Panzera, an Australian watch brand established in 2009, specialises in the production of mechanical watches at an affordable price. One of the brand’s co-directors, Roger Cooper, tells WatchPro about the challenges and opportunities of being an Australian brand trying to make a mark in the global watch industry.
WatchPro: How hard is it to be a watch brand based in Australia?
Roger Cooper: Being based in Australia works out very well for us. Because our customers are spread across North America, Asia and Europe, our time zone here generally covers all regions during business hours. However we do find ourselves working either side of midnight occasionally so it can be a long day. We have strong distributors/agents in most regions now so that definitely helps a lot.
WP: How have things gone for Panzera in foreign territories like the UK?
RC: Foreign territories (export markets) have now become the largest part of our business. In the UK we first entered the market in 2014 and exhibited at the London Watch Show where we launched our Limited Edition Breuer 47 Mechanical Chronograph. The brand and the new collection gained a lot of attention, and subsequently the Breuer 47 Collection completely sold out within just a few months.
We find consumers in the UK have an affinity for our Australian products and also mechanical watches. These have been the ingredients for the recent strong growth for us in that market.
WP: What ambitions do you have for the brand in the UK over the next 12 months?
RC: Currently we have a select group of Panzera authorised resellers in the UK. Our ambition over the next 12 months is to expand our retail footprint to make the brand even more accessible to the UK consumer. However we will always see ourselves as a bit of a boutique brand. We quite like that it keeps our customers owning something more individual/unique than a mainstream watch brand. It also offers our retailers something more unique to offer their customers.
WP: What changes (if any) have you noticed in the global watch industry over the last couple of years? Are consumer trends and retail trends evolving?
RC: The biggest change we have witnessed in recent years has been the introduction of the smartwatch and of course most notably the Apple watch.
When it was announced that Apple were planning to create a smartwatch, many inside and outside the watch industry, including the media, were convinced that the traditional watch industry would be decimated. Fast forward a few years to today and I think we would all agree that the traditional watch industry is bigger and stronger than ever. If anything the introduction of the smartwatch has only broadened the watch industry and introduced the concept of owning and wearing a watch to a younger generation that never even considered wearing a watch before smartwatches became available.
In terms of retail in general, obviously online purchasing is one of the key changes of this millennium. It is still however just as important for the consumer to be able to see and feel the product in real life to get an appreciation of the quality of a timepiece, for example. That experience is best achieved in a physical store and we think the hybrid retailers who combine the best of e-commerce sales/marketing with bricks and mortar display stores will be the retail leaders of the future.
WP: What are your biggest challenges and hurdles in the UK and elsewhere?
RC: One of the biggest challenges we face is the length of time it takes to introduce a new mechanical watch range. We take around two years from initial conception, design, engineering, manufacture, and testing until a new collection is finally ready to be released. Although this process is quite time consuming it is a choice we have made from the beginning to ensure that all Panzera mechanical watch collections achieve the high standards that both our consumers and ourselves expect from Panzera.
WP: What is it about Panzera that will interest UK watch retailers and consumers alike?
RC: Panzera brings freshness to the watch industry in the UK. Long established brands are basically everywhere and to a high degree there is no point of difference, both for consumers and stores alike. It can become quite repetitive. Panzera is a unique, fresh, fast growing brand offering high quality mechanical watches at an accessible price point, which is what many consumers are looking for right now.
Our concept of taking classic designs and updating them to build ‘Modern-Vintage’ timepieces as we call them means our watches appeal to a very broad range of people and also will never go out of style unlike many of the fashion watches out there. Lastly it is hard for people to value our watches. The build, design, packaging and quality of our watches means people will think they are worth 3-4 times the retail price. This was the feedback from the majority of retailers when we launched in the UK.
Retailers we partner with enjoy attractive margins on high quality and fast moving watch collections sold at sensible retail price points. Additionally retailers benefit from local on the ground support and active brand promotion through our official UK sales agent.