But there are good reasons beyond relationship maintenance for watch brands to engage in these practices. “VIP clients were always, albeit discreetly, getting direct access to special editions and novelties,” says Davidoff. “[Which] seems logical, as brands want to pre-sell as much as possible before launching their productions due to major wait times and costs of advancing gold for cases and things like that.” Essentially, brands aren’t just satisfying their best and most voracious customers—they’re setting up a weathervane. It’s not far-fetched to think what sells well with the biggest enthusiasts will appeal to the average customer, too. “It is definitely the most important time of the year because it’s the hype of the start of the season,” Esteban Palacino, a Panerai boutique manager. “If we’re not able to plant the seeds right now, it’s going to be much tougher to do so throughout the year.”
The watch industry—like most companies dealing with luxury items—is built on this sort of constant gladhanding. In 2018, Audemars Piguet organized a private performance from John Mayer for the brand’s VVIP customers. Dosal tells me about a time he was flown to New York by Montblanc—not for watches but for the latest collection of fancy pens. Panerai goes a step further, including in every collection something it calls an Experience Watch. Buy one and you’re signed up for an activity organized by the brand. Dosal previously purchased a L’Astronomo that can with a trip to Switzerland, where he could tour the Panerai factory and meet the person who made his watch. (He’s rescheduling this jaunt for after COVID.)
Back on the Zoom, eager clients are asking questions and pondering purchases that will help set the course for the rest of Panerai’s year. This year at Watches & Wonders, one of Panerai’s most important releases is a watch, eLAB-ID, that is made almost completely out of recyclable material. The product won’t be ready to ship for a couple of years, but the brand is already taking reservations for it. Dosal, though, is drawn to the brand’s new collaboration with Prada, a sporty navy blue model. Hel has his eyes on a few other watches, too, but they won’t be out until next year. We still don’t have an idea of what they look like. Dosal knows, though, and he’s thinking about buying a few.