INTERVIEW - Zenith: “The Chassis is Ready, Now We Need to Build it Up”

March 2015

An interview with Aldo Magada, recently appointed CEO of Zenith.

Aldo Magada has recently been appointed head of Zenith.
His aims were neatly summed up by Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH’s watchmaking division, as well as TAG Heuer’s CEO as of quite recently: “The previous CEO, Jean-Frédéric Dufour, rebuilt Zenith’s chassis. It will be Aldo Magada’s job to build it up.”

What does the man himself think?
“The chassis, the foundation on which everything was rebuilt, is the El Primero movement. But confining oneself to this definition is like looking at an X-ray of the brand, rather than at its face. It’s better to look at the Open 69. This watch alone is an accurate summary of what we are: a classic case with a special dial, two classic counters and an opening onto the inner workings of the movement. Elegance and technicality. That’s the direction we will be going in.”

The first step will be to reorganise the product range.
“There was too much choice at the buffet,” notes Aldo Magada. “We’re going to reorganise it along three axes: the chronograph, the classic three-handed watch and ladies’ watches. The chronograph epitomises our historical legitimacy: the only 5 Hz on the market, timekeeping, El Primero. In the future all our chronographs will be equipped with it. But we will also push the envelope; we’ll continue with our Haute Horlogerie, working on innovations like our gyroscopic escapement, as well as the métiers d’art and micro-painting. The ‘three hands’ line will become the Elite range, which is very well positioned; it’s designed to give a new, fresh face to classic watchmaking. Prices with manufacture movement start at CHF 4,900. Our average price is between CHF 7,000 and 8,000. We will continue to press our advantage in the ladies’ watch sector. Not many people know that in some countries, China for instance, our ladies’ range represents 60%, a performance we owe largely to our mechanical manufacture movements that will fit inside 33 mm cases.”

Aldo Magada
Aldo Magada

Another important sector is after-sales service.
Aldo Magada spontaneously brings up this essential aspect, which is all too often overlooked. “Excellent after-sales service is vital for any company with long-term ambitions, which is our case. It is part of the task I have been set by our shareholders, who act with great patience and are in for the long haul.
Today we produce around 40,000 movements per year, plus several thousand more that we deliver to third parties. But the El Primero has been around for 45 years, it is a thoroughly proven movement. Our after-sales needs to meet the same standard of excellence. And that is now the case.”

What about distribution? In these uncertain times, with political upheavals in various quarters and a strengthening Swiss franc, what adjustments will be needed?
“In terms of distribution, the focus of our activity will be directed towards maximising the potential of our most dynamic markets. Our most important anchor points are China (which for us has not slowed down, we are simply selling less gold there), Hong Kong, South-East Asia, Japan, a very important market, Switzerland, because of both its local market and tourist sales, and the USA, where recognition of our brand has advanced in leaps and bounds.
Our second objective is to vigorously strengthen sales in Europe.
We believe that Germany, for instance, holds great potential for a classic and technical brand such as ours. Finally, we will continue to expand in the USA. And, of course, we will be ready to make the most of any other opportunities that might present themselves.”

Source: Europa Star March 2015 Magazine Issue
Picture courtesy of Johann Sauty