Thierry Nataf Interview: New CEO Of Slyde Watches

Thierry Nataf Interview: New CEO Of Slyde Watches

Thierry Nataf Interview: New CEO Of Slyde Watches ABTW Interviews

He has been described as controversial, he has been described as extreme. One thing Thierry Nataf is not, however, is boring.

That was the impression I got when I made my way from the heart of Geneva to a place in the mountains some 40 minutes away to the SLYDE offices in the Swiss countryside.

High up on a mountain with views of farmland all the way down the valley, I sat down with Thierry to discuss his new role as CEO of SLYDE and his vision for the company of high-end luxury digital watches that right now seem to be without a perfect categorical description. By the way, please see the full aBlogtoWatch review of the Slyde watch here. UPDATE: As of January 2013, Slyde has announced that Thierry Nataf will no longer be the CEO of Slyde but rather remain part of the brand in an advisory position.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a tall, thin gentleman, with an intensity in his eyes that suggested a tremendous passion for life. I had, before I arrived, found comments around the Internet that described Thierry as a controversial man and in many ways I could see where these people were coming from.

Therefore, it seemed the SLYDE watch was an ideal match for this controversial CEO. In my opinion, and in the opinion of quite a number of people I had spoken to, the SLYDE watch can either be described as too extreme or a truly breakthrough moment as being a pioneer in the new sector of the luxury digital watch.

It is not as if luxury digital watches have not existed before. The problem stems from their quartz heart. The anti-mechanical electronic nervous system is still a dirty word in luxury. Can quartz at its best make digital lux again? Even though many high-end brands offer quartz watches in their collections they aren't a priority for the subject of news. The SLYDE is more akin to a mini computer. Think iPod Nano strapped on your wrist sans the music, with all the attendant possibilities of a screen that can be programmed to display anything. Package that in a well-built titanium or stainless steel case with the option of gold and diamonds and that is essentially what the SLYDE watch is all about. Though to the watch industry, it is something deeper. A potential portal of expressing things never quite possible with "traditional" gears and springs.

In the beginning, I first came to the concept of the watch with immediate disdain. Just say the words "luxury digital watch" to yourself and witness a weird feeling come over your body.

Thierry Nataf Interview: New CEO Of Slyde Watches ABTW Interviews

The phrase comes across like an oxymoron and it is not difficult to see why as mentioned above. A luxury watch in the estimation of watch connoisseurs is almost always mechanical, disregarding the few super accurate quartz watches that sometimes gets into a watch lover's wish list.

Therefore, I immediately dismissed the concept outright. It was not until I met the SLYDE representative at the London Salon QP that I decided to give it a chance. I was given the watch to play with for a few weeks to see what I thought of it.

Coming from that experience to meeting with Thierry then, I was in a better position to find out what the company was all about, and what it would do to revitalize the watch industry. I say that because in the time I had with the watch, I certainly did feel that compared to the state of the art black slab I had on my wrist, the tide of "me too" round cases and hour and minute handed watches that dominate the industry did come across as rather staid and boring.

Thierry is obviously a watch lover. As the former CEO of Zenith, he single-handedly pulled the brand from irrelevance to a brand that even some lay people had heard of.  What became of Zenith after that is a matter of gossip, but the man made an impressionable mark no doubt. Thierry is experienced in the art of injecting life into a brand.

Standing at the helm of SLYDE did therefore seem like an inspired choice for Nataf. Here is a watch concept that depending on the creative direction, is either dead in the water or a pioneer in new things to come. I hazard a guess that with Thierry, the latter is a distinct possibility.

Thierry Nataf Interview: New CEO Of Slyde Watches ABTW Interviews

The SLYDE moment, as he describes in the video, is that feeling that comes from allowing previous expectations to disengage, and opening oneself to a new concept. He told me that he had the same feeling I had when he first came to the SLYDE watch. It was only in the wearing and the experiencing of the watch that he started to realize what it was all about.

In fact, it would be better if you heard it directly from Thierry himself in the video, as he speaks in a manner that conveys this feeling that I cannot do any justice to in this article.

I came away from the meeting with a positive feeling of what the SLYDE watch represents and what it could be for the future. Despite the fact that the brand is still finding its feet, the new vision of what it promises is definitely winning fans around the world. In a market dominated by the mechanical movement, the enduring question is whether it is a foolhardy decision to create and sell anything different. In the case of SLYDE and Thierry... whatever they do will be worth paying attention to.

Once again, as an update to this article, Nataf is no longer the CEO of Slyde as of January 2013. It was a very quick time in office.

  • DG Cayse

    The ‘interview’ that wasn’t.
    Off to watch the video when time is available.

  • Ulysses31

    So this is the Prince of Darkness who presided over some truly hideous Zenith designs.  Casio need to ring up Transylvania and discuss with them the meaning of ‘multi-function LCD watch’.  I watched both videos and what infuriated me was his constant reference to the ‘mechanism’ and ‘reinventing the tourbillon’ etc.  Does he even know what a mechanism is?  Drawing a picture of a tourbillon and displaying it on an LCD with appalling viewing angles and poor touch sensitivity (watch the video, it’s pathetic) does not reinvent it.  He claims to have packed seven or more mechanisms in to one watch as if this is an achievement in a software-based device.  Because you know, electrical charge takes up so much space in the case, his engineers must have really been sweating all night trying to fit them in there..  
    There ARE quartz watches that can be admired, because they don’t pretend to be something they are not.  A mecha-quartz watch for example has at least some truly mechanical sophistication; heart cams, hammers etc.  You can take this as far as you like, but with an LCD based watch driven purely by a system-on-chip you’ve lost the mechanism completely.  It could be the same SOC that runs your toaster or your fridge.  It’s not sophisticated, it’s not luxurious and is about as devoid of soul as you could possibly get.  There is nothing new in this.  At least wearing an iPod on your wrist lets you listen to music too, and with a better display for a far smaller price. 
    Spend a little less on the case and strap and a little more on a better display technology and touch sensor.  When you slap a high price on a watch whose primary means of interaction is touch and display, and it does those things poorly, you come across as a charlatan.

  • Superduperman

    This is possibly the single most overpriced and hideous watch ever.  Frankly this is somewhere Casio or Citizen would not go because they desire to make quality watches and understand good design quality.  The QC on this thing is laughable.  Then again this is the man who made it his personal mission to kill Zenith by making watches aimed at the five and under demographic.  If I want quartz I’ll get something from the Citizen signature line, a campanola, or a HEQ from a quality brand.  If I want a watch with a LCD display that has a quality touch screen, than I’ll wait for Apple or a company using Android technology to develop something superior to this rubbish and much cheaper.  Has anyone ever been fired by two watch companies?  Would this be a record?  This is a joke and will this be the last we see of this Jason Voorhees-esque monstrosity of a watch?

  • DangerussArt

    Noooooooooooo! RIP Slyde.

  • Chijmer

    Seems like an iPod nano watch with better build quality and way less functionality

  • Ayreonaut

    Thanks for covering this.  It’s interesting, even if its not aimed at this crowd.  
    I would buy this as a $2 app for my iPhone.  It might work better…

  • Stuart Russell

    With respect to all concerned, words like ‘controversial’ and ‘extreme’ suggest nothing more than an over-active PR department. The headline photo above suggests our Mr. Nataf fancies himself just a little too much and I’m always wary of any brand that’s based around the cult of personality. He may well have done great things at Zenith but let the product speak for itself. Seeing the MD’s perma-tanned face mugging at the camera does not help to give this stuff any more validity…

  • Evosam

    I agree with many here – if you’re going to build this kind of watch, then you better make sure you have cutting edge tech behind it. The response time between UI elements looks appalling from the video. Also, if I’m going to have one of these watches, I want to display to be on all the time. I don’t want to regress back to the 80s and have to touch to light up the screen, especially for this kind of money. I think Slyde is in a very hard spot. People that are into this kind of watch, expect the kind of response and software polish and fit and finish from say an Apple product and at the price point of a Casio. As another gentleman said, each set of faces is at most a few dollars as an app add-on. I suspect that given where the price point of this piece is, each additional watch face set is probably the cost of most watches…
    Apart from the “design” that goes into some of the faces (not the one that has the photo background – what a joke!), I would rather have the Pebble watch over this, any day of the week…

  • MarkCarson

    I agree with the other posts. But I do think this is the future – of $100 digital LCD touch screen watches. Except that what will drive their popularity will be the ability to design and add 3rd party “movements” (really screen annimations – what brass they have calling their images movements). 
    As a luxury item, it may have a very short half life as did the first digital LED quartz watches (which later became cheap commodities). So yes, this concept has a future – just not as a luxury item. They better hurry and recoup their investment quickly before the sad reality descends upon them (maybe it already has and they just don’t know it).

    • DG Cayse

      MarkCarson Similar to the “shaking out” which occurred in the boom/bust of the late ’90s until Feb/March of 2000. Throw it on the wall and see if it sticks (sells). 
      Lowered prices and quick obsolescence. “But he sounded good when he pitched it?”
      Yes…they all do.

  • zznalg

    If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, well… this guy looks like Eddy Munster all grown up selling watches in a flea market.

    • MarkCarson

      zznalg  Eddie Munster – too funny!!!

  • nateb123

    A man who makes luxury items no one wants and a brand that makes luxury items no one wants.  Perfect match.

  • DG Cayse

    Too many ‘buzz words’ in the hype. I wish Slyde luck in their efforts. But is the target demographic large, and loyal, enough to maintain the company?

  • Tom_Hanx

    @onchrono am not a fan of his work at Zenith…

    • onchrono

      @Tom_Hanx Big, gimmicky watches 😀 With Jean-Frederic Dufour Zenith is back on track.

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  • StephenJones2

    Nothing became Zenith more than this man leaving it in peace!