Ultimate Cars, Watches & Hi Fi S02 ep3 : Thierry Nataf ,Zenith Watches, [Switzerland]
Interview with Thierry Nataf
Founded in 1865 by Georges Favre-Jacot, ZENITH became one of the most mythical and prestigious Swiss watch manufactures. Born in 1969, the El Primero movement remains today the fastest automatic chronograph and the most precise in the world. Drawing inspiration from the legacy of its young and brilliant founder, ZENITH forges a unique style, classical and yet innovative, the link between tradition and modernity.
TN: In 1865 at the creation of the company the founder one night, Georges Favre-Jacot was his
name, said I will put my company at the top of the top and he was looking for a name for his
company and he was at the same time a very audacious man, but he was at the same time modest
and he say he will not be called Manufacturer Georges Favre-Jacot. He said no, it will be called
TN: In 1868 he opened in China, in America, in 1900 he went all around the world in 1911 the
company was in more than 25 countries.
TN: And I wake up a lot of sleeping beauty in my business career in fashion in the electronic
consumer goods, in the wine and spirit, in the luggage industry, the pitch if I may say so was very
easy. Let’s bring back Zenith at the Zenith and let’s do what we have done for other brands. I don’t
know you take what we did some years ago with Louis Vuitton with the bags, it was a bag we
make it a dream and today it’s a global company, the number one luxury company in the world
within our group. I think here it was, I think was really let’s create a company that will be able to
blend tradition and modernity, a company where the engineering is incredible, whether a fantastic
___, whether a fantastic the fine line, a company where you know you can get at the same time
classic and modern. The company that in a way will reinvent the watch industry but with the DNA
of Zenith combined with one of the other image group.
TN: And when I took the company it was in 2001 so the history was there already and more than a
century and a half for a rough history. You have to respect the past. You are never completely free.
But I will explain how it works to you. It’s like a language, you have all the old words, if you’re
only keeping the old, then it’s going to be a dead language. You need to add new ones so you
combine let’s say the past and the future. I had the same experience with R____ P___. He was a
fantastic wine and champagne company but you know it was created in 1772 by Madame Cli___.
She had the vision about the taste even of the wine. You have to respect the vision of the man or
the woman that was at the beginning. So myself I see a little bit like in heritage of the past, but at
the same time you need to free yourself of the past and create the future. And this is an exercise to
learn to do in luxury because in luxury quite often you manage company that has a tremendous
history, you manage craftsmanship, the artisan watchmaker, or they can be wine maker or they can
be people’s shoeing or that you need to respect so in life you are never completely free, but what
you learn is to be able to fall in love with your past, to respect it and also ___ a joke I said I am
born in 1865 and then because if you have the heritage you get the respect of the old people and
you have so much ___ they are 72 years old and have some watchmakers then 20 years old, have
some of the people like researchers that ___ are just coming out of the MIT and others you know
that never went to study anything, but which did an incredible let’s say, they have the knowledge
of the hands. So this is all let’s say the story of our industry. You know, luxury is all about let’s say
escaping time and respecting time, being in the future and in the past at the same time.
TN: When you wake up a sleeping beauty or a sleeping dragon, you have several things to do. First
we had to re-establish a research and development centre because the technology is very
comparable to the engine of a car and as such you need to invest in new technology. At the same
time you use some old means of production so you have to hire people that are able to do, you
combine generation into a manufacture. I had of course to do work of designer because I didn’t
have any more collection, the company has led during 20 years and were doing you know the
movement of the Rolex Datona, all top names of the Swiss watch industry were coming to us, you
know we were a little bit like a car manufacturer which was like Mercedes top selling it’s car
BMW and they just sell the engine, which is an issue. So I had the engine, but I had to develop a
new generation of engine and I had to structure a full collection and now we all know in the world
academic chronomaster class ____ but at the time we didn’t have it so you have to work on the
collection. You also have to work on your international development.
TN: With the movement called the Primo 8800 which is going into the Defy Collection, the zero
gravity t___ is like having your watch let’s say in the space with zero friction so it’s really
reaching the perfection. Perfection has a cost of course. You know it’s like the Shakespeare
sentence ___ why so much energy, why so much dedication, why so much passion around the
watch. I think that in fact when you wear a watch, how can I put it, you wear what you are.
TN: The essence of my work at the end of the day, beyond technology, beyond craftsmanship,
beyond emotional design, is to give style to time.
TN: I have American blood in me, I have Italian, I have French, I was born in the Orient, I
travelled the world, I speak nine languages, so you are what you are. Second thing, as a creator,
you use the roots of your brand, but all creators know that you use yourself, you are the vibrator,
some people write very good articles on me and I blemish when I hear it but they say it’s like a
medium, the sound of the past is going through him and I use the vibration. All creators know that, you
use the vibration of the past, you dream the future, and then the point you make. I’m a
businessman and everyone knows it. I love success and if you want to be successful you need to be
in sync with time. Come on. You need to understand what high technology in the world can bring
you, you need to know how let’s say hyper-density titanium can help you, you need to build a new
metal called the Zenitium which makes you unbreakable, but you capitalise on the el Primero
which is the best movement in the world. So you see, you combine the artist who you are, the
businessman and I think then you believe in the future of Zenith.
JM: This is Jessica Mishow from the International Herald Tribune and I’m here at Basel Watch Fair at the
Zenith stand speaking to the President, CEO and Creative Director Thierry Nataf. Please, tell me
about your latest collection, what’s going here?
TN: I think being a President is not an ____. Being a President is to have the vision where you are
going to bring your group or your company. Being a President is to find the financial means, the
manufacturing means, sales, marketing, structure, even information system to get there and of
course you are accountable for your P&L for your brand equity, for a balance sheet. On the other
hand, being a creator, when one is called and management is called, it’s technical. Creativity is hot
and you can burn yourself. Creativity is emotion and so you are a ying yang, you know it’s a little
bit being at the same time solei et lune sun and moon, it’s very opposed but you have an
advantage, you need to structure your company because as a President I have a Board, I have VP’s
they work, with me, it’s very rational. As a Creative Director also I have the Zenith creative studio,
I have people designing with me, making the advertising in fact all what you see around for
instance, the design of the boutique and all the rest is done in-house.
TN: If you are born a creator or you do not and if you are born with it, you know you have it. I
discovered it, I was 16 years old and I had the craving to launch my fashion company. My father
was very tough and so I said ok dad, I will do, Italian-American, I said ok dad, I will do it, you
want the MBA I will do it, I was very good in maths and physics, you want, but please sign my
freedom I want to establish my own business because business was talking to me and I discovered
by chance, by accident, that I have it. That when I was saying ok let’s cut this suit like that or the
dress like this and later on let’s do this piece of luggage, I have it, then in a way with the years I
past rationalise I think and I realise that when you’re a creator you’re always in a very special
state. If I have to design myself a nice open to the world hearing the rumours of the cities, the buzz
of art, making the past your history, art, emotion, from really the Renaissance to the pop art, the
music, you are absorbing the world in fact and you have a terrible generosity. It’s like the fifth
element in a way. I just know and I know when I have it and I know when I don’t have it.
TN: I love competition, I am doing martial art I started when I was six years old, I was in
championship league, when you love business you love that, let’s not hide it. When you love this,
you love to run and T___ is doing fantastic work and he is a winner and did a fantastic company.
LVMH is all made of entrepreneur, we want to be number one and we are today and we will
continue to be, but you know we do it with passion, with honesty, and I think that you know when
you really love, it’s not a burden at all. You know when I came to B____ I said guys, let’s reach
the stars we’re going to make it again. And you know, even as a creator and recently in an
American newspaper number one won, write Thierry Nataf did it again, his collection is fantastic,
so you know you feel all the pressure you start to shrink you know like a phoenix because they God
they said that last year, what will happen this year? This year I just hear now that they are doing
___ he reached the stars, in different language in addition to the American edition. And then you
know my heart is then flying.
TN: If you really want to be at the top, compete with yourself first and work on yourself because
you are your worst enemy on your organisation. Second thing, you need the other to be good, if
not, you do not push yourself to the maximum, then it’s just ok, not ___ the competitors.
TN: The danger of the success is like a fantastic wine, it’s to be drunk, to sleep on your laurels to
say I made it and I probably by education have to thank my father, merci, he learned me
something, each day is a new day, each day you have to prove it again wherever you have, each
day there is a new step to go and you know life is little step.
TN: You know I spend half of my time being in my plane travelling the world and pushing my
business. When I am in Switzerland it’s very quiet, I’m in ___ in the mountain, surrounded by the
snow, with my watchmaker we have more than 250 watchmakers who are doing, so here you know
I have all the anecdote of a man you know leaving ___ in the past, I have the feeling I live in the
18th Century, but I love it. And then the other past I’m in Moscow talking with E___ M____.
TN: You know for me I don’t have a separation between private life and public life and my job is
my passion, I invite movie stars, very famous Austrian businessmen to be in my apartment in New
York for dinner, then I may live in Paris also and I have other people coming, and you know this is
show must go on.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Thierry Nataf, Zenith Watches, Switzerland