Five Questions With Zenith’s Julien TornareWritten by Leong Wong
Zenith’S CEO on reawakening the sleeping beauty.
Since taking over the helm at Zenith in 2017, Julien Tornare has been busy turning the brand some call 'sleeping beauty' into a sexy marque that collectors can't seem to get enough of, especially with the recent spotlight on the El Primero series. Here, he gives us some insights into the business and reveals some of his biggest challenges.
How have the last two years been?
I feel great about the last two years at Zenith. The road, the map, we have been following it. We continue to grow and develop. We worked a lot on the brand image and improved awareness and desirability. It takes time. You must be patient and continue working. Never drop the ball, never give up. Step by step we are getting the results and we are very happy about that.
Does Zenith deserve the moniker, ‘sleeping beauty’?
It’s true it is a beauty, but it’s not asleep anymore, because we are waking up the beauty. It has a beautiful story, and it is also very authentic. When you buy a Zenith watch, you have a Zenith movement. How many brands can say that? Not many, maybe four or five. The new generation cares about substance and content. Of course, you can do a lot of packaging around that, with marketing and celebrities. You can do whatever you want, but at least the heart of the brand is authentic. I want that to remain. I want people to see that.
What were your biggest challenges in turning the brand around?
Changing people’s mentality and gaining trust. I believe we have achieved that. Don’t forget I am a Swiss from Geneva, but I lived in New York for five years and in Asia for seven. When I came back to Le Locle, I had to readjust and consciously evolve. I told my team we are a startup. We need to be super dynamic, because the people who created the El Primero were so innovative and dynamic.
What are some things you’ve implemented in the company?
Well, for example, we hold a monthly breakfast, where everyone comes with new ideas and suggestions. We had a lot of discussions and brainstorming after that; they were very creative. This year, I asked every employee, from receptionists to accountants, to come up with five new initiatives, out-of-the-box innovative ideas; otherwise, I don’t pay the bonus. We have to be innovative and creative not only with a new watch, but also as a company. It’s something that I need people to work on.
What are your upcoming plans?
We will be re-launching some important watches from our archives. But for now, the El Primero is definitely the strongest overall. We just celebrated its 50th anniversary with a world tour of the anniversary exhibition. El Primero is still very much the brand and we will continue to develop it.
Editor, CROWN Malaysia
A familiar face in Malaysia's horological publishing scene, Leong has been involved in lifestyle journalism since the mid-1990s. Besides watches, he takes a keen interest in cars and men's fashion.