerai’s first creative director, Alvaro Maggini, the role of a creative director in the world of watchmaking is similar to one in the fashion industry.
The goal is not only to work on strategy in terms of products, but to create a strong and coherent message in terms of brand image. “Watches and Wonders 2021 represents one of the most thrilling moments for me,” recalls Maggini, opening up the conversation. “We launched a very strong message linked to the Ecologico project, and in this occasion, we worked on a very powerful video which doesn’t show a product but conveys only our goal and mission.”
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, to say nothing of what Panerai has created towards sustainability in the world of watchmaking. To learn more about this particular topic and more about the brand as a whole, we spoke to the man at the forefront of the brand’s creative ventures.
DAMAN: As the Creative Director of Panerai, could you tell us a little bit more about you do? What does a typical workday look like for you?
Alvaro Maggini: I was appointed Creative Director of Panerai in February 2019 and I am responsible for shaping the brand’s global image and giving stylistic continuity to Panerai’s mission, creating timepieces for modern heroes.
DAMAN: When you took over, what was the biggest difference from your previous role?
Alvaro Maggini: I first stepped into the watchmaking industry when I was named Creative Director at Roger Dubuis in 2011, where I worked on the Excalibur, Hommage, Velvet, La Monégasque and Pulsion collections. After this experience, I jumped into Jaeger-LeCoultre, where I was appointed Head of Creative Strategy from 2017 to 2019, working with the goal of creating a unified vision rooted to the brand’s birthplace. Looking back to where I started, the biggest difference is the fact that in Panerai, I work closely with the CEO to detect the future path of the brand and I am not responsible for the product design and development.
DAMAN: On that note, what are the biggest challenges you face today as a creative director in the watchmaking industry?
Alvaro Maggini: The watchmaking industry has always been very rooted to its origins and it’s not that easy to come out with innovative ideas and strategies. Another difficult task is to develop a coherent brand image, in line with the heritage of the brand but also keeping an eye on trends and future challenges.
DAMAN: What aspects of horology appeal to you the most? Are you more interested in, say, the technical side of things, the aesthetics of watchmaking, the philosophical elements or something else?
Alvaro Maggini: As Creative Director, what really fascinates me is beauty. So, I’m really into the aesthetics. But at the same time, everything that surrounds me must have a purpose, a meaning; so I’m also keen on the more philosophical aspects. I really like to question myself.
DAMAN: Moving on, could you tell us more about the recent Watches & Wonders presentation and how was it for Panerai?
Alvaro Maggini: During Watches & Wonders, we decided to broaden our chronograph product line, reaffirming Panerai’s role in the sphere of chronographs and providing the right timepiece to ensure long-lasting accuracy in every moment of life. The introduction of the Piccolo Due corresponds to a versatile and eclectic expression of Italian taste, enhancing its emblematic identity through an unusual interpretation tinged with a charge of unexpected femininity. Another milestone is then represented by the Submersible eLAB-ID, a rule-breaking masterpiece in Panerai history, which emphasizes the deep concern of Panerai towards the status of global environmental crisis, as well as the Luminor Marina eSteel. We are very proud of the hard work we did, also because all the models have been positively accepted by the press and our customers.
DAMAN: What’s your favorite from the new releases at this year’s Watches and Wonders?
Alvaro Maggini: I really appreciate the Submersible eLAB-ID because of the effort we put to develop it. The eLAB-I is undoubtedly a masterpiece of Panerai history and it emphasizes the deep concern of Panerai towards the status of the global environmental crisis. To co-create this model, we partnered with 10 suppliers of different industries, all eager to work toward creating a more sustainable future based on a circular use of natural resources. The main difficulties came up because some suppliers never worked with a watch brand before and we all wanted to find the best and most suitable materials, which are both durable and appropriate for a watch.
DAMAN: Turning to the themes this year, we have heard different and sometimes conflicting opinions on just how sustainable a watch can be. What’s Panerai’s position, given that the eLAB-ID is a pretty interesting proposition?
Alvaro Maggini: The Submersible eLAB-ID is proof that sustainability can exist in the watchmaking industry, as in all other sectors. It has been hard and co-creating this watch represented a huge challenge for us, but Panerai was really focused on creating a sustainable timepiece, also because we would like to implement a number of recycled or upcycled elements in our watch collections.
DAMAN: Aside from the sustainability factor, what are some of the key elements that is needed to ensure that the next collection from Panerai continues to excite and inspire?
Alvaro Maggini: I think that it’s important to innovate and present new models and features, but keeping an eye on the past, blending new and old aspects.
DAMAN: On the other hand, how does the heritage and history of Panerai influence today’s new pieces and collections?
Alvaro Maggini: Heritage is a strong theme for Panerai and most of our watches are strongly linked to our roots. This year we launched the new Radiomir Eilean, whose features were born in 1936 with the very first Radiomir model, an instrument devised to support marine missions and named for the material patented by Guido Panerai to illuminate dials and sights.
DAMAN: As we can see from the recent Watches & Wonders, green dials have been trending this year. What are your thoughts on the color and what do you think will the next trend be?
Alvaro Maggini: Much like the fashion industry, the watchmaking one is also characterized by annual trends. For us, the Luminor Marina eSteel features a green dial, and this color represented sustainability, as it is another concrete example of the combination of new and sustainable materials, since 89g of the Luminor Marina eSteel components are made of recycle-based materials, corresponding to 58,4 percent of the total weight of the watch—which is 152,4g. Both its case and dial feature the new recycled-based steel alloy.
DAMAN: Speaking about trends, what do you think is the key to creating a product that’s as attractive to a 20-year-old as it is to a 60-year-old?
Alvaro Maggini: It might seem a difficult task, but in my opinion, it is important to develop watches with old elements, which are appealing features for older customers, but giving them a twist, which excites the younger generation.
DAMAN: The Luminor become an iconic collection from Panerai. In your opinion, what are the prerequisites to making an iconic watch today?
Alvaro Maggini: A watch can be considered as iconic when it has some unique features that recall immediately to the brand. For example, the Panerai Luminor is an icon due to its dimensions and to some distinctive aspects, as the safety lock crown protection device.
DAMAN: What do you think differentiates a watch for a man and a watch for a woman? Is it time to move beyond such distinctions?
Alvaro Maggini: Among our customers, we have a lot of women who like wearing watches with big cases, but the main difference is that women usually look for materials that express femininity, and this is what we kept in mind when we designed the Panerai Piccolo Due Madreperla.
DAMAN: In your opinion, will the watch industry landscape be forever changed by this pandemic? And what will the watchmaking industry look like post the COVID-19 crisis?
Alvaro Maggini: A lot of brands will invest more on digital strategies and sustainability, not only in terms of products, but also in the supply chain.
“I am responsible for shaping the brand’s global image and giving stylistic continuity to Panerai’s mission, creating timepieces for modern heroes”
DAMAN: On the other hand, what are some of the positives the pandemic will bring to the watchmaking industry?
Alvaro Maggini: From an economic point of view, several brands sold a lot during the pandemic, as watches are considered goods that maintain their value through time. This
crazy period allowed us to stop and to reshape our strategy, overcoming boundaries that characterized the watchmaking industry. For example, many brands started approaching social media channels to keep the conversation going with their customers and invested more on e-commerce. So, we can say that the pandemic boosted innovation in the communication landscape.
DAMAN: Back to the pipeline, what other surprises we should expect in 2021 from Panerai?
Alvaro Maggini: Besides Watches & Wonders, we entered in a collaboration with high-end tech-luxury brand BRABUS. To celebrate the start of the partnership, Panerai debuted its first-ever skeletonized automatic movement in a daring, high-end watch inspired by the design of the BRABUS “Shadow Black Ops” series of boats.
DAMAN: And finally, what are you most excited about for Panerai in 2022?
Alvaro Maggini: Next year will be characterized by Panerai experiences, which will take place in several countries. We are all very excited about it. We can’t wait to attend physical events with our customers and live unforgettable moments with them once again.
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