Z E NI T H
“WE’RE TURNING THIS INDUSTRY A LITTLE BIT INTO A MUSEUM
INDUSTRY IF WE CONTINUE TO BE IN THE PAST AND RE PETITIVE .”
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.”