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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inside Panerai’s Americas Flagship Boutique In Miami

 Photo by Doug Castanedo

Officine Panerai’s new Americas Flagship boutique in Miami serves as a symbol of the city’s vibrant luxury scene while it represents the watch brand’s heritage.

The two-story, 2,200-square-foot retail space opened officially in July in an area dedicated to luxury watch and jewelry brands in the burgeoning Miami Design District. Angelo Bonati, CEO of Panerai, insists that the boutique represents a long-term commitment to the American market, the city of Miami and the design district—which has grown to become an international center for modern art, architecture and design.

Panerai CEO, Angelo Bonati  Photo by Doug Castanedo

“Miami is the most important boutique in the United States. Not yet in terms of sales. (But) in terms of representing Panerai because Miami is a city of art,” says Bonati during an interview inside the new boutique. “Miami is the door of the United States. For me it is the correct mix to establish the image of the brand.”

The boutique represents a new design for the brand created by Patricia Urquiola, a Spanish-born Italian-educated architect and designer. Bonati says it was important to choose a designer who understood Italian culture. (On Urquiola’s Wikipedia page it notes that the she is “Spanish by birth and Italian by choice.”) In addition, Bonati says the two worked together on exhibitions in Milan and Beijing.

 Photo by Doug Castanedo

“She brought all the characteristics to express all the elements of Panerai, which is not easy to understand. Plus we had an experience with her because she was the director of an exhibition in Milan where the theme was time,” he says. “It was a very important exhibition and we were very impressed with her work.

He adds, “It was her first experience working on a boutique for us and this is important because she was not (influenced) by other brands. If you do shops for different brands you cannot avoid mixing the styles.”

 Photo by Doug Castanedo

The long, narrow retail space has a contemporary edge but still references the Florentine roots and seafaring nature of the watch brand, which at one time created timepieces for the Italian navy. For example, one wall is made of light-brown woods while the other is made of undulated and transparent glass designed to replicate light being refracted and reflected in ocean water. The water theme is further enhanced with wall displays fashioned like ship portals. Rows of down lights have the appearance of light fixtures from an old ship.

The center element for the boutique is a chandelier designed to replicate Panerai watch movements that runs the length of the high ceiling on each floor.

At the entrance of a stairway leading to the second floor there’s an antique scuba suit. Long copper bars frame the stairway. On the second floor there’s a large replica of a Panerai Luminor Marina watch face with hour markers and watch hands in a green luminescent finish. The upper space extends to outside walkway/patio. It will be used for private sales, parties and art exhibits.

 Photo by Doug Castanedo

The Panerai boutique is located at the end of Palm Court, a two-story blue-hued structure designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto (his first US project). It is an area of the Miami Design Center dedicated to luxury watch and jewelry brand boutiques. A. Lange & Sohne, Hublot, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega, Parmigiani Fleurier, Piaget, TAG Heuer, Tourbillon, Vacheron Constantin, Vhernier, Yvel, Audemars Piguet and Van Cleef and Arpels, are among Panerai’s neighbors. Most of the boutiques are open with the remaining to open in 2016.

Outside Palm Court there’s a replica of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome and a large fiberglass bust of Le Corbusier by French artist Xavier Veilhan. This is in character with the intention of the Miami Design District to house landmark buildings created by world-class architects and site-specific art works by internationally renowned modern artists.

On the right is Palm Court. In the foreground is a large fiberglass bust of Le Corbusier in the back is a replica of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome. Photo by Robin Hill

Palm Court is the latest phase in the Miami Design District, a 20-year project to covert an abandoned furniture and interior design center into an international art and design district with luxury shopping, world-class restaurants, museums, hotels and housing. The 18-block area is expected to be fully completed by the end of 2016, says Craig Robins, CEO of Dacra Development, who has led the development of the district.

Bonati says the Design District and Miami’s importance as an international modern art and design destination is complimentary with Panerai’s Florentine pedigree. This is what he wants to convey with the new boutique.

“Art and design is linked to the brand. You can see the detail. You can easily understand something that is timeless because this design was made in 1936 but it’s still contemporary now,” he says. “Florence is an expression of art that is universal because Florence expresses something unique that nobody can be able to express in the future. But Miami through this modernity, through this design and contemporary art is another expression for the future that can be very important. I love Miami for that. Most European people love Miami for that.”  

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