De­fy­ing the Odds

Singapore Tatler - - STYLE - Kar­ishma Tul­si­das

Ever since CEO Julien Tornare joined Zenith last year, he has or­ches­trated its re­vival with a series of bold moves. He shares his long-term plans for the brand with

The story of the el primero blue­prints be­ing saved by a plucky Zenith em­ployee in­structed to de­stroy them is leg­endary— and for many, this is per­haps the only col­lec­tion they as­so­ciate with the Swiss watch­maker. No longer. Un­der the aegis of the LVMH Group, men­tor­ship of in­dus­try ti­tan Jean-claude Biver, and the strong lead­er­ship of cur­rent CEO Julien Tornare, Zenith is un­der­go­ing cur­rents of change, and swiftly ex­pand­ing its reper­toire of time­pieces and in­no­va­tions to meet the de­mands of the mod­ern cus­tomer. This comes in the form of the Defy col­lec­tion, a sporty range of time­pieces made for both work and play. With it came the Defy Lab, an in­di­ca­tion that Zenith pos­sesses both the de­sign chops and the tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion. Es­sen­tially, the Defy Lab fea­tures the cal­i­bre ZO 342, with a com­pletely re­designed reg­u­lat­ing or­gan that does away with the con­ven­tional bal­ance spring. Only 10 pieces were made and they sold out in­stantly. For next year, we can ex­pect the sys­tem to be fit­ted in a more com­mer­cial guise. The suc­cess of the Defy Lab is in­dica­tive of the healthy ap­petites of watch col­lec­tors for time­pieces that defy the norm—and this is ex­actly what Tornare wants to of­fer the Zenith clien­tele. When he joined the com­pany a year ago, he says that his first or­der of busi­ness was to put the cus­tomer back at the cen­tre of every­thing it does. He says, “Some­times we for­get to ask the ques­tion: is this re­ally what the client is look­ing for? Is it re­ally right for the client? I told my team that when­ever we do some­thing or make a de­ci­sion, I’d like every­one in the com­pany to take a sec­ond and ask our­selves if this is right? Is this re­ally what the client wants?” Tornare tells us what ex­actly the client wants, and sets the record straight about that con­tro­ver­sial part­ner­ship with per­son­al­i­sa­tion spe­cial­ists Bam­ford Watch De­part­ment.

What does the client want from Zenith?

What clients re­ally want is au­then­tic­ity; they want to know what they are buy­ing. In to­day’s world, every­thing has be­come so trans­par­ent, and peo­ple hate to be cheated. And to be hon­est, the watch­mak­ing in­dus­try hasn’t al­ways been fully trans­par­ent. For in­stance, why don’t you use a trans­par­ent case­back? Be­cause some­times you don’t want to show the move­ment. So, we want to be fully trans­par­ent, and we want to show our clients why they’re pay­ing such a price.

How do you in­tend to change the per­cep­tion of the cus­tomer?

I don’t want to re­peat the past, but I want to start from the past and be in­spired by it. I’m not launch­ing a new brand. We are proud and happy to have 153 years of his­tory. The only way to hon­our our pre­de­ces­sors and founders is to start from the his­tory and build some­thing new, not to re­peat it. Let’s not for­get that when these guys made com­pli­ca­tions more than 150 years ago, it was with their hands and ba­sic tools, with­out any com­puter as­sis­tance. So if you make those com­pli­ca­tions to­day in the same way, you are al­most dis­re­spect­ing them be­cause it’s much eas­ier to­day. I want to con­tinue to cre­ate and in­no­vate, but al­ways re­spect­ing our past, our DNA and where we came from. And all this for the right price, mean­ing value for money. I think if you want to be in­no­va­tive, you have to be a 360-de­gree in­no­va­tive com­pany. It’s not only about the prod­ucts, but also the pro­cesses and the way you work. I want to im­ple­ment a start-up spirit in a com­pany that’s 153 years old. Now I’m push­ing some peo­ple to work from home be­cause I think that’s part of to­day’s world. Re­cently, we cre­ated a game room in the com­pany. In start-ups, this is noth­ing spe­cial. All the com­pa­nies in Sil­i­con Val­ley have it, but in the watch­mak­ing in­dus­try, I bet we’re the only one. Imag­ine this in the tra­di­tional world in the Swiss moun­tains— it’s to­tally crazy. But I’m work­ing on ways to be more in­no­va­tive.

What does this start-up spirit mean for the end cus­tomer?

For the end cus­tomer, it’s clear when they buy a watch, they should feel the in­no­va­tion within the prod­uct, maybe in terms of de­sign or tech­ni­cal­i­ties. This is also quite new, but ev­ery sin­gle per­son ac­quir­ing a Zenith watch at any price and en­try point will be in­vited to visit the man­u­fac­ture. My idea is to get them very close to us and un­der­stand who we are. Right now, we’re work­ing on an app, be­cause I want to be in direct con­tact with the sales­peo­ple in our 500 out­lets. And through push no­ti­fi­ca­tions, I’ll be able to send them mes­sages like “Hi every­one, have a good day. I hope you sell a lot of our watches!” or “I’m very happy to give you a pre­view of this prod­uct”. I will try to have a few hours per month where we can do video calls and they can ask me any ques­tions they want, so we can have a direct re­la­tion­ship. It’s in line with to­day’s world and it gives me a prox­im­ity that I can­not have sim­ply from trav­el­ling.

Your part­ner­ship with Bam­ford Watch De­part­ment last year raised a lot of eye­brows. How is it go­ing?

It’s been fan­tas­tic and I’m so glad. When [Bam­ford Watch De­part­ment founder] Ge­orge Bam­ford first ap­proached us, I was a bit scep­ti­cal. I was a bit too Swiss maybe, and too con­ser­va­tive. “No, no, how can some­one touch our watches and change our watches?” I thought. But I was be­ing a bit blind to to­day’s world. Brands that tell you that cus­tomi­sa­tion is not in the air are just ly­ing to them­selves; it’s right here, peo­ple want to cus­tomise. So you have two ways: one, you do it by your­self as a brand, and then two, you have a com­pany like Bam­ford, who used to do it with­out val­i­da­tion. When I got to know Ge­orge, I made a deal with him and signed a con­tract that he needs my val­i­da­tion for ev­ery sin­gle watch he’s cre­at­ing, mean­ing I have more con­trol. He has such a good client base that’re look­ing for spe­cial mod­els that we wouldn’t have at Zenith. It’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion. Why would I say no? And on top of that, I’m be­ing very in­no­va­tive be­cause I’m the first one to do it. What’s the risk? Noth­ing. Now, I’m good friends with Ge­orge, and we talk ev­ery week.

POP THE BUB­BLY With its open­worked dial and ti­ta­nium case, the 41mm Zenith Defy Clas­sic feels light on the wrist

TOP HON­CHO Zenith CEO Julien Tornare brings with him a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence as he has been in the horo­log­i­cal in­dus­try for the past 18 years

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.