The year was 1969. Neil Armstrong took mankind’s first steps on the moon and the hapless New York Mets won the World Series. It was also the year when Zenith watches introduced its first El Primero chronograph and British automotive brand Land Rover unveiled the prototype for the its luxury off-road vehicle, the Range Rover.
This story first appeared in the October 5, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On Monday night, Jean-Claude Biver, president of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Watch Division, joined Gerry McGovern, chief design officer of Land Rover, in New York to celebrate a newly formed partnership between the two companies.
The executives cohosted an event where they unveiled the El Primero Range Rover Special Edition watch, which will retail for $7,700 and be sold through Zenith’s distribution network around the world.
The watch has an aluminum body, a nod to the chassis of the car, and a matte black ceramised case. Offered in ivory or navy with bands that use the same leather as the cars, the watches are lightweight, water-resistant and have a ratcheted crown and black round pushers. The sapphire case back is co-branded and an oscillating weight sports both the Zenith and Range Rover logos.
“Design is an important discipline with Land Rover,” said McGovern. “It’s what makes the product more desirable. Nobody needs luxury vehicles or watches, but if we create something unique, people will want them.”
Biver said that since partnering with Land Rover, Zenith has discovered that the “two brands are complementary. Both are exclusive, prestigious, have the same customer base and the perception of both is very high.”
Zenith has only 38 points of sale in the U.S. and is viewed as a “niche brand” here, he said, and that’s intentional. “We may eventually open seven to 10 more stores, but no more than 50.”
He said since the watches were offered for sale last Thursday, the “reaction has been phenomenal.”
This comes in spite of the tough times at retail worldwide. “The world is full of political insecurity, the fear of terrorism and people are afraid,” Biver said. “All of this brings a bad mood to customers and so he refrains from buying.”
He said within the Swiss watch industry, sales are currently down 10 percent from last year, which is not great, yet better than many other industries.
“But I think we will all find a solution and 2017-18 will be better and stronger,” he said. “We’re going through a consolidation of the luxury market, and that’s actually better for the long term.”
Monday’s event at the New York Edition hotel, near Madison Square Park, also featured a live art performance from Carlito Dalceggio, who was painting on pieces of a Range Rover during the party.