Sign up to our email newsletter

Be the first to know about the latest in luxury lifestyle news and travel, delivered straight to your inbox each week.

Sign up to our email newsletter

Be the first to know about the latest in luxury lifestyle news and travel, delivered straight to your inbox each week.

Jean-Frederic Dufour

By admin |  June 17 2010


Jean-Frederic Dufour

CEO
Zenith Watches

Marking his first anniversary as CEO of Zenith, Jean-Frederic Dufour has streamlined the Le Locle watchmaker’s offerings by paring its distribution points and reinterpreting the brand’s highly regarded heritage in a more classical sense. From his suite high atop The Venetian Hotel, far from the Swiss jura, Dufour took a break from selling watches at the Swiss Watch by JCK trade show to talk with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan.

ET: So how has the first year been?

Jean-Frederic Dufour: It has been exactly 53 weeks. Every day is better than the day before. The [company] history is so rich that every time you flip a book or open a drawer you find something amazing that was created by the company. At the same time we have narrowed our focus to the El Primero and Elite. Being the CEO of a manufacturer in Le Locle is my dream job and yet I also have the chance to travel the world.

ET: You have a pretty extensive background in the industry.

Jean-Frederic Dufour: I developed the manufacture at Chopard, then for Ulysse Nardin I had the chance to do sales, and then with [Hublot CEO Jean-Claude] Biver I gained experience in marketing at Swatch Group, and then Chopard again.

ET: So was Jean-Claude Biver the connection that brought you to Zenith?
[Zenith and Hublot are both owned by LVMH]

Jean-Frederic Dufour: Well, one of them, but there is a very long and wide and intense process that, as I said, is very long and intense.

ET: With your experience on the manufacture side you are considered a “watchmaker’s CEO”.

Jean-Frederic Dufour: Thierry Nataf [the former Zenith CEO, known for his flamboyant personality and showmanship approach] was successful at putting the name Zenith back out, but you are right, I am connected with the watchmakers. I really enjoy talking to the watchmakers. They are after all what the business is all about.

ET: Why do you consider Zenith such a prized company to lead?

Jean-Frederic Dufour: There are only four remaining companies that manufacture 100 percent of their products: Jaeger Le-Coultre, Rolex, Patek Philippe and Zenith. So as you said, I appreciate watchmaking and this is a company that is all about the watch from its history. We have a very good product and we are not trying to set a trend, but rather improve on our history.

ET: Zenith has a fairly well known history among watch aficionados.

Jean-Frederic Dufour: If you think chronograph, you think Zenith. In 1969 we produced the very first integrated self-winding chronograph, the El Primero movement. It measures a tenth of a second, but in my first meeting I asked the watchmakers, “how can I read the tenth of a second? We have to come up with something special to actually show it.” We have to find a solution to display the tenth of a second. And so that is what we did with the Zenith El Primer 1/10th of a Second—you can actually see one-tenth of a second.

ET: So this is a pretty significant achievement right at the start of your tenure.

Jean-Frederic Dufour: It’s like an old Mini [Cooper] and the new Mini. When you drive the new Mini you know what you are driving, but you get the features of a modern automobile. This is a 41 year-old patent for having the escapement wheel connected with the chronograph wheel.

ET: You seem very excited.

Jean-Frederic Dufour: There’s a lot of watch brands. Really anyone with a few hundred thousand dollars and some nice ads can create a brand, but when you’re buying Zenith we are offering value not only with our price but our true history and the fact that we are a manufacturer, not just an advertising campaign. Zenith is the most awarded watch company, so that says something right there.



Related Articles

Related Articles

Subscribe

Sign up to our email newsletter

Be the first to know about the latest in luxury lifestyle news and travel, delivered straight to your inbox each week.

Subscribe to magazine

Allow our ultra-luxe destination guides and exclusive itineraries to inspire your next vacation.