Gandhi’s Companion

Gandhi’s Companion

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< CEO speak >

A chat with Zenith CEO Jean-Frederic Dufourr eveals the brand’s historic connect with Mahatma Gandhi

Jean-Frederic Dufour

Two years ago, the Christophe Colomb Equation du Temps watch won an award at the Watch World Awards. The same watch won an award at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix a month later. How was this news received?
We were very pleased because it’s a unique system that you don’t find anywhere else. It’s patented and efficient.

What I like best about the Zenith watches is that they sit so nicely on the wrist. Which one are you wearing currently?
This is Type 20, which came out last year. It’s a legendry calibre made by Zenith in the 50s. This calibre is called 5011. It has been awarded as many as 277 times.

And how much is it priced at currently?
6000 Euros. Zenith is a good brand producing good watches at great prices. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi was gifted a Zenith pocket watch with alarm. I didn’t read the whole memoir of  Gandhi, but I read the part where he talks about Zenith. He mentioned how his watch was very important for him because it was the only instrument he had to keep him connected with the rest of the world. His watch, however, was stolen. Some of us might also know that Gandhi, who was known for purposefully avoiding material possessions, had said that this was the only time that he cried when something of his was stolen. (Writer’s note: The thief was eaten up by remorse and returned the watch to Gandhi six months later. Before his death, Gandhi gave the watch to his granddaughter, and over the years the watch has been passed carefully through the hands of private collectors. In 2009, Gandhi’s Zenith timepiece formed part of an auction lot containing his personal items, including his sandals, a bowl, and his iconic round spectacles. The lot was purchased at an Antiquorum auction for a total of $1.8 million by industrialist Vijay Mallya.)

Where do you want Zenith to be in the next five years? How do you see its positioning in comparison to the other brands out there?
We continue going up on our path slowly but strongly. We now have 13 boutiques.

And how many points-of-sales around the world do you have?
We have about 800. I do not want that number to grow. I prefer quality, which means that it’s not about the number but about the value they offer. It’s about productivity. What I want is that at every single point-of-sale where we are, we must be in the top five.

Zenith is probably amongst the top few in terms of movements and references…
Zenith was started in 1865, and we have been a leader since over a century. However, the brand did not manage well during the quartz crisis. It made the brand lose its market share slowly until 1999 when Rolex bought the El Primero movement. Then, we had to rebuild this brand, and it has now become what you see today.