Since Zenith CEO Julien Tornare took the helm in 2017, the Le Locle-based fine watchmaking brand has released numerous skeletonised models, characterised by strong, architectural lines. Presented at LVMH Watch Week, one of the brand’s most important new releases is the Defy Skyline Skeleton. The 41mm steel timepiece features an openworked dial with a four-pointed star that reveals the El Primero-based movement within.
Speaking to The Peak, Tornare responds with plenty of vim when asked about the importance of skeletonised watches for Zenith. “It’s extremely important. Why? Because we are well known for the quality of our movements. And when you feel proud of something, you want to show it.”
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Today, all Zenith watches are powered by an in-house movement — a point that Tornare justifiably likes to emphasise in interviews. Ensuring that the brand remains “a true manufacture” is a priority for the chief executive, even if that puts limits on the pace of production growth.
Says Tornare, “We have been working to increase production, and we should be around 24,000 (watches per year) now. I want to increase that. But we want to do it properly, and have steady growth over the long term. The most important thing for us is brand equity.”
Another key brand attribute that he emphasises is that of innovation, and not just in terms of technical developments. Indeed, every single employee at Zenith is required to regularly bring fresh ideas to the table as part of their KPIs.
This culture of experimentation led to another interesting novelty unveiled at LVMH Watch Week, the Defy Extreme Glacier. Aside from its impressive 1/100-of-a-second chronograph movement, the 45mm titanium watch stands apart with its 12-sided bezel and pusher protectors. These elements are made from chalcedony, a semi-translucent crystalline stone. While it is not uncommon for brands to use natural stones in their designs, the materials tend to be used for dials.
“Ours is a different interpretation of how to introduce a new material,” says Tornare, adding, “From what we know, chalcedony has not been used by any other brand. We did many tests on it because it’s a new material, and the way we work the stone is very time-consuming. We will only do 50 pieces of the watch.” He adds with a laugh: “I’ve already received complaints from retailers about the limited number of pieces.”