Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer Gerry McGovern talks to Dubai Watch Week about the latest collaboration between Zenith and Range Rover.
The Zenith Defy Classic Range Rover, launched today, is the third watch to come from the Swiss watchmaker’s tie-up with the British luxury SUV specialists – but the first Defy. It times with the unveiling of the second-generation Range Rover Evoque, the smallest car in the Range Rover family. And it’s got something about it.
For one, it’s the only Defy to date with a 41mm case. That might not sound significant as a figure – not too big, not too small – but what spikes interest is that Zenith should manufacture a new case size for a watch limited to just 200 pieces.
But then Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer who oversaw the development of the watch, is the kind of man who can ask for this kind of thing – and get it. His uber-successful Land Rover portfolio now shifts half a million cars a year.
‘The first thing I said was; “I don’t want a 42mm watch, I want a 41mm watch,”’ he says firmly. ‘We wanted a watch that would work for men and women – the Evoque customer is split 50/50 male and female. I like the juxtaposition of a man-sized watch on a woman’s wrist.’
Zenith are touting the watch as unisex. Aside from the size, the watch also has an ‘Arctic Petrol’ turquoise central seconds hand, lifted from the piping in the Evoque’s interior. ‘People can have an insatiable appetite for a Rolex because it’s got one colour element that makes it unbelievably collectible,’ he notes savvily. The new Defy also has a rubber strap stamped with a motif found in the Evoque’s stitched leather seats.
But the most obvious relationship between watch and car is the dial, the mirror of one of the Evoque’s alloy designs. It has five spokes, which just happens to create a star shape – à la Zenith’s logo. Although apparently that wasn’t intentional. ‘We didn’t design the dial to reflect the Zenith star shape, but when we chose the wheel design, we recognised it was similar to it,’ admits McGovern.
McGovern is clearly a watch man, with views on Zenith fans of the brand will appreciate. ‘Zenith has been a sleeping giant,’ he reflects. ‘That intrigued me. People who buy Zenith watches are generally people who are genuinely interested in watches. They know its heritage and its authenticity and its ability to create great movements.’
“I don’t want a 42mm watch, I want a 41mm watch,”
He goes further. ‘You’d probably argue that Zenith doesn’t have the image and the equity of some other watch manufacturers, but that’s a good thing because you can make that work for you.’ He won’t be drawn on what he means by that, other than to say the partnership is just getting going, and that Discovery watches are on his radar, as are pieces inspired by the iconic Defender, due for relaunch next year.
McGovern thinks Defy is the injection Zenith needs. ‘The Defy resonated with me when I saw it because it’s a watch that will transform the image of Zenith,’ he says. ‘It’s the first modern-looking watch the company has done, in my view. It’s design that differentiates you and gives your brand equity. And with design, if you look too far back, you lose relevance – that’s the kiss of death.’ He also points to the skeletonisation as important because it tells the story of the watch. ‘There’s an incredible mechanism in there that we should celebrate,’ he says.
The Zenith Defy Classic Range Rover follows models made for the largest Range Rover and the Velar. ‘We could play all sorts of tunes with this as we go on,’ muses McGovern. ‘But this isn’t about sticking Land Rover on the back of a watch. It’s a genuine collaboration.’
How? The design language of the car clearly translates into the watch, but does the watch influence the design of the car in any way? ‘Not literally, no,’ he concedes. ‘In terms of overall design proportion, clearly a watch isn’t going to affect a car much. But precision is the thing. That’s why I was keen to collaborate with a luxury watchmaker, because luxury watchmaking demonstrates a level of precision that I didn’t think was present in the automotive luxury design world. We needed to create more precision. So Evoque has much higher levels of precision than its predecessor and that manifests itself in the panel gaps, the interior parts, everything… That’s the influence.’