Opened this past weekend, the newest Panerai flagship star on Madison Avenue in New York, is lovingly referred to as Casa Panerai and the grand opening did it justice. With celebrities in attendance, and with a portion of Madison Ave at 63rd Street closed to traffic, Casa Panerai is the brand’s largest in the world and marks its commitment to the American market.
From outside, the boutique is all glass and offers an open view inside. Without even going in, passersby get great glimpses into the brand thanks to window displays, but also thanks to the large elements inside that are highly visible outside.
Customers enter the door into a sweeping two-story high boutique with an entire wall of windows in front and on the right looking out to the city. Immediately inside the doors, visitors are greeted by a huge two-story tall 301-square-foot LED video screen on the right that continuously showcases Panerai ‘s sense of adventure in and out of the water with larger-than-life images and videos in all their glory.
Visible from the outside and then again from immediately in the door, is the bold luminous green Panerai clock that comprises the main upper wall facing the street and marking where the second floor of the boutique begins. Visually, guests look down a long hallway from front to back, all chocked with Italian-marble counters and tables, white Italian marble floors and specially made wood and metal showcases that display a carefully curated collection of current pieces and historical timepieces.
On the first floor there is also a boutique in the back where the floors change from white marble to black marble and the walls change from the exposed brick of the historic townhouse to a specially made resin formed in the shape of waves or ripples and hand-painted in Italy to recall Panerai’s marine roots. That space is designed to showcase the Panerai Luminor Due watches and boasts soft, rounded furniture and comfortable seating.
As you move from the front of the store to the back, you are met by a sweeping spiral staircase on the right that takes you to the second floor. The staircase was already in the building and, rather than discard it, Panerai opted for the sustainable choice to keep it. However, the brand totally enhanced it by adding wood treads, wooden spiral surroundings and beautiful handrails. The wood is designed to emulate the deck of Panerai’s sailing ambassador Eilean – a beautiful ketch brought to Italy by Panerai to be masterfully restored to its incredible elegance. It is a sailing tribute to Panerai and its marine roots.
As you ascend the steps, you find yourself coming up on three tall bay windows that also look out onto the street below. The top floor features a wall of the same wood as the stairs, and then an entire long wall from front to back on the left side of the store of exposed brick from the original townhouse.
The brick is covered with glass and as customers make their way from the front to the back, where a great lounge area is located, they are greeted by a superb 30-foot long metal timeline that graces the glass in front of the brick and marks some of the brand’s most important milestones. Objects, images, copies of patents filed and even some interactive exhibits. Adorned with showcases and product, the second floor offers an immersive experience into understanding how this brand has evolved. Also on the second floor is an Espresso and Aperitivo bar where customers can indulge in Italian beverages.
In a private interview with Jean-Marc Pontroue, Panerai’s global CEO, he said the opening of the New York store is a significant milestone. “We are always committed to offering our clients a true Panerai experience, and with this store, our largest store in the world, we can do that. We wanted to relocate to Madison Ave for a while, but it took time to get the right spot. We knew we wanted a corner because visually it is the most beautiful and wanted that luxurious shopping area.”
In fact, according to Pontroue, the brand waited a couple of years for the right location to become available, then spend 18 months getting the right construction permits and planning the boutique. The entire store was conceived of and designed entirely in house by the Panerai Studio’s creative agency located in Milan and under the vigilant eye of Creative Director Alvaro Maggini.
Panerai is using the opening of the boutique to celebrate several new watches and the debut of its limited and exclusive Italian-made clothing and accessories line. The items for sale will be located in one area of the store on the first floor.
Meet The Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon Bronzo
Naturally, no store opening of this size and scope would be complete without a new watch or two. In this case, Panerai unveils a timepiece that pays tribute to the brand’s watchmaking prowess. The Radiomir Tourbillon Bronzo pays tribute to the brand’s history and dedication to craftsmanship. Crafted in bronze, the 45mm watch boasts a tourbillon movement with a cage that rotates every 30 seconds instead of the typical one-minute tourbillon. The constantly moving complication and new open-worked titanium bridges are visible on the dial side and the bridges boast a military green coating using layers of aluminium oxide. Powered by a hand-wound movement with two barrels for four days of power reserve, the watch offers second time zone, 24 scale for day/night indication. It is finished with a brown calf leather strap.
According to Pontroue, the NewYork store opening is just one of 35 new boutique openings happening around the world during the brand’s fiscal year (which ends in March 2024). By that point in time, Panerai will have approximately 220 boutiques globally.
This article by Roberta Naas first appeared in Forbes.com.