Zenith, the defy of the Defy

July 2007


Just look at Thierry Nataf! The CEO of Zenith is certainly second to none in the rather polished world of prestige Swiss timekeeping. Energetic, lively, and highly charged, with his eyes on everything, attentive to the slightest detail, his hand always in the mix, Nataf physically incarnates his brand, Zenith, the ‘sleeping beauty’ that he awakened from a long post-industrial coma. He succeeded in this difficult challenge, contrary to all expectations but supported by the powerful LVMH group, and has made his brand a major player in the luxury watch sector of the market.
In 2006, he launched the Defy range, born of a vision,”I was driving an Aston Martin, very fast – but don’t repeat that – and I asked myself: what if the speed changed the form of the car that I was driving…”. The Defy answered a need, opening the brand to the sports market.
The bet seems to have paid off for this watch with its carved form, and for the speed of its success since, one year later, “Defy accounts for 25 percent of the turnover of Zenith,” Nataf declares. As to the turnover, this is all we will know because LVMH does not give a detailed accounting of the results of each individual brand. But for Zenith, 2007 will officially be a year of ‘consolidation’ coming after a series of launches that now need to be digested and fully developed.



Advent of pink gold
However, in the absence of any really earth shattering news, the Defy family is growing, both in its ‘calmest’ branch, the so-called ‘Defy Classic’, as well as in its more ‘turbulent’ cousin, the ‘Defy Xtreme’. Even the term ‘calm’ is not the most appropriate for a watch that, whatever its execution, cannot be considered to be subdued in nature. As the quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, in the brand’s press releases, states with dark humour: “Whatever does not destroy me makes me stronger.”
Defy, therefore, did not ‘destroy’ Zenith, quite the contrary; the new models are even ‘stronger’. Their main characteristic, both in the Classic branch and in the Xtreme, is the very successful design element that uses pink gold mixed with titanium, steel, carbon, and rubber. This creates striking contrasts among the materials, with a predominance of black and pink gold that clearly combine harmoniously. The pink gold, treated in such a way to create a tight web, is also found from the bezel to the central elements of the links. This motif is also embossed in the crocodile leather bracelets and in the natural rubber straps.
The other great idea of the year is what Thierry Nataf sums up in the expression “his watch for her.” Making the observation, along with many others, that women appreciate large masculine sports watches, he is now offering the ladies a number of models in the Defy Collection, in various sizes but without changing their sturdy character or diminishing their virility.
With its strengthened incablocs inspired from anti-seismic techniques, its bridges in ‘zenithium’ (a patented alloy of titanium, steel, and nobium, with a shape memory), its external and internal shock absorbers, its system of ‘spinning’ hands intended to ‘evacuate’ shock waves, its carbon beehive shock absorber structure, or even its multi-layers comparable to those of a safety deposit box, the new generation Primero movement that equips the range of Xtreme watches seems to be prepared for even the craziest of all possibilities. This identity is especially notable in a new ‘furtive’ model, the Defy Xtreme Stealth, carved in titanium and white gold, and available in a limited series of 100 pieces.



A start-up that is 150 years old
Present today in 55 countries, Zenith is, according to Thierry Nataf, “a start-up that is 150 years old.” And, explaining that “2006 was an excellent year,” he adds that he has “three Number One markets: the United States, China, and Japan.” Affirming that Eastern Europe has doubled his market last year, Nataf is also happy to see that the German market is stronger and that Italy and France have confirmed his hopes. Yet, today, Nataf is targeting an international clientele, a clientele he calls “a global luxury village: a Muscovite who buys in Courchevel, or the American who makes a purchase in Tokyo..."
With Zenith’s industrial turnaround nearly completed, and its manufacture reworked (250 people, 25 métiers, 15 engineers, and 12 watchmakers devoted to complications), Thierry Nataf now envisions a bright future and affirms, loud and clear, that a new era of Zenith is beginning. “We have not copied anyone; we have the experience; we are mastering all our complications; we possess the necessary structures; we are going to build upon the work already accomplished. The world is open to us.” And, he concludes with enthusiasm, “Become who you are!”

Source: Europa Star April-May 2007 Magazine Issue