‘WhoAreU’ interview with Zenith CEO, Julien Tornare

Temps de lecture : 5 minutes
Julien Tornare, Zenith CEO, and Amandine during the "WhoAreU" interview

My name is Amandine, I am 12 years old and keen on watchmaking. Since the age of 7, when asked what job I want to do, I answer “watchmaker-designer at Bulgari”… In the meantime, I interview people in the industry. Let’s see today who is Zenith CEO, Julien Tornare.

By Amandine, the youngest Swiss Watch Passport columnist
Amandine’s portrait | Insta SWP | Insta JSH® | Insta Amandine | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

Who are you in the office?

As the CEO, I try to be a guide for all my colleagues, so that we’re all moving in the same direction.

be a guide for all my colleagues, so that we’re all moving in the same direction

And in real life?

I’m first and foremost a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and I try to be the person in line with my values.

How did you get into watchmaking?

By chance actually! The mother of an old classmate called me up years later and told me that I had a character and profile that would suit this type of career. That’s how I got started.

Julien Tornare and Amandine looking at the 2023 Zenith new watches
Julien Tornare and Amandine looking at the 2023 Zenith new watches

What do you remember about your very first watch?

It was a watch I received as a child. It had no market value, but there was a Goldorak on the dial. You probably don’t know what it is, but your dad must remember Goldorak very well. It was a Japanese cartoon character that people of my generation – boys in particular, but also girls – were very fond of at that time.

And which watch has more sentimental value for you today?

Goldorak watch
Goldorak watch

Today, there are several. Because for me, watches often represent a particular moment or emotion. But I’d say it’s probably a watch I received for my wedding.

Do you make watches for young people?

At Zenith, we’re quite unique in that we make watches for everyone. We are the first brand to have decided to stop making selections by gender. We no longer say that such watch is for women and such other is for men. We make beautiful watches, and it’s up to the customer to decide whether the watch is for a man, a woman, a young person or an older one. So we don’t have any watches aimed at the very young, but all our watches are worn by young people. And we have a lot of younger customers.

What would you say to a young person under the age of fifteen to get them interested in mechanical watchmaking rather than their Apple Watch?

Zenith watches wristshot - watches for everybody
Zenith watches wristshot with Julien Tornare and Amandine

First of all, I’d say that the beauty of a mechanical watch lies above all in the fact that it’s an object that can exist for eternity. If we look around us in this room (editor’s note: Tornare room on the Zenith booth at Watches & Wonders 2023), what objects can we imagine still existing in 300 or 400 years’ time? Very few. You and I, we are not objects. And unfortunately, in 400 years, we won’t be around. The croissants, the Coke, the table, the furniture, there’ll certainly be nothing left of them in 400 years. But a mechanical watch will still be working in 400 years, unlike a cell phone or a connected watch… If you have a good watchmaker who can set the watch and put a little oil on it, the mechanism will still work. Your generation is very sensitive to sustainability and recycling. When you make a mechanical watch, you have an object that can exist for eternity. And that’s a message I find very interesting for young people.

What are Zenith’s strengths that could appeal to them?

Our brand has a very old heritage, a long history since it was founded in 1865. Over 150 years is a long time. It’s very authentic, because I always insist that the stories we tell are true and well-founded. The movements we use for our watches are all Zenith movements, in-house movements. So there’s a very serious historical side, even though we live in our time, in the XXIᵉ century. We create contemporary watches, we try to have fun events, to talk to young people through the channels that you have today, be it social networks or others. You could say that Zenith strikes a balance between the past, the future, tradition and innovation.

old Zenith ad - The Perfect Watch
Old Zenith ad - The Perfect Watch

Do you prefer TikTok, Instagram or LinkedIn?

More Instagram, but I also like LinkedIn for work.

What advice would you give me to live my passion and work in the watch industry?

I think you’re already off to a great start because you do a great interview, you seem serious and you come to the show to see the watch brands. So it’s fair to say that you’re already off to a much better start than most young people with your age. You show interest and ask interesting questions. That’s great! It’s a great start and you need to keep it up. Keep coming to see us, go and visit factories, try out a few internships… That way, when looking for your first job in this world, you’ll already have a head start over the others.

That’s what you should try in life.

Always be one or two steps ahead.

Julien Tornare LinkedIn profile. Mostly for professional purposes
Julien Tornare LinkedIn profile. Mostly for professional purposes

Any message you’d like to pass on?

I’d just like to thank everyone who is interested in our beautiful industry and Zenith in particular. We get a lot of visitors on our booth and I find that very exhilarating. It’s so motivating to be able to share this passion with all these visitors during this week of Watches & Wonders. Especially during the two days open to the public with end customers. It’s also a great pleasure to have this exchange with you, because you embody this passion and enthusiasm perfectly, and we’d love to have lots of people like you in our companies. So bravo to you in any case.

Thank you. I’d like to add that Zenith is one of the few manufacturers that organizes guided tours, open to the public. So that people who are interested in watchmaking can have a chance to visit the workshops and see what goes on behind the curtain. It’s a real sign of openness…

I think we all want the watchmaking industry, with its fine mechanical watches, to appeal to new generations too. You live in a world that moves so fast, you receive so much information and you have so much access to knowledges. So opening the doors of a manufacture and allowing the public to come and discover a brand like Zenith from the inside is the best way to develop vocations and interest in brands like ours.

Shall we take a selfie for my album?

I’d love to. Great.

Amandine and Julien Tornare - the selfie
Amandine and Julien Tornare - the selfie

Julien Tornare, from interviewee to interviewer !

Can you tell me how you became interested in watchmaking?

(Amandine) It was with my dad at a Bulgari party during the SIHH. In fact, I wasn’t seeing him at all because he was leaving early and coming home late. And that day he had promised to spend the evening with me. So when Bulgari invited him to a cocktail party, he told them no, that he had to look after me, etc… and then they offered to take me with him, that they’d have something to drink other than spritz. He was a bit embarrassed because I was only seven, but I jumped for joy when he asked and said I wanted to go. When I got there, everyone was super nice to me. But it’s true that I was a bit small and Dad had to carry me to see the watches in the showcases.
Actually it all started when Laetitia Hirschy (editor’s note: co-founder of the Watch Femmes network, who was working as a PR at Bulgari at the time) called me and asked me if I’d seen the watches, if I wanted to touch them, try them on. It was so great, it was the first time I’d tried on beautiful watches, especially the Serpenti Tubogas. When I left, I told Dad that I wanted to become a watch designer… at Bulgari.

That’s just great! It’s a great story, I love it. And Bulgari is also a very beautiful brand…

Julien Tornnare and Amandine - "WhoAreU" interview for Swiss-Watch-Passport
Julien Tornare presents 2023 new Zenith watches to Amandine

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