KF: Polly, it might not have been a luxury timepiece, but kick things off by tell us - what was the first watch you ever owned?
PV: My first watch was not a luxury watch. The first watch I ever wanted was a Mickey Mouse watch, desperately. I didn’t get one. But I had an American aunt who seemed fantastically glamorous, and when I was about 10 or 11, she gave me a digital watch for Christmas, which I’m fairly sure was Timex. The idea of not having to read a watch face seemed like the most insanely glamorous and futuristic thing.
KF: Alvaro, what was the first watch you had?
AM: It seems a very long time ago. It was given to me by my grandfather, and it was a vintage Zenith. I don’t remember which model it was, but I still have it. It doesn’t work anymore, I need to repair it, but it is a part of my DNA and my family, so it’s very important in my collection.
KF: Anish, what was yours, was it something fabulous?
AB: Not really. I was eight, maybe seven. I was in India, visiting my grandma, and I saw a Timex in a newspaper. This is 30 years ago now, and I was like “wow, that’s so cool, this watch glows in the dark.” I asked my grandma if she would please buy it for me. She said no, it’s too expensive. I tried to throw a tantrum, got slapped. The day that I was leaving to go back to London, she gave it to me. So that was my first watch.
KF: Alvaro, what is a luxury watch? What makes it distinct from other watches?
AM: In my opinion, having had the chance to work in the high-end watch industry for nine years, having an integrated manufacturer is very important. To have a competent watchmaker is very important. The designer, the new concepts and creatives, this is all very important. But rarity is something that everybody wants, and is probably what makes them exclusive. I suppose that good watches in luxury are all well done. I don’t make judgements on what’s the best or not so good – but everything needs to be controlled by the manufacturer. If you start to go out to suppliers and use outside information, you lose the identity, the preciousness, the attention, the details, you lose everything. I think the secret is always that you’re the best, you are the only one, you know what’s best. If you are there at the beginning of the product, you check everything, the details. It’s not just about being Swiss, it’s about being the best, and making the best, and being rare. Less is more.
KF: Panerai has a really interesting military history. Is history a large part of what drives the client to the brand or a particular watch?
AM: Our new CEO has tried to go back to the past, to the history. We try to work with the past, but our legacy is the future, it’s what’s happening now. I think that Panerai can be described in a couple of words. The first word is ‘water’. There are a lot of watch brands connected to water. And you have ‘military’. There are fewer of them, and Panerai is the only brand worldwide that’s Italian designed with Swiss-made mechanics. These are the key words, the ingredients that help us do what we do. And what we do isn’t just about watches, we are about identity, about feelings, about emotion, about patience. We don’t sell luxury, we don’t sell watches, we sell emotion. This is the cradle of our new strategy and philosophy.
KF: Anish, what drew you into the world of luxury watches?
AB: I think it’s a mixture of things. The mechanics, especially, the interesting ways of telling the time. I’m a very visual person, and the aesthetics, the way it looks, the way it makes me feel, the story, the history of a certain piece – it might be a vintage watch, might be new – what that watch says about me, how I feel when I wear it. It’s a very emotional purchase. When I think about it, the function of a watch telling the time is almost secondary, tertiary even, to the reason why I buy and collect watches. For me, it’s a mechanical piece of art that I can look at, and every time I notice something different about it. It sparks conversations between people, there are communities around the world and people meet and become friends because of this thing.
KF: So it connects people?
AB: Absolutely, yes.