Photo Report: Tailgating, Watch Spotting, & Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay with Zenith Watches

Last year Zenith announced a new partnership with Aaron Rodgers, the highly decorated quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. News of such partnerships are hardly rare, and rarely compelling, and Zenith isn’t exactly known for their flashy celebrity connections. Likewise, Rodgers doesn’t have a history of endorsing luxury products the likes of which Zenith makes. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to sit down with both Julien Tornare (CEO of Zenith) and Aaron Rodgers to discuss the partnership, as well as Rodgers’ trip to Le Locle to visit the brand’s manufacturing facilities. All this after taking in a Packer game at Green Bay’s legendary Lambeau field. There was tailgating (kinda), cheeseheads, and plenty of Zenith watch spotting along the way. 

Julien Tornare is a refreshingly approachable CEO, and at times, surprisingly frank. He’s quick with his words and has plenty to say on the nature of the industry as well as the growing base of enthusiasts, of whom he seems keenly aware. Tornare spent 17 years at Vacheron Constantin overseeing markets from the US to Asia-Pacific before accepting the role of CEO with Zenith watches in 2017. It’s easy to get the sense that he’s enjoying life on the other side, embracing the current state of the brand, eager about its future, attuned to its past. Zenith is a brand that’s proven adept at living on both sides of that coin, and both Julien and Romain Marietta (Product Development and Heritage Director, and former podcast guest) have deep reverence for that line.


Upon arriving in Green Bay I sat with Julien to talk about why we found ourselves in, well, Green Bay, Wisconsin, a place to which the Swiss watchmaking world generally would not take members of the media. That reason is Aaron Rodgers, the 4-time league MVP, 10-time Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl XLV winning quarterback of the town’s football team, the Packers. Zenith and Rodgers coming together last year was not something that happened overnight. Julien talks of a long courtship period between the two, allowing something of a relationship to develop organically before making things official. Both Rodgers and Tornare told me that the attraction came down to authenticity, passion for history, and (forgive the corniness) striving for perfection. 

Nothing all that surprising in those answers, but reading between the lines a clearer picture of the relationship became evident. Rodgers spent a week in Switzerland over the summer, touring the Zenith manufacturing facilities and spending time getting to know the brand and the people it’s comprised of. Stories emerged of his willingness to engage all levels of employees within the brand, as well as the locals in Le Locle revealed a side of the athlete rarely portrayed in sports media. Hearing stories recounted from people behind the scenes painted a clear picture that, beyond the business side of this relationship, there were some genuine sparks of enthusiasm. 

Prior to kickoff on Sunday, Zenith threw something of a tailgate across the street from the stadium, which sits within the midst of an otherwise normal looking middle class neighborhood. As a native Wisconsinite, this was not a tailgate that resembled anything I grew up experiencing. Fall sports came with bitter cold, cheap beer, and grilled brats that had taken a bath in that cheap beer. Certainly no catered meals, professional bartenders, and heated tents the likes of which Zenith treated us to. I’m not complaining. Julien showed up ready, clad in an Aaron Rodgers jersey and a pink dialed Chronomaster Original Pink, which I will say was quite beautiful in the metal. Other watches spotted included the recent Hodinkee Chronomaster Original LE, a precious metal Chronomaster Sport, the Defy Skyline, a variety of A384/5 variations, and even a Defy Extreme thrown in for good measure.

Experiencing a football game in Lambeau is a bit like sitting in a time capsule. The field, right on up to the lights, feels like it hasn’t changed much over the past 50 years. Whether you’re a fan of the team or not there’s something special about being in this stadium, much the same catching a ballgame at Wrigley. Standing next to the grass the day after the game, with everything cleared away and the stands empty, it all felt remarkably… simple. The seats are aluminum benches, the walls are drab green, and there’s no ultra-high-tech screen floating above the field. Were it not for the relatively modest screen above the north endzone, you’d be hard pressed to pin down the era. 

It was the exact opposite of the Miami F1 experience, though equally as impressive on many levels. The Packers would go on to lose the game to the New York Jets by a score of 27-10. The results felt inconsequential to the gravity of the venue and history it represents, but the Packer faithful feel the sting regardless. 

Rodgers was frank about the team’s performance the following day, though we didn’t really get into the minutiae of football. He showed up in black sweats and a pair of black Adidas, another of his sponsors, with a long tan jacket and beanie cap. On his wrist was a steel Chronomaster Sport with black dial, a watch he’s become quite fond of, particularly in its white variation. He explained that he was wearing the black dial because he hadn’t been able to locate the white in his luggage after their trip to London for a game against the New York Giants the week prior. He’s also been spotted wearing a Chronomaster Original, but seems to prefer the bezeled Sport references the most.

Rodgers referred to the history of Zenith on multiple occasions during our discussion, including a nod to other brands using the El Primero over the years. During his visit to Switzerland he no doubt got the download on the El Primero’s sorted history, including a visit to the attic which Charles Vermot used to stash vital components used to manufacture the famous movement, effectively saving it from extinction. Or so the lore goes. Zenith’s history of course involves more than the El Primero, and Rodgers, a student of history, according to him, seemed to be very much there for all of it. I’m told he had to be pulled away from certain areas of the manufacture, as he’d spend too much time in a single area engaging with the brand’s engineers and watchmakers. Again, all stories I’m likely to hear on a trip like this, but his undertone between questions felt genuinely curious. 

Rodgers was soft spoken, but straightforward. He’s clearly observant when it comes to the people and things around him. He quickly struck me as the personality type I see often in collecting circles, if he finds something interesting he’s going to take the time to properly understand it. He’d picked up some watch jargon along the way, but his interest in time and how it’s measured (via mechanical movement) bordered on the conceptual. 

Rodgers at the Zenith manufacture in Le Locle, Switzerland. Image: Zenith

Brand ambassadorships are, by their nature, uninteresting to most enthusiasts within the spaces being represented, and watches are no exception. The celebrity gets a few more bucks in their pocket, and the brand in return gets exposure to the celebrity’s legions of followers. There’s rarely a deeper truth being revealed about either in exchanges like this, but it comes with the territory. That’s not to say the people and the brands aren’t interesting, but sussing out the true nature of a spokesperson’s feelings about a product or brand isn’t an easy task. Rodgers certainly has little left to prove, and from what I understand, has done rather well for himself throughout his career. So why Zenith? My impression, after a few short days, was that as much as he likes the watches and the history of the brand, he likes the people just as much. You can take that for what it’s worth, but I believe Rodgers will be wearing a Zenith long after their partnership has run its course.

Thank you to Zenith for the hospitality shown in Green Bay and for providing access to Aaron Rodgers. Learn more about Zenith watches right here, and see our coverage of the brand right here

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.