Time Talks With Benoit de Clerck, CEO of Zenith

Zenith CEO Benoit de Clerck has stars in the eyes for what Zenith has in store for the near future.
Zenith Benoit de Clerck

Zenith CEO Benoit de Clerck

With over 25 years of executive experience, Benoit de Clerck is someone who is well-versed in the luxury watch market, having led global sales across four continents. The Belgian-born CEO of Zenith has a sharp understanding of the consumer’s ever-evolving desires in the world of watchmaking. Having held the title of Chief Commercial Officer at Panerai and Managing Director of Richemont’s Watch Division for the Middle East, de Clerck now brings a unique perspective to Zenith where he takes up the task of balancing the brand’s heritage with an eye to the future. Here, he explains how he aims to sustain the positive evolution of the brand.

You’ve been working in the watch industry for over two decades now, what drew you to Zenith?

I have been versed in the watch industry for the past 25 years, beginning my journey with TAG Heuer as I opened their office in the Middle East before its acquisition by LVMH. Subsequently, I joined Richemont with different roles across the Middle East, South America, the USA and Asia.

My journey then led me to Geneva, where I assumed the position of Chief Commercial Officer at Panerai. I was eager to continue my journey in a more comprehensive role. I was involved in many decisions at Panerai but I was aspiring for a global role and having the final say in marketing, product and Human Resources. This is what drives me. When it comes to Zenith, I must say that I feel a strong connection with the brand, with its authenticity and rich story. Joining Zenith is a dream for me.

Zenith Benoit de Clerck

Chronomaster Original

Has your perception of the brand changed since you joined the company?

I have been discovering the marvels of this brand every day since I joined! I knew Zenith has a rich history but from what I discovered by visiting the manufacturer, the Grenier, and talking to the employees, the heritage team and the watchmakers is unbelievable. We have many stories to tell and we need to stay authentic, as our history is.

What do you think are some of the elements that make Zenith unique?

The rich history, of course, which has been around since 1865, as well as our emblematic movement; the El Primero. This is a real gift that has played such an important role in watchmaking. In addition, there’s also the people. The mood and atmosphere at Zenith is great, you can feel the “family” spirit and the “start-up” spirit. This is so important to remain agile and flexible.

Zenith Benoit de Clerck

Chronomaster Original

It could be said that the Zenith El Primero is the brand’s hero product. Would you say that creating new hero products would be part of your objective as CEO?

I already have specific ideas, but you will see some important projects come to life next year for the 160 years of the brand. My mission is to sustain the positive evolution of the brand on a global scale and we are working all together for this continuous development. Today we have a very healthy brand and clear product lineup that will contribute to this achievement.

What is the biggest challenge for Zenith and how do you aim to overcome this challenge?

With each challenge comes opportunities, this is my motto. We certainly face challenges. We could certainly develop the retail operations or further communicate Zenith’s history and messages that were the focus of communication during the El Primero’s 50th anniversary. These are so interesting, and more people need to know about them. However, I consider myself very lucky. The brand is in good shape today and we can only develop further.

Chronomaster Original

What is your favourite part of Zenith’s history?

The story of the “attic” or “Grenier” as we call it, of how Charles Vermot saved the El Primero and saved the Brand, overall, is definitely my favourite one. The emotion you feel on your skin when you visit the Grenier is real, as if Charles Vermot is still around us, our hero!

What are some of the trends that you think will shake up the watch industry this year?

It’s definitely the comeback of vintage watches and the second-hand watch market. For this reason, we keep developing “Zenith Icons”, a program that we launched in order to keep the heritage of rare pieces alive. In essence, Zenith Icons is a curated collection of rare and highly sought-after vintage Zenith watches that have been sourced, restored and certified by the Manufacturer. Organised into thematic capsule collections, Zenith Icons allows you to own a piece of watchmaking history with total peace of mind. This is very important for us.

This story was first published in The Peak Malaysia June 2024 Issue.

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