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Panerai Manufacture visit

By Marc AKA "laphroaig007"

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Visiting the holy grail

Officine Panerai is till date very reluctant with inviting customers to their factory in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Our dear fellow Panerista Marc AKA "laphroaig007" was lucky enough to be finally invited and shared his report on the forum. To be sure the story will be kept alive I requested Marc if I could share his story and images on Paneristi.in and he approved.

There are in this report more images than text, as they speak more than words.

All text and images are credit to Marc AKA "laphroaig007", you can follow him on Instagram @laphroaig007

My visit to Officine Panerai Manufacture in Switzerland

I had the great opportunity to visit the Officine Panerai Manufacture in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) in late April 2017. Thanks to the Geneva boutique for letting me to make this visit that I had been waiting for so many years.

The manufacture is classy, ultra "clean and sleek". Very modern, in fact, probably the most modern of all the ten watch manufactures I’ve been visiting so far.

No photos were allowed inside the production premises, Officine Panerai continues to keep it secret, but having real Paneristi doing the grand tour inside is a bit of a big change for them!

Bringing my PAM00665 Ferretti along

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Officine Panerai a Swiss & Italian company

The company Officine Panerai is indeed settled with official headquarters in Geneva (where it is actually A.Bonati’s office), manufacture in Neuchâtel and Marketing and Communication Dept in Milan. So it is clear it is a Swiss and Italian company!

The manufacture has clearly become a real "manufacture", I mean a real manufactory, real production premises, with manufacturing of components, such as "ébauches", calibers, bridges, but also with assembly, time adjustments, controls, etc… CNC and other assembly machines are numerous.
250 people work in Neuchâtel at the factory.

The cases are manufactured at a subsidiary of Richemont, Donzé Baume in la Chaux de Fonds, for those made of traditional materials like steel or precious metals or titanium. The dials are outsourced there too in a subsidiary of Richemont. Valfleurier produces a part of the in-house calibers, but it is not the majority. And to this day there are almost only 2 calibres sourced outside, including the Valjoux.

Being picked by Officine Panerai

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Approaching Officine Panerai Manufacture

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At the entrance of Officine Panerai

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Officine Panerai more open to customer visits

Having final-end customers visit their premises is new to them, they think they will develop a little more in the future, as part of a broader thought of services to be provided to customers.

Looking at the Manufacture scale model

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High-End Manufacture

The manufacture clearly aims at a high-end positioning. This is mainly some marketing thing. Whether or not they are high-end is not my purpose there. But it is clear that the visit of the factory confirms that the Richemont group has put the means to realize a top-technology production premises. Sustainable building, use of hydraulic only electricity, for instance. As well as robots and a complete digitalized supply chain. Quite amazing to be honest!

For instance, they use automatic and intelligent computer-run and computer-controlled conveyor belts during the final assembly of watch movements, and even the chronometry control stations.
When visiting the manufacture you understand that Panerai has really moved on from the limited Paneristi bunch of friends brand to a high-end luxury brand. Still, they continue to claim that they want to retain exclusivity. So they will continue to produce probably around 50-60000 watches per year, not necessarily more.

In the breefing room

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Getting my uniform

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Taking a P.2003 movement apart

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The movement in parts

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Comparing watches at lunch time

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The PAM00700 LAB-ID

I had to opportunity to have a look at one of the latest Special Editions Officine Panerai introduced a the last SIHH, the PAM00700. The 49mm watch has a new P3001/C movement, the dial has a coating of carbon nanotubes which makes the dial completely intense black and as it is impossible to print or engrave anything on the dial, all the figures are formed directly on the dial crystal. This is the first Panerai watch with a 50-years maintenance cycle.
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Changing to PAM Pre-A4 and the last notes

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Offcine Panerai = Italian Design

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Officine Panerai = Swiss Technology

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Some notes on Officine Panerai

In 1997, when Mr. A.Bonati took over the management, he decided the brand should be exclusive and imagined all watches would be made in limited quantities, creating the "millesimal" system of which we are still big fans nowadays!
Furthermore, referring to the history of Panerai and finding among this history all the necessary codes for future production was also a major marketing and vintage innovative trick.

The manufacture is classy, ultra "clean and sleek". Very modern, in fact, probably the most modern of all the ten watch manufactures I’ve been visiting so far.

On the other hand they also confirmed that they stopped the increase in pricing and that they would be careful to offer more for same price in the future. For instance, the very soon to come Submersible BMG-TECH made out of Bulk metallic glass, a rather innovative material, is reasonably priced when compared to regular Submersible.

The R&D innovation department now consists of 4 people, and it confirms the brand's will to keep on developing innovations in materials, industrial processes, machinery, etc. The new Lab ID is a true example.
From my point of view, the OP manufacture did not appeared to not going well and being lethargic…
On the contrary, I had the feeling that Richemont had put a lot of financial and technological resources inside Panerai.

2017 and future objectives

  • The new colored rubber bracelets (green, dark blue, light blue, orange, etc.) are coming soon.
  • The 2017 novelties will soon arrive, during summer, June for the much-expected BMG Submersible.
  • Panerai’s future will still be a mix between historical codes from old and vintage as well as new materials, processes, technologies.
  • The brand wishes to develop a new customer experience in the future. They wish to be more close to their customers and let them live a true and whole Panerai experience. It means more manufacture visits, maybe more interactive internet and social networks relationships, etc. In my guess, they will also listen more and more to customer requests or specific details.
  • The After-sales and Repair Department is partly located in Neuchâtel’s manufacture, and they mainly deal with Vintage PreV and older watches, complication watches. Other Repair departments do exist in many other countries to reduce delivery and repair time.
  • Each watchmaker now runs a tablet-assist process to repair watches, so that the Quality control department in Neuchâtel gets all information about failures or weaknesses or malfunctions, etc. Watchmakers must indeed type in their iPad things like when they intervene, detailed operations they conducted on watches and detailed repairs they did. All this information goes directly to the Manufacture Director.

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