Plaza Watch International - - Baselworld Roundup -

Zenith may have had many faces in its his­tory, from cre­ator of the still­revered El Primero move­ment, to dol­drums, to its rein­ven­tion with ex­treme cy­ber­punk styling un­der Theirry Nataf, to the last four years’ re­turn to its re­fined roots un­der Jean-Fred­eric Du­four. The em­pha­sis now is on less niche de­signs that are clas­sic enough to sell at high prices: re­cent pieces such as the Es­pada and Elite, each of which would not have looked out of place at any time since the 1930s. Not that Zenith is above state­ment-mak­ing: its Christo­pher Colum­bus Hur­ri­cane car­ries that dis­tinc­tive small glass globe to carry a float­ing tour­bil­lon, “the tour­bil­lon for the next 200 years,” as Du­four has put it; while its Pi­lot Mon­tre d’Aeronef Type 20 Spe­cial, in­spired by Louis Ble­riot’s watch of 1909 and hous­ing a pocket watch move­ment, mea­sures in at a wrist-wrap­ping 57.5mm.

Du­four has ar­gued that Zenith caters to tra­di­tion­al­ists who also want some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent – and draws a par­al­lel with his shoes: penny loafers from the top, all curvy moulded rub­ber from the bot­tom. But he has also recog­nised that, no mat­ter how many ef­fi­cien­cies are in­tro­duced into the com­pany’s man­u­fac­tur­ing process (Du­four is a fan of how the car in­dus­try is con­stantly look­ing for new ways to shave off the min­utes), Zenith can never keep up with the fash­ion world it is in­creas­ingly sub­ject to. It can only sec­ond guess more sweep­ing trends. It is work­ing though. The com­pany has seen an im­pres­sive 30 per cent growth year on year since Du­four took over, as more and more cus­tomers look on Zenith as some­thing akin to the think­ing man’s Rolex. JS

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