Julien Tornare was appointed CEO of Zenith last year by then LVMH watch chief Jean-Claude Biver. At the London launch of the Defy Classic Range Rover Edition, Tornare talked to Revolution about the future of Zenith Watches and the responsibility put on his shoulders by one of the giants of the industry. The following is a transcript from that conversation.
Now that Jean-Claude Biver has stepped back from day-to-day duties, what legacy does he leave?
Julien Tornare (JT): Mr Biver is a legend in the watch industry. He was a big part of my decision to come to Zenith a year and a half ago. I have known him for many years and he is definitely one of the greatest men the industry has seen. He’s not really stepping back, but he is taking less of an operational role. I am hoping to keep him involved in product development and general strategy, as well as advising on market strategies. And of course as a spokesperson for the brand.
What is it like working for Mr Biver?
JT: He has an incredibly positive mindset and he is such an energizer. That’s what makes him so powerful as a manager. If ever you are having any doubts, if you are feeling a bit down, you pick up the phone to him and by the time you have finished speaking you feel ten times stronger. That is the thing I will never forget.
In a recent interview, Mr Biver named you, along with Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe and Rolex CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour, as the one of the people he puts most faith in. How does it feel to have this responsibility?
It feels more like an inheritance in a way, because Mr Biver is passing on his knowledge and his experience to me. He has always encouraged me to speak my mind and to give my personal opinion in every interview, not to be too formatted and stick to the press release in any presentation I make. This creative style has helped us start to build something really strong in a short amount of time.
How important for the brand are partnerships with the likes of hip-hop star Swizz Beatz?
Brand partnerships are great for giving us different exposure. While Zenith is very well known among watch collectors and connoisseurs, a brand needs more than purists. Artists like Swizz Beatz and the singer Eason Chan, who is very well known across Asia, help accelerate awareness and also help people reach a different emotional level with the brand that might not happen if we just stuck to the watchmaking.
How did you feel about the decision to welcome George Bamford in from the cold?
When Mr Biver first mentioned it I thought the idea was crazy. But I went to see George in London, and I sat down with him and realized that he is a really hard-working, committed guy who customizes much better than anyone else, so it would be much better to welcome him in. Then I went back to Mr Biver and said: ‘You know what, only stupid people refuse to change their minds – let’s go for it.”
Zenith Defy Classic Range Rover Edition
Elite 670 SK, Automatic, Power Reserve (Min. 50 hours)
Hours and minutes in the centre, Date indication at 6 o’clock, Artic Petrol central seconds hand
Brushed titanium, 41 mm, Water-resistance
Openworked like a Range Rover rim
Titanium double folding clasp