Esquire (Singapore) - - Style -



Between vin­tage and in­no­va­tion, it is ob­vi­ous that Zenith sits squarely in camp in­no­va­tion. Just look at its lat­est in­ven­tion re­vealed in 2017, the Zenith Os­cil­la­tor, which is prob­a­bly the most in­no­va­tive cre­ation since Breguet in­vented the tourbillon. This Le Lo­cle man­u­fac­ture is an old brand, but there al­ways is a pi­o­neer­ing spirit, whether it’s in pro­duc­ing and sus­tain­ing the world’s first high fre­quency self-wind­ing chronograph El Primero or in some­thing as fun­da­men­tal as es­tab­lish­ing the Swiss watch in­dus­try’s first in­te­grated watch man­u­fac­ture. The brand has also un­der­gone a shift in man­age­ment di­rec­tion and now finds it­self strad­dling its glo­ri­ous past with a dy­namic future.

CEO, Ju­lian Tornare:

“I think the vin­tage trend is a style and that’s linked to the fact that ev­ery­thing is go­ing so fast that peo­ple need to feel at­tached to some­thing from the past. But vin­tage is con­tem­po­rary be­cause it is cool now; it’s not some­thing for old peo­ple. They are trendy now but I don’t know about five or 10 years’ time. Maybe it will go away and then come back, it al­ways comes back.

“Lots of things have been done and re­done. I would not present it that way. We don’t re­peat the past. We get in­spi­ra­tion from the past but we do it in con­tem­po­rary way, for the 21st cen­tury. The Defy is a per­fect ex­am­ple. Its name came from the ’ 60s and the shape from the ’70s as the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of El Primero. So El Primero be­comes El Primero 21 be­cause it’s mea­sur­ing 100th of a sec­ond. We got in­spi­ra­tion from the past but we don’t do a replica, we cre­ate some­thing more.

“I’m Swiss so I can say it. Swiss watch­mak­ing is some­times a lit­tle too repet­i­tive. Re­peat­ing com­pli­ca­tions in­vented 100 years ago or more, same de­signs and same things… I be­lieve that for peo­ple today ev­ery­thing goes fast so you need to con­tinue to move on. Chronom­e­try is our field. The os­cil­la­tor for ex­am­ple is about pre­ci­sion, also our field of ex­per­tise. We want to stay in our field of ex­per­tise but cre­ate and keep mov­ing for­ward.

“In today’s world, we’re turn­ing this in­dus­try a lit­tle bit into a mu­seum in­dus­try if we con­tinue to be in the past and repet­i­tive. Peo­ple will be bored, the new gen­er­a­tion, and they won’t care any­more. The way, I be­lieve, is you start from your his­tory, you stay in your DNA, you don’t do too crazy things, but you use the past to build the future.

“I make a dif­fer­ence between vin­tage trend and clas­sic, old­fash­ioned watches. You can be vin­tage and be very cool. Look at some mo­tor­bikes, they are new but with a vin­tage style. Look at the watches we have, the Pi­lots have a vin­tage touch but are new and trendy. It’s not re­ally the ap­proach. I would make a dif­fer­ence between a very clas­sic two-hand grand­fa­ther’s watch and a vin­tage watch.

“Many brands do vin­tage-in­spired watches. Yes, you can say it’s a short­cut but it’s only tac­ti­cal and helps on the short term. If you want to build some­thing in the long term, we should not go that way. It’s a mis­take. As far as I’m con­cerned, for Zenith, I want the mod­els I’m launch­ing now to stay for a long time. I want them to be­come iconic. If that doesn’t hap­pen it means I have failed. I would go for long term, for sure. I would avoid the short­cuts.”

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