Monochrome Watches
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INTERVIEW: Zenith’s new CEO Julien Tornare and interesting news about what we can expect from Zenith

| By Xavier Markl | 6 min read |

The other day at the Zenith manufacture we had the chance to meet Julien Tornare, the brand’s new CEO. We showed up for a press conference, and Jean-Claude Biver walked in with some additional news about the brand’s future. After the press conference we had the chance to sit down with Julien Tornare and talk about the brand’s future. And now we are really looking forward to seeing what this sound and ambitious personality will do with the brand!

While the news that mr. Biver brought was not accompanied with visuals, the info he shared was certainly very interesting! So as an introduction to our interview with Julien Tornare, here is what Mr. Biver and Tornare had to say. It sounds promising as “product and innovation” will be at the heart of Zenith’s strategy, with innovative developments to be expected. In particular, the brand will unveil a groundbreaking project in the field of chronometry.

Information is still scant at this stage but here is what we have learnt:

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  • The development is based on the works of mathematicians (i.e. not watchmakers)
  • It’s a new escapement that is likely to be constant force, amagnetic and athermic
  • The oscillator is made of silicon, it is large (occupying the whole watch face) and vibrating at 15 Hz (!!)
  • Accuracy would be within a range of 2 seconds over 50 hours
  • Watches will be certified with the Besançon Observatory

Our interview with Julien Tornare:

What brought you to Zenith?

This is a question I have had from many people, telling me it was going to be a big challenge. Well, the main reason is this challenge. I am at a point in my career where I strongly believe that joining zenith is quite logical. First of all, because of my experience, but also because the foundation of the company is very strong. The history, the DNA, the innovation, specifically in the field of chronometry, all these elements are incredibly strong. The foundation is fantastic but we need to transform all this into a success. There is huge leverage potential. You take a brand that is a bit sick, if you administer the right medication, you can turn it into a healthy, successful and prosperous patient.

The second reason is to work with Mr. Biver, I have known him for a long time (although not personally) and we have exchanged a lot over the past six months. I really did not want to sign my contract without knowing what the project was and without being in line with Mr. Biver. He is such as creative person with amazing achievements but, as he always says, you cannot heal all diseases with one medication and we need to find the right one for Zenith. I have been working with him on that particular aspect to make sure that the project was OK for me.

The third reason for me to join this position is that this is a logical step in my career, I have prepared myself for this kind of move; obviously I am joining a powerful group, LVMH, with great support and ambition for the brand. The group really wants the brand to be successful.

We all know the brand quite well (and I am personally a fan) but what surprised you when joining Zenith?

Something I knew but did not expect to be that strong is the level of quality in the manufacturing. Although I knew the products, I did not expect so much skill, passion and expertise. I have spent a lot of time already in the workshops to have a full immersion with the whole team, not just the board. I have done several round tables with the whole staff to share and discuss the vision. I have told them I cannot do it by myself, ‘If I do not benefit from the support of Mr. Biver and the rest of the team, we are not going to make it. I need you to change with me, and I am going to push you to do things differently when needed’. The skill and passion are extraordinary, we need the team to believe in our project, share the vision and drive them in the right direction. There are 18 buildings here. I am not going to stay alone all day in my office, I do not believe in that!

The elevator pitch. What sets Zenith apart?

The statement that we have today is ‘Legends are forever’ or infinity on your wrist. It tells that Zenith is a traditional brand, very established. But today it is a bit dusty and misunderstood by the clients. It is through innovation, as we did in the past, that we are going to make it. The idea is to bring back innovation. I do not believe that this is because being traditional and classic that you sell products to the 21st century clients. You need to talk to them. We are not going to break codes, like Hublot is doing, Zenith will ensure brand continuity and respect history through innovation.

What will be the focuses with regards to innovation?

As we have discussed during the press conference, there will be some joint research within LVMH research and development institute with people from Zenith, TAG Heuer and Hublot, when I hear chronometry, improvement and performance, I raise my hand for Zenith. This is what Zenith is about.

What is your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge is to put back the magic of the brand in the eyes of our clients. After one month I am already feeling the Zenith bug, the Zenith passion, I am really excited about the brand and I want our clients to feel the same passion. Two days ago I was at an event in Bern, one of our clients, a businessman in its thirties told me: ‘I own several Zenith watches, I know what I am buying, I know what is inside, but some of my friends do not. It is a pity you do not get them to know the appeal of the brand’. This was an interesting testimony for me. We need to bring back the magic and the emotion which will link to the desirability and, at the end, to the buying.

How do you work with Mr. Biver?

We work in a simple, healthy way; he gives me a lot of independence, but I ask him a lot of support. I need to share and exchange. And I need to listen; when you arrive, you know you do not know anything. I need to listen to the people, to the clients, to the staff, to Mr. Biver and to all the people around me to absorb as much as I can and then come with a plan. I need checkpoints with Mr. Biver to share my understanding or ideas. I really have a nice collaboration. We talk every day.

3 responses

  1. Looking forward to more news about this development. And good to read that the brand will focus on product innovation.

  2. Sounds very encouraging and, with JCB in the background, I’m feeling quite hopeful. Let’s hope they can keep prices down whilst innovating – all the other things they are talking about sound great, but I believe that they must also enhance value-for-money, given the current problems of the watch universe.

  3. Hum. Looks like it will be an interesting time for Zenith. I am always weary of the Biver effect. I do wish Tornare all the success.

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