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Officine Panerai opens its doors in SA

Joining a precinct featuring many of the most sought-after international watch brands in the world at Elegance Jewellers, Officine Panerai has opened its first mono-brand boutique in Sandton City.

While standalone watch boutiques have for decades drawn collectors in Hong Kong, New York, Paris and other key capitals of the world, Officine Panerai’s commitment to Johannesburg is a bold and exciting first for the African continent and marks the 66th boutique in a prestigious international collection. The new boutique was designed by celebrated Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola, who was responsible for recent projects such as the Jewellery Museum in Vincenza and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona, and here celebrates the brand’s Florentine origins and nautical heritage.

Followers of Officine Panerai will instantly sense its global reference in the Johannesburg boutique’s calacatta luccicoso marble floor and the polished bronze and wood characteristic of the display niches. The visual tone is contemporary and elegant – and by all accounts an immediate draw card.

Officine Panerai was for years the official supplier of precision instruments to the Italian navy, in particular the commando frogmen of the unit, and fell under the rules of military secrecy until the late ’90s. Now Officine Panerai develops and produces watches that combine Italian design with Swiss craftsmanship while retaining much of the original and highly coveted military roots of the brand.

‘The Panerai boutiques worldwide are renowned for their charisma and distinctive style, and it’s been a privilege for us to combine that with our family’s passion for watches,’ says Alexi Mavrodaris, MD of Elegance Jewellers, Sandton City.

Elegance Jewellers, now with a new branch in the coveted ‘high street’ Diamond Walk precinct of Sandton City, continues to attract well-travelled clients who understand the Mavrodaris family’s goal of stocking world-renowned watch brands.

The store also hosts a new Jaeger-LeCoultre concept shop-in shop and, another first for SA, a Vacheron Constantin corner. Regular clients can expect to find some exceptional and limited edition pieces sourced at the 2016 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). For example, Elegance will be receiving the entire IWC Pilot range, including the Big Pilot Heritage Watch 48 and a few Boutique Exclusive Editions such as the Big Pilot Rodeo Drive limited to 250 pieces worldwide.

The investment Elegance has made in this new sector of retail is perfectly timed. ‘The South African watch connoisseur has been underestimated for too long,’ says Alexi. ‘There has been an increasing thirst for watch brands to be readily available here and it is really only in the past 10 years that it has become a reality.’

It’s a welcome change for South African watch collectors who would have to travel extensively for a wide selection of watch brands and to secure coveted limited editions. The best in the world has finally found a firm niche in the heart of Johannesburg.

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By Lesley James, Private Edition, Issue 31

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