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Zenith - In Conversation With Julien Tornare: Part 1

Zenith In Conversation With Julien Tornare: Part 1

The CEO of Zenith opens up about their new DreamHers initiative, gender categorisation in watches and his least favourite description of the brand

Zenith is at the top of their game — ask anyone, from journalists to retailers to industry observers. One area in which they’re currently leading the pack of traditionally male-oriented brands is their new approach to the feminine side of watchmaking, both in terms of products and also in terms of audience. Recently, the first international event celebrating their DreamHers initiative, launched last year as a social-media campaign to highlight exceptional women in their fields and now a fully-fledged platform, was held in Madrid. WorldTempus had the chance to sit down with the leader of this dynamic brand, the equally dynamic Julien Tornare, and talk about what lies ahead for Zenith.

It's great to be here with you in Madrid, celebrating the DreamHers project. May I ask why did you choose Madrid? Is there something special about this city that you thought might really resonate with the message that you want to give?
Well, first of all, we wanted to go where one of the DreamHers was coming from. We know also that there haven't been many events like this for a long time, and we wanted to be somewhere cool, with a great energy. Madrid is a city that's always evolving and looking to the future — it's a city that moves fast. I was talking to some local guys over dinner last night, and they told me that while Madrid used to be very Spanish, it's really turned into a very international city today. So, we felt the vibe is the right one for an event such as celebrating the DreamHers initiative, a subject which is very current. It could have been somewhere in Italy, it could have been Paris, or any number of different places. But we all felt that Madrid was the right destination for us this time.

From Zenith's perspective, what's the ultimate purpose of the DreamHers initiative? It's great to celebrate these amazing women doing amazing things, of course, but from the brand's point of view, is the underlying objective to get more women excited about mechanical watchmaking? Or to bring more women to the brand, perhaps?
Let's be very honest and transparent. We are a company that sells watches, not an altruistic organisation. That said, we want to represent the evolution of women's position in society through the medium of what we do, through the angle of watches. You know Swiss watchmaking well, it's super conservative in many ways — it's evolving, yes, but still quite conservative. So the idea we had was to say, okay, we want to pay tribute to women that have achieved amazing things in their field. We want to acknowledge and amplify the fact that women in most places in the world now are making their own purchases, buying their own watches, not just receiving them as gifts.

Entretien avec Julien Tornare, 1ère partie

Julien Tornare, CEO Zenith © Zenith

On a related point, we have the discussion about so-called men's timepieces and women's timepieces, and the way that the industry continues to try to assign certain watches to certain genders.
Yes, exactly. Who are we to tell people this is a men's watch or this is a women's watch? I really want to push hard on this point. We don't make men's watches or women's watches.

We make beautiful watches that can be worn by men or women. It's as simple as that. This is how we can address the subject of gender equality from the watchmaking angle. I was talking to one of our DreamHers ambassadors, Dr Laetitia Guarino, who's a surgeon at 28, and she was telling me how difficult her industry still is for a woman — about how many times she's still asked if she's the nurse instead of the doctor. The world is full of assumptions like this, and we don't want to do this anymore with our watches. There are a few practical obstacles to address in the process; for example our social media manager was telling me that this segmentation is partly due to the way that people search for watches online. They search for "men's watches" or "women's watches". But I said, what happens if we remove this categorisation from our watches? Will consumers stop looking for watches? No, they'll just start doing it in a different way. I see it as our responsibility, to push for this change.

Entretien avec Julien Tornare, 1ère partie

Julien Tornare, CEO Zenith © Zenith

We can see that it's already starting to happen in the wider world. Something that I always ask brands is whether they see themselves as a market leader, if they view their role as simply giving the market what it wants, or hopefully also to expand the market and give consumers more choices.
I was basically telling the team at the very beginning of the DreamHers initiative that the advancement of women in society is a good evolution. That's my personal belief. But speaking as a CEO, if we claim to be an innovative 21st-century brand, if we want to represent the future of Swiss watchmaking, we have to look beyond the watch itself. We have to think about the company and the image that we present. We have to move forward this way, because this is the future. It's simple. We have to go faster on this — some countries are super late, some others are well advanced, so if we can play a little part, as a company, to drive these ideas and to make them more visible, we should do it. And by doing this, we also protect the future of our company.


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