Wristology 101: Georges Brunet

Published on 20 March 2020

What was your first wristwatch?

I became passionate about watches at the age of 18 when my father gave me my first fine watch. It was an Omega Seamaster with a helium valve. But the very first watch I owned was a FlicFlac, when I was 12 years old… It didn’t make it through the summer!

How did you come to take over ZRC ?

My parents made me follow a rather classic school curriculum : Bac B then BTS in international trade, BA and MBA at FAU Florida and finally a CSA. Besides, I studied English, German and Spanish. Between 1995-96 I joined the army and spent almost 2 years in Djibouti. I wanted to join the marine commandos but I knew I would have to take over the family business, at some point. Eventually, my father began to lose his sight. Because he could no longer do his job, my mother asked me to come back. In 1997, I started to work for ZRC as a shopping assistant, then I went through all the departments: from export, marketing assistant to management assistant, then Product and Marketing Director, before finally becoming Managing Director in 2004.

How do you approach the history of ZRC through your family prism?

It’s the idea of continuity that drives me and pushes me to stick to the brand’s DNA; but at the same time to be open-minded in order to avoid stagnating in a niche market. More generally, I have a 3D vision: pursuing the family adventure started here in Geneva in 1904; improving the product and our service without ever distorting it; trying to become a recognized brand in our “marine sports” watch world.

What are the links between ZRC and the world of adventure? What developments would you envisage beyond the diver’s watch?

Already in the 1970s, my father sponsored the French water-skiing team, rally drivers, etc… Originally, ZRC was born following a competitive bidding process by the French Navy. I don’t think that we will abandon our diver’s DNA, but we have to evolve, for instance as ROLEX is doing so successfully. We are going to strengthen our brand image while offering new functions or using other materials. A ZRC chronograph would make sense, as well as a deep-sea diver’s watch, or a power reserve, etc… but before all that, we need a strong, identifiable, long-lasting and attractive brand. This is what we have been developing since 2015.

Why did you team up with Romain Rea?

I met Romain a bit by chance, at the launch of the wristwatch in 2015, when I introduced him to the new ZRC. Joining forces was above all a question of “feeling”, because we have a lot in common. He is an honest person, very competent in his field and unconventional. When ZRC was reborn, he immediately trusted me and played the game immediately.

Which ZRC do you like to wear?

My original ZRC, my Grandfather’s, as an homage: who knows, if paradise exists, maybe from up there he will be proud to see what we have accomplished, since 1960.

Why buy a ZRC?

For the history and the look: the two are inseparable. It’s a “coup de coeur” brand: you like it or you don’t. Its angular look and vintage shapes make it look more like a tank turret than a watch; its crown at 6 o’clock as well as its extendable strap make it a unique piece in the watchmaking landscape. At the same time, it has incredible technical innovations such as the ECS system, which is in the process of obtaining its international patent. Don’t forget that the case has been designed to resist to more than 1000m! Finally, its quality/price ratio is also very interesting for a Swiss Made.

Do you have a heritage department inside the manufacture?

Yes of course we do. Since 2004, I have been collecting Vintage ZRCs. I’ve been working on the reintroduction of the brand for 10 years. I have been able to collect almost all the vintage models: I am now only missing 2 of them. I have also accumulated quite a lot of vintage material, such as tools, brochures, advertising, demo articles etc… We have enough to open a small museum. It is essential to be able to show to as many people as possible what ZRC is: where the brand comes from, how it was born and developed between 1958 and 1980.

What do you have planned for 2020?

ZRC was born in 1904 in Geneva, so in 2020 we will celebrate our 116th anniversary. The watch will be 67 years old because the first ZRC was officially launched in 1953 – even if the MN homologation dates back to 1960 for the Grands Fonds 300 model. We are planning a great novelty: a model derived from the GF300 under the evocative name of “Deep Blue Project”.

Romain Réa