Recently, the CEO of Zenith, Mr Aldo Magada, came down to Singapore to witness the opening of their boutique in Marina Bay Sands. The folks at Deployant had the opportunity to catch up with the affable gentleman on the Zenith Tour Bus, which took us on a tour around the sunny isle in Southeast Asia.
First off, we congratulated Mr Magada on his appointment, even though it was a little belated. Well, better late than never! Swiftly, we talked about his new job, and the challenges that he had faced so far. Mr Magada told us that he is pleased with his appointment, as Zenith is a great brand and a great manufacturer of fine watches. The fact that LVMH is giving him a lot of freedom makes his job much more exciting and interesting as well, as it does not restrict his team to be creative and do something different from their competitors.
On the subject of work, we were curious to know what is it like to work under the legendary Jean-Claude Biver. Mr Magada smiled, half expecting us to ask him this particular question. He had nothing but praises for the incredible man. Mr Magada told us that Mr Biver is a demanding, but an extremely knowledgeable and hardworking man. The bigwig figure believes that nothing is impossible, which is why he does not take “no” for an answer. Having said that, Mr Magada added that working with Mr Biver is invaluable, and that had helped him to gain plenty of wonderful experiences which helped him drastically in his foray into horology.
We went back to the topic on Zenith, after digressing a little on other subjects. Several questions regarding the collection were exchanged, especially with reference to the future of Zenith’s offerings. We were told that there will not be much changes to the current Zenith lineup, as they will continue to develop and realize the potential that his predecessor, Mr Dufour, had set in place. The brand is also looking to consolidate and simplify their collection. The most important thing, according to Mr Magada, is that consumers must understand who Zenith are. However, he added that they have a collection that focuses on haute horlogerie, in which they will be placing more resources into it. There are basically no limitations there; the watches created will be rather extraordinary and different from what the current lineup has to offer. We will be keeping our eyes peeled on that.
Next, we follow up with the macro-side of the business. We were told that the largest market for Zenith pieces are in Asia, mainly Hong Kong, China, and Japan. He reckons that the trend is due to the design of their watches; it is pretty Asian-oriented. The watches have a timeless design, which is a preference of Asians. On top of it, Zenith pieces are value for money, which is also why they are able to attract astute Asian collectors. Having said that, Zenith is also focusing on other markets, such as USA and Europe. Mr Magada noted that the financial situation in Europe may not be favorable currently, but he foresees that the situation will change for the better.
2014 has not been a favorable year for all, including Zenith. That is greatly due to the tighter spending in many markets. 2015 will hopefully be better, says Mr Magada. He expects the growth to be steady, but not opportunistic. Hence, he is working towards long term growth, rather than unsustainable but spectacular short term results (but he emphasized that the company needs to have reasonable growth in the short term as well). The future certainly looks bright for Zenith here.
Talking about long term growth, we went on to discuss on the future of horology. Mr Magada firmly believes that horology will still be relevant, even after many decades from now. It is because watch is a luxury good, not a necessity; people will continue to buy it because they appreciate the provenance and the efforts behind the creation of a timepiece. While the market may be hurt by the improvement of technologies (e.g. the Apple Watch, smartphones), it should be insignificant as it targets a different market base.
Since we were talking about Apple Watch, we asked the man for his thoughts on it. It was, in his opinion, disappointing. The smartwatch is an existing product, and some of their competitors are producing better watches than what Apple did. Also, the lack of water resistance function on a sport watch is upsetting. Overall, he feels that it is a little over-hyped; he was expecting something a little crazier, to say the least.
Taking the conversation to a personal level, we discussed on watch collecting. Mr Magada shared that the Rolex Submariner is his favorite timepiece. Not just any Submariner, but the one he received from his Grandfather when he was twenty years old. While the Rolex Submariner is an iconic piece, it is the emotional and sentimental value behind that particular Submariner that makes it very special- and it is something that we can all relate to. He also added that he has bought and sold quite a few pieces along the way, as the watches do not gain enough wrist time. This is out of respect and integrity for the company that he works for.
Apart from watches, Mr Magada also shares with us his passion for wines and cars. We got a little carried away, since all of us here shares an interest in automobiles as well. We concur that classic cars are splendid, at least when it comes to the looks and the philosophy behind it. Well, there are not many cars that are built with the same soul and passion these days.
Soon, we concluded our conversation, as the tour bus reaches its destination. We thank Mr Magada for his time, as well as Zenith for making this possible.