Chronos Plus Interview with the PANZERA Founders
PANZERA is, first and foremost, a product of love; the love of classic automatic watches shared by two Australians, Roger Cooper and Andrew Herman. Both having years of experience in key posts related to retail and sales, they began creating watches for themselves and their friends, drawing inspiration from the past. Soon, those first creations acquired collectable value, eventually leading to the establishment of Panzera in Sydney, back in 2009. Panzera is committed to providing value for money in everything from its design and high-quality craftsmanship to its elegant packaging, efficient customer service and extensive guarantees. Today, Panzera has a presence in more than 50 countries around the world, with over 100,000 customers worldwide. All of their key manufacturing processes, from initial design to assembly and quality control, take place at the brand’s workshops in Sydney and Lugano. After talking to the two men, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that a good watch isn’t about its price.
How important is the “friendship” factor in the creation and development of a business collaboration?
Roger Cooper: The Friendship factor is definitely a big plus for us. Right from the start, as long-term friends, we knew we would get along as business partners. Something when two strangers start a business you are not so sure about. Also, when you start a new global business like Panzera there are a lot of activities to do and not many people to do them. This means you can’t always do things on a normal 9-5 business basis and often it ends up being on a 24×7 basis! So, it is great to have someone you know as a friend you can contact and work with any time, day or night, and not be limited by business hours or weekends. As friends we also knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so it was easy for us to assign appropriate roles in the business to best leverage these. As friends we have always shared a strong enthusiasm for watches which has really helped sustain a really positive energy in the business. This was particularly important in the very early days of us first starting Panzera, when there was a lot of effort and investment needed for not much return.
What are the elements that make Panzera watches stand out?
Roger Cooper: Firstly and foremost it is our designs. We have always designed watches we want to wear ourselves and not just to be trendy or marketable. Our watches have been big and bold men’s watches, that make a real statement about who wears them. They all come with automatic movements. This has been important because it differentiates us from the mass market quartz fashion watches out there and attracts people who appreciate, or even collect, unique time pieces. We wanted to get a bit of a cult following from people who share our passion for our designs, and we seem to have succeeded. We have a very loyal and passionate fan base out there now. Many of our owners own two, three, or more Panzera watches which is to us, a true sign of success. Secondly everything about our watches feels a lot more expensive and premium than the price point customers are paying. That is confirmed both by direct feedback from our customers as well as the comments they get when they wear one of our watches to show their friends. Most people agree a Panzera watch looks and feels like a very high-end watch that is 4-5 times its value. We also support this high value with a 2-year warranty, high end packaging and fast priority delivery service we use to dispatch our watches globally. By offering the watches directly to the consumer we can provide this level of end to end quality without having to compromise despite our very attractive pricing.
Your collections have strong retro vibes. Why did you choose this design approach?
Andrew Herman: Our basis for initial designs was to take features from retro/classical watches we liked and then add our own design features and enhancements to make them more contemporary and useable. The London Watch Show in 2014 branded us as having the best “Modern Vintage” watch designs, which at the time reflected pretty accurately our early ranges and where we were headed as a brand. For example, our first watch design, the Flieger 47, was based on the classic 1930’s “Flieger” Germon pilot watch which we wanted to keep very close to the original design and specifications. We even retained the original German name. However, we still managed to add splashes of color to brighten the dial, a turbine like display back to the movement, and some bright strap options, all to make it more relevant to today’s buyer. Most of our later designs have all still kept some subtle aspects of classic watches, for example the pillow shaped case in the Aquamarine 45, or the absolute minimalistic dial design of the Breuer 43, but otherwise have taken on the new aspects of our own designs. This approach ensures our watches look contemporary and unique but still have a “familiar” classical feel. It keeps them both timeless and attractive to a very broad audience. Based on this ”neo-classical” design philosophy we like to think our watches will still be as attractive in 50 years’ time as some of the classic watches from 50 years ago are today.
Do you believe Panzera watches can compete with Swiss-made watches on equal terms?
Roger Cooper: That is a very interesting question. Interesting because Panzera makes both Swiss Made watches and our locally produced watches here in Australia. So, it is a question we can answer from first-hand experience. The answer is “yes”. From a popularity and sales number perspective, our Australian made watches dominate with our customers far ahead of our Swiss watches. We even sell a lot of Australian watches to Switzerland, as one of our strongest markets in Europe which we consider a bit of coup! From a watch quality and feel perspective, the Australian watches using the bullet proof Japanese movements are very hard to beat and of course these are available at a much more accessible price point. The only thing missing is the perceived prestige/value that goes with owning a Swiss Made product. We can fully understand the attraction to that to many people, which is why we offer the option of our Swiss Made models as well. If someone did not know whether they were wearing an Australian or Swiss made watch I think it would be very difficult to tell without looking for the “Swiss Made” on the dial. Also, owning an Australian Made watch is probably a bit more unique!
Who is Panzera’s audience?
Andrew Herman: That is a difficult question. Our audience is very broad. Due to our relatively low price point we are accessible to a very large market. It ranges from people in an age group of 25-70. Many of our customers are buying their first mechanical watch. However, we also have a lot of customers who have serious watch collections, including very high-end brands. They like the fact that a Panzera does not look out of place in their expensive collection but can also be worn as a daily watch to work or recreation. Geographically, we have our strongest markets in Europe (France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland), UK, USA and Australia. These tend to dominate due to their preference for larger men’s watches. With some of our newer models soon becoming available in smaller sizes, we are going to engage more in the Asian markets in the second half of this year. Having such a broad audience and geography makes it both a challenge and an opportunity to market to so many different types of people in so many different geographies. It does importantly align with our original goal for Panzera, which was always to make our watches accessible to anybody who appreciates the design and quality of our watches, not just to people who can afford expensive/exclusive watches.