Paolo Marai, the president-chief executive of Timex Group (luxury division), was always interested in watches—a passion he inherited from his father and grandfather.
But before joining the watch world as a professional, Marai had to work in different sectors to gain the relevant experience. Born in 1960 in Milan, Italy, Marai graduated from Bocconi University and started his career in 1986 with French group Thomson Consumer Electronics, heading their audio division. He later became a partner of Unicad Sistemi, a company at the forefront of innovative 3D CAD services at the time.
His interest in design and luxury encouraged him to move towards the fashion and watch world, working with iconic brands, including Fendi, Dior, Vuitton, and Kenzo. Prior to being appointed as president and CEO of Timex Group luxury division in April 2005, he held leadership positions within sales and marketing departments at the Swatch Group. In an interview with Lounge, he shares his insights on the group's sustainability initiatives, logomania and the secondhand luxury watch market. Edited excerpts:
With luxury retail opening post-pandemic, do you see any specific trend emerging in how consumers are interacting with luxury products?
Overall, the consumer is now much more conscious of what to purchase, in terms of brand values and ethical aspects of the production chain. Also, consumers are expecting a much more customised level of service at retail.
How do you see the future of luxury retail evolving?
The future of retail stands on the omni-channel approach. Brands must guarantee a consistent journey through all touch points to the final consumer: from online to offline. For luxury brands, retail will always be important as long as the experiences at POS are in line with all information the consumer collects during the research process. At the same time, while brands must stress their brand identity, retail must be able to make the consumer see these differences.
Please describe your personal relationship with luxury during the pandemic and growing the brands.
I have to admit that I felt very little difference during the pandemic period. To have a factory that has been running operations at all time made me feel almost no difference. In general terms, growing several brands in the watch segment is a unique experience, especially when they all have a different DNA and positioning. You learn really a lot.
What has been the process of growing brands during the pandemic?
Understand the brand, live and breathe with them, dedicate specific resources, understand market reactions and adjust your global strategy to local needs.
Would you like to elaborate on the new sustainability initiatives of Timex Group?
At Timex Group, we are particularly sensitive to sustainability and we have a lot of initiatives going on. Salvatore Ferragamo is widely engaged in changing several production processes into more sustainable ones. And we have already launched two sustainable timepieces: good news they were quickly sold out.
The logomania trend has eclipsed the luxury industry. Do you see the trend going strong in the coming season?
We believe logomania will stay forever, sometimes with a less focused approach, sometimes in a more evident way. It also depends from brand to brand which other distinctive traits are available to make your product distinctive and unique.
Do you see a shift towards consumers opting for bespoke or personalised pieces?
Made to order is definitively the ultimate luxury experience and we have clear evidence for this also in the watch industry.
What's your take on the growing second-hand/vintage goods category on apps like Real Real?
Second hand sales are showing a strong growth in the luxury watch industry, but we believe that the market is right now far too inflated.