Rising to the top
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Rising to the top

Swiss watchmaker Zenith opens Bangkok boutique

Rising to the top
Zenith boutique on Siam Paragon's M Level.

The first three months as Zenith's new CEO put Benoit de Clerck in listening mode.

"When I joined Zenith, I made a deal to myself that I would listen and not make judgement. Out of curiosity, I asked a lot of questions and learned so much from listening to the answers for my first assessment of the brand," he said.

In January, he succeeded Julien Tornare, who's now in charge of Tag Heuer, following a reorganisation of the LVMH watch division.

De Clerck has over 25 years of experience in the luxury watch industry and this includes his tenure as Panerai's chief commercial officer and IWC's president of North America.

"While LVMH's entrepreneurial spirit allows taking risk and trying new things, I will not revolutionise Zenith," he said. "I will capitalise on our strengths. But like a chef, I will add new ingredients to our recipe of success."

The CEO recently came to Bangkok to open Zenith's first standalone boutique in Thailand, located on Siam Paragon's M Level.

Zenith CEO Benoit de Clerck.

"I want to increase visibility of Zenith as well as accessibility. I want to open more doors but not necessarily by having more distributors but strengthening relationship with existing business partners such as Pendulum in Thailand," de Clerck said.

"Zenith is doing well here and the boutique is a way to thank our customers. It's about listening and giving them what they ask for through an impressive retail experience."

The entrance leads to the Story Bar, where four interactive objects operate the screening of videos about the long-established company and its watchmaking legacy.

In 1865, Georges Favre-Jacot pioneered vertically-integrated watch­­making in Le Locle. His manufacture d'horlogerie became known for the award-winning Zenith calibre named after the highest point in the sky, overhead from an observer's standpoint.

In 1969, the Swiss brand unveiled its groundbreaking El Primero -- the world's first automatic high-frequency chronograph calibre.

Zenith's Story Bar.

One of the chapters at the Story Bar recalls a managerial decision to cease the production of the El Primero in the mid-1970s due to the Quartz Crisis. However, one of Zenith's watchmakers Charles Vermot hid technical plans and tools for making components of the movement in a walled-off section of the manufacture's attic.

"Zenith has such a rich history and authenticity. I was particularly flabbergasted by how Charles Vermot saved the El Primero. He kept this a secret until the company wanted to bring the movement back to life and production resumed in the 1980s," said de Clerck.

Today, the pioneer and leader of automatic high-frequency chronographs offers time measurements in fractions of a second, including 1/10th of a second in Chronomaster Sport models and 1/100th of a second in Defy 21 and Defy Extreme timepieces.

The pursuit of the ultimate precision is symbolised by the star logo. The retail space expresses the "Time To Reach Your Star" philosophy with a central blue element stretching from the floor to the ceiling.

A comprehensive selection of current collections as well as 2024 novelties and exclusive editions are available at the boutique.

"At the end of the day, who's the hero? The watches are our heroes and we want them to stand out against a minimalist interior design with a soothing blue colour," de Clerck noted.

With a blue-toned sunray patterned dial, the hero on his wrist is the new Defy Skyline Chronograph equipped with the automatic El Primero 3600.

Displays of the Elite, Chronomaster, Defy and Pilot collections.

"Watch collectors and those in the know appreciate the complicated construction of our high-frequency movements. There may be a simpler way but Zenith employs a costly process to achieve the precision and performance. The quality also comes from the people involved in the production and the fine craftsmanship nurtured at our manufacture," he said.

De Clerck's short-term plans include the celebrations of Zenith's 160th anniversary in 2025.

"Not many watchmakers have reached this milestone. We will be celebrating 160 years of Zenith at the original manufacture in Le Locle, which makes it even more special. This alone explains the pedigree nature of the brand," he said.

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