A Conversation with Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith Watches

by Katherine Arteche
04 Jul 2021

He talks to us about Zenith’s launches at the recent Watches & Wonders and their bid to champion for sustainability.

Watches & Wonders this year was very different considering the state of the world. For the first time, there was no elaborate exhibition site, no watches on physical display, no conferences whatsoever, and most of all, no frolicking in what we imagine to be a very breezy Geneva in April. 

It’s also the first time the exhibition adopted a digital format and the show has been suited up for brands to show off their new technical prowess through creative presentations. To discover how brands are adapting to the current consumer climate, we sat down with Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith, to learn more about their new initiatives. 

Let’s kick off with the Spectrum collection that you have laid out for us. You’ve described that high frequencies and color have a synonymous relationship, thus the array of variations.

This color-focused concept has also led to various collaborations like Carl Cox and more recently, Felipe Pantone. What is the priority when pursuing such colorful partnerships?

First of all, we must be aligned on the mindset and sentiment of each other’s branding. Whenever I meet with someone that could be a partner or an ambassador, we discuss their path to success. It’s a philosophy we call “Time to Reach Your Star”.

This is what interests me, on how the individual starts from a dream, or a wish, and how they turn it into reality. 

Felipe Pantone

It is a great source of inspiration that benefits both parties. I don’t believe in mere celebrity endorsements.

Now, more than ever, people value authenticity, and for a watch brand, that’s important in our movements. In the case of Felipe Pantone, we created what resulted in kinetic art, by integrating his artistic skills and his vision of Defy 21 into the movement. 

Colorful base movements of the Spectrum

With the Spectrum, the idea was really to find the best precious stones that can get as much light and color as possible. We realized that people love our play on colors, not just on the bracelets and cases, but also in the movement. That's how we expanded on this correlation. 

You recently announced a partnership with Extreme E, an event that champions motorsports and sustainability. This highlights the new Defy Extreme timepiece which interestingly sports a velcro strap. What is the kind of person you have in mind for this watch?

The Extreme is a punchy watch that’s worn by very strong personalities. I’ll say that if you don't want anyone to notice you when you enter a room, don't wear an Extreme.

But we want it to be very wearable for any situation, though it’s ultimately a very sporty, outdoor watch. 

I don’t have a large wrist, but it sits on my wrist very well despite its 45mm diameter. We were very conscious about the ergonomics, hence the lightweight titanium case, its angular design, and the pairing of an interchangeable velcro strap makes it really comfortable. 

While Zenith has always been linked to cars, “extreme” is the keyword here. I’m super excited about Extreme E because it's all about the same spirit of adventure in extreme off-road conditions.

And this is all achieved through electric vehicles, allowing racing to be as environment-friendly as possible. This also ties in with our ZENITH IS GREEN initiative, which we’ve been campaigning for two years now.

Over time, we've been doing many different initiatives to contribute to climate change protection, and this partnership is definitely one that we can get on stage with.

Recently, we’ve introduced the Chronomaster in a more classic iteration. We also have exciting announcements and launches lined up so you can expect quite a few things from Zenith in the coming months. 

This story originally appeared in Portfolio June issue #51.