Interview : Jean-Claude Biver, CEO Zenith

The President of the Watches Division of the LVMH Group has taken the helm at Zenith as interim CEO and plans to optimize synergies with the group in order to re-energize the brand with the guiding star.

What are your priorities as the new CEO of Zenith ?

The message I would like to convey to your readers is that I’m taking up the Zenith torch with great passion. That difficulties are major motivational factors for me and and that I am more at home in tough times than when everything is going smoothly. That we intend to safeguard Zenith’s legendary “museum-like” nature and pay tribute to 150 years of competence and innovation. That I hope the 21st century will be as important for Zenith as its over 150-year history. That we are going to strengthen the brand message and pay tribute to the timeless Art of Watchmaking. Zenith is a Manufacture built on chronometric excellence, meaning it is firmly geared towards precision. Its track record in this domain is probably the finest in the world, featuring an incredible wealth of chronometry prizes “Editor’s note : 2,333” ! That’s the direction we are going to work towards.

How should the brand position itself in the coming years ?

If you lean too far towards tradition, you confine yourself to museum status ; and if you focus too heavily on innovation, you’re in the avant-garde. When I was at Hublot, we developed this principle of fusion between these two tendencies, as well as between materials and universes. This was an authentic guiding thread that has taken us to where we now are (Editor’s note : Hublot has been growing continuously since 2004, whereas the industry lost 10 points over the last year alone). At TAG Heuer, the avant-garde takes the upper hand and is even part of our name”, whereas at Zenith, we will need to build a bridge spanning the two and adopt a wise position between them.

What are Zenith’s current strengths ?

History and heritage. These are things that honor us and give us wings, that enable us to adopt a forward-looking attitude ! Zenith is also a full-fledged Manufacture that handles its own developments in an entirely independent manner. That is a clear asset – along with the fact of belonging to a group (LVMH), of which I head the Watches division – that will enable me to create synergies between competencies. In a certain way, the strong mark Zenith has made in the field of chronometry defines our field of expression, but there are countless possibilities of extending it. At Zenith, everything will stem from chronometry, not only on a historical level – because that is where we come from – but also technically speaking, because that’s the direction we must take, towards innovation. Our El Primero caliber is going to evolve. We will be unveiling a new type of escapement that will propel this historical movement into the 21st century. That obviously doesn’t mean that the historical generation is replaced, but rather that it is enriched by a new line bringing real added value in terms of the precision and sustainability of our calibers.

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

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