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Benoit de Clerck, the New CEO of Zenith, Talks about his Appointment and Future Challenges

A deep reorganization at LVMH Watches and a new-to-the-group man in Le Locle.

| By Xavier Markl | 4 min read |

Earlier this month, LVMH, the French luxury powerhouse, reorganized the management of its watch division. Frédéric Arnault was named CEO of LVMH Watches – overseeing TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith Julien Tornare subsequently took over as CEO of TAG Heuer while a former Richemont executive, Benoit de Clerck, was recruited to run Zenith. Just ahead of the LVMH Watch Week, we had the opportunity to sit down with the new CEO of Zenith in Geneva.

Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – Benoit, thanks for having us. What is your background, and what brought you to the head of Zenith?

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Benoit de Clerck, CEO of Zenith – I have been versed in the watch industry for the past 25 years. My journey began with TAG Heuer when I opened their office in the Middle East before its acquisition by LVMH. Subsequently, I joined Richemont with different roles across the Middle East, South America, the USA and Asia. My journey then led me to Geneva, where I assumed the position of Chief Commercial Officer at Panerai. But I wanted more, eager to grow further, and I was approached by LVMH for this opportunity at Zenith, which I took both for the role and the brand. 

I wanted a more comprehensive role. I was involved in many decisions at Panerai thanks to the Richemont Group and Jean-Marc Pontroué, with whom I had an excellent relationship. I was aspiring to a global role, having the final say in marketing, product, human resources… This is what drives me. The prospect of overseeing the entire spectrum of responsibilities greatly appealed to me.

I feel a connection with the brand, with its authenticity. Of course, there is a risk. I was somehow in a comfort zone at Richemont, but that is not my language! Challenges drive me. Joining Zenith is a dream for me.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport 2021

We all know Zenith quite well, but what surprised you when you joined the company?

Many aspects of Zenith took me by surprise, but what truly flabbergasted me was the brand’s authenticity. I spent full days in the archives, and I was astonished by the authentic spirit that permeates the brand. 

Georges Favre-Jacot, the founder of the brand, was a visionary. He pioneered the concept of a fully integrated manufacture, consolidating various trades under one roof and even establishing his own foundry – this was a revolutionary move in its time. Another anecdote: the trademarks “pilote” and later “pilot” were registered upon his request well before aviation really took off! These are the kind of captivating stories that continue to astonish me.

Everything is there. Unlike many other brands, Zenith has remained rooted in its original premises. The palpable pedigree of the brand is evident in our manufacture, literally etched into its walls. This is wonderful and is a superb asset.

Talking about product, what is your perception about the brand today?

I love that we have a very lean collection today. Thanks to Julien Tornare, I am inheriting a really focused collection. It is clear for the teams, clear for me, and, more importantly, it is clear for the retailers and the customers.

There are very few brands that can run their business on 120 references. The clarity of the collection is a great asset. We know where we are going. Additionally, the products are superb and they offer excellent quality and value, a testament to being a fully integrated manufacture. Few brands work exclusively with their own movements.

Zenith Watches manufacture, Le Locle

What are the main challenges for the brand?

Challenges do not scare me; with each challenge comes opportunities. It is my motto. Yes, we certainly face challenges; for instance, we could develop retail operations or further communicate the meaningful messages already conveyed in recent years… but I consider myself very lucky. The brand is in good shape today. My mission is to sustain the positive evolution of the brand on a global scale.

You spent a large part of your career with Richemont and have now joined LVMH. Do you see differences between the two groups?

First of all, they are both fantastic groups. I am grateful for the time I have spent with Richemont and for what I have learned there. To be fair, I can feel there are differences, but it is a bit too early for me to provide a comprehensive assessment. I look forward to further immersing myself in my current role and gaining a deeper understanding of the unique dynamics within LVMH.

You were named during the management reshuffle for the LVMH Watch Business and report directly to Frédéric Arnault. How do you work together?

I work with him on a daily basis; he is very much involved, very smart and very determined. Working with him is both a privilege and an asset. He has done wonders at TAG Heuer and he is going to help us a lot to continue to develop the brand! So far, it has been very pragmatic and very productive. We have a great relationship; I highly value his opinions. He has just been appointed to the board of LVMH, which is fantastic for us, too!

Zenith Chronomaster Original 38mm El Primero

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