Zenith Interview with Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith Watches
Taking the podium and fielding questions from journalists when your boss has just answered them all is no easy task. Julien Tornare dealt with it with aplomb.
Before Zenith’s new CEO had chance to get a word in at his official presentation, the irrepressible Jean-Claude Biver had already pre-empted most questions and as an extra bonus revealed a forthcoming revolutionary watch that will be presented by Zenith over the summer. I nevertheless wanted to get Julien Tornare’s take on his new job precisely 100 years to the day after the death of Zenith’s founder Georges Favre Jacot. Julien Tornare stands out as an “outsider” who has not come from Mr Biver’s inner circle, like all of the other senior executives who work with head of the LVMH watchmaking division. Jean-Claude Biver even admitted himself that he heard of Julien Tornare by reputation before he even knew his name. But he was also impressed by the fact that the new CEO took a day-return flight from Hong Kong to discuss the new post. It was the start of a promising relationship.
Your background is in sales and this is what drew Mr Biver’s attention. You have said that you want to make Zenith more attractive as a brand. How will you do this?
First of all I would like to transform sales from “push sales” to “pull sales” which are the result of a genuine desire on the part of the customer. I have been given some ambitious sales objectives by Mr Biver but I think they are achievable. It will take some time to achieve them, of course, and I will need to give the right resources to the right departments. Above all we want to build for the long term.
You have also said that Zenith needs to be made more desirable as a brand. But at the same time you also said that Zenith is not a marketing-led brand. How will you increase the desirability of the brand without investing huge sums in marketing?
We will do some marketing, of course. We are doing a lot of work on the products at the moment, but this will later be accompanied by a specific product environment. For example, we are currently working on the product launch for the Defy 21 and are looking at doing events that are different from anything that has been done before. If we are producing such huge innovations with our products, we can’t present them at a boring evening gathering. We need to inject some energy into our events.
What are your thoughts on the current Zenith collection?
We have the classic Elite collection, which is one of the mainstays of the brand and which Chinese customers love, for example. Then there is the entire Chronomaster El Primero collection, which is the Zenith watch. But we are also coming with some extremely exciting new products and these will have a direct impact on the brand.
Elite Chronograph Classic © Zenith
Have you determined any specific priorities in terms of markets to work on or target customers?
I only started a month ago but I have been talking to Mr Biver regularly for six months. We have already defined the main outlines of our strategy. But I don’t like to express my opinion or take rash decisions in the first few months. I am obliging myself to take time to review things but we have already defined China, Japan and the United States as key markets. But I don’t think we should be targeting China with products geared for China but rather targeting the “international” Chinese customer. Beyond this, from the autumn we will see the impact from a few new avenues that we are currently exploring to increase brand awareness around the world.
What are your plans for retail? Will we see more Zenith stores?
No, I think it’s illusory to consider building huge shopping temples for the brand and opening boutiques for our image. We have to respect the retailers, because they are the ones who have built up the industry over the past 20 years. A lot of brands have neglected the retailers and I think they will start coming back to them. Own-brand stores are great when they work, but when business takes a turn for the worse then they start to cost a lot of money. In any case, Zenith simply doesn’t have the financial resources to open 20 stores around the world.
What are your thoughts on the prices of the collection?
Looking at the prices and the products I think quite frankly that they are not expensive. When you consider the level of expertise, craftsmanship and finishing that goes into them, they are excellent value for money.