MILAN — Following a strong performance in 2021, watchmaker D1 Milano, the brand established by Dario Spallone in 2014, is betting big on building a lifestyle watch group under the Luminal Group holding company that controls the brand.
In 2021 the holding company had $10 million in sales, up 23 percent compared to 2020 and skyrocketing 54 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019 the firm’s sales amounted to $6.5 million. This injected further confidence into the young entrepreneur, who’s strengthening D1 Milano while laying the groundwork to build the holding company and venture into additional M&A activities.
“Our ultimate goal is to build an Italian pole [for the watch category] and compete with the first European group Morellato,” said Spallone. “This plan also speaks volumes about our dedication to the local territory, as underscored by the decision to reshore the company,” from the United Arab Emirates back to Milan, he added.
The company has recently inked a licensing deal with Terra Cielo Mare, a timepiece brand founded in 1999 by the Fontana family. “It’s a brand with a cult following in Italy and the U.S. catering to a niche of enthusiasts,” explained Spallone.
The group retooled the brand’s strategy, shifting to a direct-to-consumer model and engineering the timepieces to adjust their price positioning, now around 600 euros, compared to 2,000 euros to 3,000 euros in the past. He anticipated that as part of the deal the two entities will form a joint venture in due course, with Luminal Group taking ownership of the trademark, too.
“Our goal is to keep its identity intact, with a strong positioning and perception, all the while making it more accessible,” Spallone explained.
In light of his bullish plans, Spallone has been bulking up the company’s advisory board by recruiting seasoned executives from within the fashion and lifestyle industries.
Giorgio Presca is joining the board, after most recently serving as chief executive officer of British footwear firm Clarks. Prior to that he was hired by Sidney Toledano as an external consultant to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Pucci, held the CEO position at Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, and between 2012 and 2016 headed the Italian brand Geox. He has also held senior leadership positions at Diesel, VF Corp., Citizens of Humanity, Levi Strauss & Co. and Lotto.
Another industry veteran, Francesco Tombolini, formerly CEO of beachwear brand Vilebrequin and president of the Camera Italiana Buyer Moda, the country’s association of buyers representing 110 national fashion multibrand stores, is also joining the advisory board. Tombolini has been deputy chief operating officer at Yoox Net-a-porter, and before that, Emporio Armani’s sales senior vice president and Europe and Middle East wholesale vice president at Gucci.
“They are both managers with a track record of leading lifestyle and fashion brands… they are very familiar with labels in the accessible luxury segment, with a strong experiential component,” Spallone said.
To this end, the company has named Davide Perella, a visual artist with a cult online following, as D1 Milano’s art director, starting with the brand’s 2022 ad campaign.
Spallone stressed his commitment to grow D1 Milano’s scope, noting that there’s untapped potential and room for growth given its new, accessible price point and strong communication backbone.
Other board members include SDA Bocconi professor Antonio Catalani, as well as former Prada Group human resources manager Silvia Casaluci and Annamaria Tartaglia, scientific director of the Fashion&Luxury division at the Sole24Ore business school.
Focused on expanding its key markets, mainly Europe and the U.S., the group also tapped Monica Sacchi as commercial director for those areas. The executive hails from the Timex Group, where she served as senior sales manager for the EMEA, U.S. and travel retail areas.