Zenith the brand lead by Jean-Frederic Dufour prides itself on the creation of the world’s most precise chronograph, El Primero. Each watch in Zenith’s collection is uniquely exquisite, but El Primero is both stunning and incredibly intricate. It is a marvelous example of a fine watch. “Follow your own star,” is Zenith’s adage, and this luxury brand has certainly followed its star which leads them to the successful creation of magnificent timepieces.
Mr. Dufour, what was the key element that helped you bring Zenith back to its roots?
It was an amalgam of many things, but most importantly it was the passion that gave me the energy to travel 120 days out of the year and the strength to visit all the countries around the world in order to gain a better understanding of what was expected of the Zenith brand. Passion is what drove the development of a new collection that stemmed from more than 120 different references, which ranged from very classical to very complicated.Passion led to work on the distribution of the brand, to the closing of around 200 shops, but then opening 100 new ones and the building of 13 boutiques. Passion is what helped us build a new brand identity around the new image that we have at Zenith. But in the end, it’s also very important to be surrounded by the right people because alone you cannot do everything.
Since Zenith owns the patent on pilot watches, please explain how the company conceived the concept of a pilot watch?
The very first pilot watches that we created were similar to pocket watches which pilots wore on top of their shoes.The watches were the only technical tools that they had at their disposal during the flight to know how long they had been up in the air. The watch gave them the distance calculations they needed and also the autonomy. The pilots needed to know precisely when to fly back, so the watch was very instrumental in their line of work. It obviously needed to be very accurate. The pilot collection that we have this year is completely inspired by the very first wristwatches from the very beginning the 20th century. This collection doesn't look like any others, it's very unique and it has a strong sex appeal. The product is not only alluring to people who are rapt by manufactured watches, but also to those whores are interested in the aesthetics and the size of the product.
What is your favorite Zenith piece?
I love all of them. I am heavily involved in the creative aspect of all the Zenith models. It is very difficult to select which one I like best because I never release a watch that I personally don't like. However, the El Primero is a watch that means a lot to me. It’s an iconic piece from 1969. It has such strong legends surrounding it that it makes it quite unique. So, from the new collection, I really like the El Primero. Was the ladies line a challenge to create? The ladies line is a challenge, but its worth it because we are seeing that there are more ladies than ever looking for manufactured watches. We are not trying to compete against brands that are producing jewelry watches, but we also truly believe that modern women are looking for a different type of product. Now they don’t just want a quartz watch with diamonds on top, so we offer in our collection the same value that only men are able to find in some other brands. The new collection contains really nice watches that will last forever. Women today are
looking for something that will last for a long time, that is of strong quality and that is really state of the art.
How receptive are the watch aficionados of America to the Zenith brand?
In America, people have a very strong emotional bond to their purchases. For most of them, it’s all about the experience. The key to success in the United States is to find the right partner because it’s all about the retailers. Zenith has
only recently come back into the market in the United States. We used to sell our brand there until the Second World War but we started back up again in 2000. The interest and the brand are both growing slowly, but the size of the brand is not quite what we would expect for an established international brand such as ours. I know that if you do it well in the United States you usually get it right and for now we are really doing well, we are going by the book to make it happen. I think that in two or three more years we will really start to see growth
How involved is Zenith in the Florida region?
Florida is great, not in only Miami, but in a lot of locations. There is a strong sense of retail not only with locals but also with the South American community that is always traveling to Florida. We offer them a chance to check out our collection. We are also currently working on developing a project which would include a boutique in Florida, but it’s too early to talk about it. Florida is definitely a place where we can see ourselves. People from all over the world and all corners of America travel to Florida. It is the ultimate holiday destination. It’s an interesting state and its place for a luxury brand.