Romain Marietta is the Products Development & Heritage Director at Zenith Watches. He spoke to MW about the brand’s 2021 launches, and how the pandemic has affected the business.
MW: What is the story behind the creation of the recently launched Chronomaster Revival A385?
Romain Marietta: We created the Revival line as part of the Chronomaster collection in 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the El Primero movement. This initiative was to highlight our patrimony and iconic models over many decades. Our attention is on the models from the early days of the El Primero. In 1969, we launched the first automatic integrated chronograph with high frequency. We had three different models carrying the movement: The A384, the A385, and the A386. We did revivals of the A384 and A386, so the logical step was to come with a new A385.
This special model was the first gradient dial in Zenith history, but most probably also within the watch industry. We have been able to reproduce that dial and model as faithfully as possible to the original. Same size, same proportions, thanks to the same movement for 52 years. In addition, with the revival line in Chronomaster and Chronomaster Sport, we have now defined very clearly the Chronomaster line, which offers watches for different tastes. One more novelty on this collection will be revealed in the coming months.
MW: What are the other launches that are planned for 2021?
RM: The biggest launch is Chronomaster Sport — our newest interpretation of what a sporty chronograph should be (in the Zenith Spirit). This watch indicates 1/10th of a second on the black ceramic bezel, and is powered by an upgraded EP movement. The watch has been inspired by our legacy of sporty chronographs over the last five decades. It is a blend of ingredients we took from six different watches from our patrimony. Chronomaster means ‘Master of Chronograph’, and this is the motto that drove us to the creation of these models. We have several other big launches that will be revealed during the coming months, including at Watches & Wonders in April. We will have a second chapter to the relaunch of the Chronomaster. We will introduce a more classical aesthetic into the Chronomaster with the new movement. There will also be a launch around our partnership with Felipe Pantone (the contemporary artist), and an important new line in the Defy Collection.
MW: What goes into the conception of a new Zenith watch?
RM: Identifying where you want to go with each line of your collection, and how you want to develop them. At Zenith, we have the chance to work in two different ways. We can start from a mechanical idea and then transform it into a drawing. Or we can start from a blank sheet, and adapt the mechanism. We have our own manufacturing facility where we create our own movements, so we are very agile with the development.
MW: How has the pandemic affected Zenith?
RM: We were down around 30 per cent in 2020 for Zenith, similar to what the watch industry has been going through. We hope we would be able to travel once again during the second half of this year. We have developed the e-commerce solutions to adapt ourselves to the fact that in a lot of countries, the stores are unfortunately closed.
MW: Has the pandemic in any way changed the brand strategy in the nearer term? Has it sent you back to the drawing board in terms of re-looking at your marketing and selling strategy?
RM: Of course, we had to reinvent ourselves in terms of communication on regular channels. Social media has become very important. We can’t do physical events, so we had to adapt by creating the best proximity possible, considering the situation. The closest you can be to your clients, the best it is. We have been very regular with our Zenith Instagram live shows to be in contact with clients, press, ambassadors, retailers, and friends. We also launched our e-commerce service. This was always in the pipeline, and was expedited because of the pandemic.