Lately many brands are opening brand boutiques. It seems like multi-brand retailers are being replaced by brand boutiques, especially in the emerging markets of the Far East, Middle East and the occasional metropole in the US and Europe. And there’s a special side to this new development.
After he visited the new Hublot boutique, our Shanghai resident contributor Mario, now visits the new Panerai boutique. Panerai’s third (!!) boutique in Shanghai, China.
Ni Hao and Ahoy! Panerai have opened one of their “New Concept” boutiques on Nanjing Road – the shopping destination in Shanghai. Panerai’s third boutique in the city is the shape of things to come! It also illustrates how the two brands, Panerai and Shanghai, are linked.
Shanghai, the two characters for which (上海) literally translate into ‘On the Sea’, is a fitting place for Panerai to debut their nautically themed store motif in China. The storefront is nestled in a section of West Nanjing Road (“WNR”) that is lined on both sides with boutiques and retailers that specialize in some of the best names in the watchmaking industry.
The New Concept theme is fitting not just for Panerai – a company that has built it’s reputation over the past 150 years by building watches and instruments for sea-going expeditions. It is also fitting for Shanghai – a city that rose to prominence on a global scale as a busy shipping center at about the same time Guido Panerai founded his humble company. (Interestingly, both Panerai and Shanghai experienced their own forms of renaissance in the early 1990’s! And both have stunned their respective peers by embracing a BIGGER is BETTER approach to design and construction!)
I’m sure Panerai’s interior designers drew inspiration for the new concept from the Panerai sponsored restoration process of the 22-meter luxury yacht Eilean. The Eilean was built in the fateful year 1936 (the same year Giuseppe Panerai began building watches for the Italian Navy). Though the link between Panerai and the Italian Navy is a well-discussed topic, lesser known is the bond between Panerai and pleasure boating. Since 2005, Panerai, through the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, have been at the forefront of the boating community by sponsoring regattas around the oceans of the world. Each year since 2005, Panerai have dedicated blue accented Special Edition models to support the cause.
While the general layout of the stores are about the same (not accounting for differences in hull shape or displacement… er rather, size or shape of the units) the overall feeling of the WNR boutique is more open and more airy. Replacing the traditional, gloss stained oak veneers of previously built-out Panerai stores are smooth swathes of whitewashed teak wood. Though difficult to place at first – after spending some time looking at the vast, wooden display cabinet on the wall to the left of the entrance, the horizontally oriented teak wood began to resemble the layered look of the outer surface of the planet Jupiter. This underscores Panerai’s tie with the great Florentine astronomer and scientist, Galileo Galilei.
The metal bezels surrounding the window displays (which have always resembled port-holes) are now brushed to give them the look of age and purposeful wear. Even the chairs in the seating area have been changed; the cubic, black iron and metal Le Corbusier ‘LC2’ armchairs have been swapped out for more casual, brown Mies Van Der Rohe ‘Barcelona’ chairs. (For you architecture fans, the seats at the display counter are still the same Corbusier LC7 design – though black has been exchanged for brown hide once again.)
Did you know this: the Officine Panerai Boutiques are meeting places where Panerai enthusiasts and collectors can find not only the watches from the collection but also special edition models on sale exclusively.
One familiar feature is the Luminor Marina wall-clock. I estimate its diameter at about 1800mm… slightly larger than a ‘341. (Shop personnel would not tell me if it was a manual wind or quartz movement!)
Many Panerai stores have seating areas (usually the domain of an utterly bored wife and child), however, the new boutique on Nanjing Road is designated as a “Panerai Club” – a place where VIP customers can come to relax. A place to study the history of the brand and a place to read other volumes of things tangentially related to Panerai: Florentine artists and scientists, design and yachting. In the few weeks since the WNR boutique’s opening at the end of May, the ‘Club’ has already played host to several get-togethers and events.
The look of Panerai’s New Concept boutique in Shanghai is a pleasing one, unassuming, unpretentious, bright and inviting. By touching on the Naval past, Panerai’s Yachting links and the tradition of rugged construction built to work on or under a pounding surf, the New Concept’s sea-going theme is an excellent example of how interior design can weave together multiple themes to tell one story.
I would like to thank all of the staff at Officine Panerai in Shanghai – all three locations – for their courteousness, their hospitality and their help. PS. here’s an overview of all Panerai boutiques around the globe.
This article is written by Mario Squillacioti, contributing writer for Monochrome Watches.