FOLLOW THAT STAR

Zenith is on the brink of cel­e­brat­ing 150 years of rich horo­log­i­cal his­tory, but Plaza Watch finds a brand do­ing all it can to ac­cel­er­ate into the fu­ture.

Plaza Watch International - - Contents - WORDS MICHAELA LAROSSE

As Zenith ap­proaches a mile­stone 150 year an­niver­sary, the brand cel­e­brates the past but looks firmly to the fu­ture.

It’s Oc­to­ber 14th, 2012, and the world col­lec­tively holds its breath as a man clad in a white pres­sure suit edges to­wards the lip of a cap­sule sus­pended 24 miles above the Earth’s sur­face. He stands on its small ex­te­rior plat­form and pauses – we all take in the enor­mity of the mo­ment. And with the words “I’m com­ing home now,” he steps off and be­gins to plum­met with terrifying speed, hurtling to­wards the ground at 843.6 mph, to be­come the first per­son to break the sound bar­rier with the hu­man body.

The dare­devil is of course renowned sky­diver and base jumper Felix Baum­gart­ner, do­ing his bit to im­press the hell out of us in Red Bull’s Stratos project. Although the glob­ally streamed event of­fi­cially be­longed to the en­ergy drink and ti­tle spon­sor, there was another name qui­etly shar­ing the brand­ing lime­light. In el­e­gant cap­i­tals on the cap­sule, and across Baum­gart­ner’s pres­sure suit and equip­ment, Zenith’s logo was po­si­tioned with almost scene-steal­ing clar­ity – its star mo­tif ap­pear­ing so per­fectly ap­pro­pri­ate in this leap from the edge of space. You have to won­der how they man­aged the coup of achiev­ing such visual par­ity in a stunt that was owned and mas­ter­minded by another brand?

It’s a mo­ment that Jean-Fred­eric Dufour, CEO of Zenith, re­calls with ob­vi­ous plea­sure. “Some­times when you do spon­sor­ship and you get a good re­la­tion­ship you can man­age things which were not nec­es­sar­ily sched­uled by the cen­time­tre and by the inch con­trac­tu­ally. We had a very good re­la­tion­ship with Red Bull – and of course the whole thing was called Red Bull, but we also wanted to have our brand vis­i­ble. It was a long process of ed­u­ca­tion and meet­ings and in the end we got what we wanted.”

Yet in­volve­ment in the stunt was not with­out risk. In a heart-in-mouth mo­ment, an audi­bly rat­tled Baum­gart­ner went into a pro­longed, nau­se­ain­duc­ing spin that threat­ened the very likely pos­si­bil­ity of him pass­ing out prior to de­ploy­ing his para­chute. Wasn’t there a chance that Zenith could

The cap­sule that sus­pended Baum­gart­ner at t h e ed g e o f s pac e.

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