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Zenith’s Road to Defy Midnight

At LVMH Watch Week in mid-January, Zenith debuted a new Defy collection made specifically for women.

Called Defy Midnight, the line of 36mm steel watches is wide-ranging, with a selection of star-flecked dials on gradient blue, grey and mother-of-pearl dials. Every watch includes a steel bracelet and three additional leather straps, a set that represents a level of customization previously not found with any Zenith collection.

Zenith Defy Midnight, with diamonds.

We spoke with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare about Zenith’s path to the Defy Midnight collection. Read his comments below, in which Tornare also teases us just a bit about upcoming Zenith debuts.

Zenith CEO Julien Tornare

iW: Why launch a new collection for women?

For women, we had models in Elite and in the Pilot collection. But for a long time we didn’t have a complete strategy on women’s watches.

The newest Zenith Elite Classic

What were your primary considerations when approaching the Defy Midnight design?

My first thought was to create watches for women of the 21st-century, for today. That meant we needed to do that within Defy, which is our modern-focused collection. We needed to combine emotion and something rational. By that I mean a good tool for 21st century women.

We worked within the ‘Time to Reach Your Star’ Zenith marketing concept, which focuses on achievement, being someone very active. To represent that we wanted to have the sky on the dial, so we have the sky and the stars on the dial. And among these stars is your star, the one you are looking for – the one you want to grab, to reach. This could be in your private life or in your business, your sports or your arts. We all have stars we want to reach.

Defy Midnight, with diamonds on a mother-of-pearl dial.

This is the emotion of the collection, the story. So first I wanted to have this dimension to the new collection.

Then we realized that women of the 21st-century often have four lives in one. My wife reminds me of this quite often, that women are quite better at multitasking than men. So I wanted a watch that women could use in different circumstances.

We did not invent interchangeability for straps. But we may be the first to sell the watch with a bracelet and an additional three straps.

A woman of the 21st-century has many lives, and her day moves quickly. Perhaps going to the gym wearing the bracelet, then changing it to the strap for a cocktail in the evening. We are offering four watches in one.

What about the technical aspects of the watch?

I have always been against using quartz movements only for women’s watches and mechanical movements for men’s models. I think that is totally old-fashioned and wrong. We do have more and more women telling us they want a mechanical watch, something sophisticated, and not with a battery.

For the Defy Midnight dials, we first thought about the starry sky that you can see when you visit our manufacture. And, our logo is a star. So we placed a sky on the dial in several colors, but it’s always with the stars. The star symbol is very positive around the world in many different areas. Ratings are given in stars. Hollywood has stars. Zenith is lucky to have a star as its logo. We want to capitalize much more on that.

How will you support the collection in your marketing?

‘Dream Her’ is a concept we’ll be doing this year in which we invite women who have achieved great things in very different fields to discuss their lives. We will host events where this takes place. We are going to accompany these events with huge exhibitions. We will do these around the world, and they will each last about a week.

How have you changed the Elite collection?

We needed to update the design of the Elite collection. As you know I used to work for a classic brand, so I know what I wanted for Elite. It was a good thing that we had a successful Defy collection, which gave us the time to work on Elite, as well as Chronomaster.

If you want to do a classic watch, which by the way can be the most difficult to design, we have to go for elegance. If you buy a watch like that, it is because you want an elegant watch.

We worked on the case, the lugs, and looked within our own history. We refined the lugs and made a thin case– and added more value to the dial. I thought that some of the earlier models were a bit flat and without emotion.

Zenith's new Elite Moonphase, available with or without a diamond bezel.

This is why we settled on a sunburst dial that is actually quite costly to create. I am so happy to relaunch this, because I believe there are always clients for an elegant watch.

Can you offer our readers a peek at upcoming Zenith debuts?

This will be a very interesting year for Zenith. Remember that last year we had all the 50th anniversary celebrations where we launched all of the revival limited editions for Chronomaster. The massive interest in Chronomaster leads us to our April debuts this year.

The Gay Frères ladder bracelet returns to the Zenith A384 Revival.

You will also see another version of Defy coming this spring. This is the collection where we can play with colors and with limited editions. But Chronomaster must be linked to our history, so it will remain as you know it.

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