nick foulkes

nick foulkes

Nicholas Foulkes remember Monty and the Panerai story. Nick Foulkes is an English historian, author, and journalist. He has written extensively about 19th-century social history as well as the history of luxury goods. He wrote for the most important Magazine in the world.

I Will miss Monty Shadow, a great bear-like man with a booming voice, glossy black ringlets, and glamorous girlfriend, Audrey……… Covid has robbed the world of watches and the wider universe of luxury goods of one of its more exotic inhabitants.

Monty moved in mysterious ways-some said he had been a Yugoslavian basketball star, others described him as a Montenegrin socialite. He certainly worked as a photographer (Shadow’s Shady Ladies was one of his books), but by the time I met him about 25 years ago he was a fabulously unconventional colossus on the luxury goods scene.

Movements of Maverick

Exuberant and colourful, Monty Shadow introduced Sylvester Stallone to Panerai and helped create one of the 21st century’s most successful watch brands. By Nicholas Foulkes

The watch world of the 1990s was a more freewheeling place than it is today, but even by the standards of the time Monty was a maverick. He worked completely outside the executive structure for which he had a scarcely concealed disdain. Emínence grise is an insufficiently colourful term to describe what he did; his friend and colleague for many years Richemont boss Johann Rupert prefers the term “truffle dog”. One of the biggest truffle  he ever unearthed was Panerai, and part of that discovery was one of the most enduring movie-star/watch relationships in the  history of horology.

According to Panerai online research authority Perezscope, it began ın 1995 ın characteristically flamboyant fashion when Monty “arrived at the premıses of Officine Panerai SpA ın the outskırts of Florence in a white Bentley Contınental convertible and proposed to the management a plan to promote Panerai watches with top-tier celebrities.”

Monty had introduced Sly Stallone to the brand; hence Panerai’s appareance in the film Daylight and the makıng of the now famous Sly Tech models. Subsequently the brand became something of a totem amongst 1990s Hollywood hard men, with Arnold Schwarzenegger also wearıng one.

But more germane to the future of Panerai were Monty’s contacts beyond the Hollywood community. One day Johann  Rupert saw a Sly Tech on the wrist of South African entrepreneur Rob Hersov  and asked what it was. “Rob saıd it was a Panerai,” says Rupert. “I gave him my Cartier Tank Française. I said, “Take that you wear that, I want to wear this.” I went home and the kids asked wath it was  and were all inquisitive.

Later that evening, Rupert went for dinner at La Famiglia. On the next  was Gianluca Vialli – a  sophisticated iItalian who was playing for Chelsea.He asked to see the watch. “He took it, he went, ‘Ah  bella, bella… Can buy it?” Says Rupert. “I said no, so he asked where he could get one. And l said “I’Il let you know.”

The next day Rob Hersov went to Rupert’s office and retumed the watch. “I said to Rob, “Here’s your watch.I want to buy it!

Rob said, “You can have it. I can get another one from Monty” .Not the watch, clarified Rupert – he wanted to buy the company.

“So, I take it to what was in those days Vendôme [precursor to Richemont],” says Rupert. Incredible though it may seem today, the board was not interested, although eventually they saw sense. “The worst thing was that the chairman wrote me a letter to tell me my taste was unsophisticated.”

At the next board meeting, “ I asked them to formally say tlıey didn’t want it, because I could never be in Competition with a public company that mid my salary. Then Franco Cologni said he would go halves with me; as he was Italian and cultured, nobody dared accuse him of having unsophisticated taste. I sent a colleague to go with Monty and we bought the company for €1 million. Monty was the one who found it, Monty gave Rob one, Rob wore it, I saw it, and the rest is the story of one of the most successful watch brands of the 21st century “ says Rupert.  “I absolutely  loved Monty,” remembers Rupert of his late friend and colleague. “Monty was the truffle dog who found Panerai.”

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