Amid all of the comings and goings in our yearly Watch Guide, one constant remains: it ends with Zenith. And, as bookends proceed, you couldn’t want for a more stalwart, respected and significant brand. Because, in its own way, Zenith tells the story of mechanical watchmaking in Switzerland — a battle against forces geopolitical as far as technological, forces which have put many other watch brands beneath.
It is a story that starts in the small village of Le Locle, in the Jura Mountains. In the first part of the 19th century it had been the beating heart of Switzerland’s clock and watchmaking industry, after an explosion in the amount of watchmakers who’d set up shop there. In the area of 100 years, their figures grew ten times from 303 in 1,760 to 3,053 a century later.
Enter, in 1843, Georges Emile Favre-Bulle, the son of a watchmaker. (His great-uncle, too, was at the commerce, famous for his marine chronometers.) Georges was just 13 years old when he shrugged off the overbearing attentions of his apprenticeship manager and struck out on his own. Adding his spouse’s name to his own, Georges opened a workshop in 1865, the birth year of what would become Zenith.
A 22-year-old accountable for his own startup at the white-hot industrial center of the precision watchmaking sector — what could possibly go wrong? To start with, very little.
Luckily for watchmaking, Georges had something about”the banks”. He chose to go it alone, so chose to create his movements the hard way — from the bottom up, as it were. What he generated in the procedure was a”fabrication”, the term we give now to all vertically integrated watch companies and the beginning point for what we understand as haute horlogerie.
But he did not stop there. He gained experience in enamelling, dial-making and casing and produced his own instruments. You name it, horologically speaking, Georges did it. Ten years after setting up, he used ten percent of Le Locle’s total workforce and has been the region’s biggest landowner.
All this expansion required inventory, therefore Georges relented and took his company public. It might appear a strategic retreat for such an avowed entrepreneur, but it quickly repaid. He began to win against the chronometry prizes that could pile up considerably within the next 100 years. To date, Zenith has won a remarkable 2,333 — more than any other brand.
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Georges stood in 1911 in favour of his nephew and son-in-law James andtwo years later, Zenith unveiled its initial chronograph — the disadvantage for that it will forever be correlated. Zenith reacted by creating dashboard clocks and clocks timers for cars, altimeters for aircraft, equipment for telephone exchanges… you name itif it may be made and also a use found for it, Zenith produced it.
Nevertheless, in 1925 James was pushed apart during a management shake-out, and the banks were in control — not always a good thing if you’re looking for tales of adventure and derring-do, but in such a instance representing something of a steadying hand in what would grow to be a tumultuous time for the company.
After all, Zenith had dropped its own important Russian business following the revolution in 1917, and it had no US company whatsoever, because of some trademark challenge from the American Zenith Radio Company.
But during this period it did acquire an expert chronograph producer, an important step in creating what would become its milestone complication: the world’s first fully integrated chronograph.
Chronomaster Revival Shadow
What is this for beastly? As far as we understand, only four illustrations are thought to exist, but today comes this boundless re-edition, in the new, historically appropriate (37mm) A384 case from 1969 and now made from microblasted titanium. Additionally swapped out: the original’s hand-wound Martel movement for its Zenith’s legendary El Primero automatic chronograph calibre.
Together with its all-conquering automatic chronograph movement, El Primero, Zenith watches has been a steady supplier of ultra-slim watches, as a result of its Elite calibres. And although recent selections have majored on more feminine examples, 2020 sees a return to the elegant lines found in most”serious” dress watches. This brand new moonphase equipped version includes a 40.5millimeter case in 18-ct increased gold, a silver-toned sunray decorated dial and quintessentially”classical” dauphin hands.
Built to coincide with the company’s, all-new Defender SUV, Zenith’s ongoing partnership with Land Rover results in a suitably substantial-looking version of its equally revolutionary El Primero Defy 21, which includes an uprated El Primero movement capable of timing to one-hundredth of a moment. However there similarities with earlier models finish, together with the newest Defender’s chunky-yet-minimalistic appears picked up in a robust-looking sandblasted titanium instance crafted fitted with its own”collar” crown shield.