Geneva, Monday, January 17th. Awarded by the specialized press, led by Gabriel Tortella and Groupe Edipresse, the “Man of the Year 2011” prize crowns the work of Jean-Frédéric Dufour at Zenith’s helm. Gabriel Tortella commented on the “clarity” with which the new CEO has restored the brand’s luster and pride of place in the watchmaking world.
A watch in his cradle
The man of the year was born with a watch in his cradle. His family includes a long line, indeed a collection, of Geneva engineers and industrialists. His grandfather was the inventor of the valveless engines used to power the famous Pic-Pic. Even before he took over at Zenith, Jean-Frédéric Dufour dreamed of the company. Let’s not forget that the watchmakers at Le Locle have the legendary El Primero as their heritage, the watch with the most precise movement in the world, the only standard caliber to tick at a rate of ten vibrations per second, while others effect only eight vibrations in the same second. Jean-Frédéric Dufour made the minute precision of this exceptional system visible on the dial, creating the Zenith Striking 10th.
Straight to the top
Jean-Frédéric Dufour’s career path has been a straight line to the top. He began his profession at Chopard, where he learned the importance of visiting all the international markets in person, in order to get a sense of the trends. He was then hired by Ulysse Nardin, where he discovered a passion for technical aspects. In 2000, he met Jean-Claude Biver and helped him develop the Léon Hatot brand: “Working with Jean-Claude Biver was the most rewarding and most important experience of my career,” J.-F. Dufour said upon receiving the award. He then returned to Chopard, overseeing product development, before taking over as head of Zenith in June 2009. The CEO of Hublot, Jean-Claude Biver, summarizes Jean-Frédéric Dufour’s work at Zenith: “He was able to reconnect the brand to its roots.”
Reconnecting Zenith to its roots
The Le Locle firm has considerable technical and creative potential; in 146 years of existence, it has registered 297 patents and racked up numerous watchmaking awards: 2,333 prizes in all, making it the most highly awarded brand for instrument panel clocks, wristwatches and pocket-watches. Possessor of a skipper’s license, Jean-Frédéric Dufour knows what course he needs to chart and as the captain, he knows how to motivate his crew.
The route will be a high-tech one: “Zenith is one of the very few companies that produces all the components for a watch, plus it is the only one to have mastered high frequencies and be able to divide mechanical time into tenths of a second. As the guardians of this rich tradition, we will perpetuate it and constantly reinvent it.”
Back and Forth on the markets
Like the El Primero calibers and their incessant and regular back-and-forth movements, Jean-Frédéric Dufour travels to and fro between his international markets. He regularly visits every one of the brand’s retailers, all around the world. In Singapore in December, Jean-Frédéric Dufour received two awards from the magazine Revolution: “Best Men’s watch” and “Rising Star Award” recognizing the El Primero Striking 10th watch and Zenith.