Over the past few weeks, Baselworld has announced many new concepts and measures for the 2019 edition. What are your expectations of the show?
Julien Tornare: We believe Baselworld must become more of an experience for the public at large and not just for press and business partners. End consumers should become the real focus of attention and this will include restricting the pricing model. Like the Swiss watchmaking industry as a whole, Baselworld has not always been very creative. There has been a lot of repeating the past, but like the industry, this is starting to change with a great focus on introducing new technology and the introduction of new partnerships that will benefit exhibitors and the visitors alike from a cost perspective. The new hotel partnership is just one such an example. There’s a new media centre in a park-like setting to encourage exchanges and the entire exhibition space has been completely revamped. As the ultimate face of the industry, it is important that the show is representative of what we are trying to achieve. In terms of Zenith, we hope it will offer a perfect setting for the exciting things that Zenith has in store in 2019, notably including the 50th anniversary of our landmark El Primero.
The industry is undergoing rapid changes. How do you perceive them? Where do they have the strongest impact?
Julien Tornare: The industry’s challenges have been the subject of considerable discussion in the media. These began with the decline in exports and the strong Swiss franc, all of which has been compounded by a lack of confidence in the industry’s top three markets, namely the U.S., UK and China. Despite the fact that the watchmaking industry seems to have regained its impetus after the recent crisis, it is possible that there are still too many brands producing luxury watches in a limited market. My view of the future is that those who survive will be those that remain in touch with market needs while being able to successfully make the paradigm shift to managing a digital world and online marketing in particular. Additionally, in this regard, general preference has shifted in the past couple of years from mono-brand stores being the outlet of choice to online authorised retailers. That requires a major mind shift as well as a keen understanding of the digital world.
How do you deal with these changes? How does Zenith address them and how is this reflected in your products and through your distribution channels?
Julien Tornare: At Zenith, we are going for quality rather than quantity, with a focus on product design, rationalising distribution and knowing who our customers are while remaining in touch with what they want! China, Japan and the U.S. currently represent about 40% of our sales which we hope to increase to around 60%. To succeed will necessitate raising brand awareness and making a concerted effort to attract millennials to mechanical watches. It should be clear though that appealing to the younger generation doesn’t mean that we have any intention of getting involved in connected watches. A beautiful mechanical watch is a status symbol which defines a personality. By the same token, our core business is chronometry and unparalleled precision and as such, having an icon like the El Primero to our credit is a major asset. We will continue to introduce dynamic, contemporary innovations but I see connected watches as being complementary to this, not instead of what we do best.