If you’re quite behind the news about Zenith, a high-quality watch brand, we have the right kind of information you need as a kick-starter. We’ll take you back more than 45 years ago when Zenith proved its worth upon getting patent for the 1st mechanical automatic chronograph before big names were able to do it. We’re talking Breitling, Dubois-Depraz, and Hamilton—biggest names in the Swiss watchmaking industry that Zenith outran for a few weeks, under Jean-Pierre Gerber, then technical director of the brand.
Burt aside from this monumental instance, there are a lot more to the brand that will amaze you.
Georges Favre-Jacot, the founder of Zenith, got the gold medal price during the Paris Universal Exhibition, 35 years after he started the manufacture, and a year after the brand launched its very first pocket chronograph. It was a well-deserved win, after he united all professions in the watchmaking industry, thereby starting a watch product ion revolution.
Zenith also started devising its own onboard instruments, while it also earned the nickname “Manufacture with 2,000 gold and silver hands,” as it employed 1,000 people for the hand-making of its timepieces. Its steady path of excellence led to the launch of Calibre 135, a renowned wristwatch movement that earned more than 235 prizes.
The start of the brand’s expansion to a ‘marine territory’ is an eventful time as well, with the launch of Caliber 5011K with an unbelievable precision that’s more advanced than its peers. It was then used widely to power marine chronometers, as well as table clocks, pocket watches, and Zenith’s limited edition of the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20.
Another notable milestone for the Swiss brand is the creation of the integrated automatic chronograph movement, the first of its kind, aptly named ‘El Primero’ or ‘the first’. Until this very day, El Primero is still the best in precision among all series-made in the world. It is the single movement that can measure short time that is nearest to 1/10th of a second. The magnificent ability of El Primero is due to its balance’s oscillation reaching up to 36,000 vibrations every hour—a true high-frequency chronos that continued to be developed in the following years.
Among other breakthroughs of the brand are the following:
- Launch of an elite movement made with Computer Assisted Design technology that was recognized by the Trade Press as the ‘Movement of the Year’
- Innovation of the Defy El Primero 21, the first with 1/100th of a second accuracy in the watchmaking industry with crisp reliability
- The 150th year of the Zenith was celebrated with the launching of a limited edition of a watch with the style codes of El Primero mixed with a contemporary design: Chronomaster 1969
- Serving as the official timekeeper during Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s historical record of breaking sound barrier in freefall for a total of 38,969.4 meters of height. Baumgartner wore Stratos Flyback Striking 10th, of course bearing the El Primero movement.
- Zenith later on joined the LVMH luxury group, finding itself among great luxury brands and under the exceptional management of the French conglomerate.
Historic ‘revival’ of El Primero
Zenith El Primero Open-Heart Chronomaster
The rise of quartz watches has proven very destructive for the mechanical watch industry, but the mechanism, tools, and parts of the original mechanical pieces of Zenith have been preserved. It was all thanks to Charles Vermot, a watchmaker of the brand, who decided to hide every authentic material he could get from El Primero, even after the owners of Zenith during that time decided to produce quartz watches only.
What Charles Vermot did proved to be very helpful when the demand for mechanical watches were back again. Once again, Zenith was able to produce quality mechanical pieces, with the caliber like that of El Primero’s. The movement then empowered other brands during this re-start in the industry, with El Primero used to equip many timepieces from various brands.
Zenith Defy El Primero 21
A collection of awards and recognition
The Academy Christophe Colomb Équation du Temps was awarded with the ‘Best Complicated Watch Prize’ by the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix (GPHG). Another award from the GPHG was given to Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th and the Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Lightweight—‘Sports Watch’ prize.
In 2017, right after the launch of Zenith’s Defy Lab, it won the GPHG’s ‘Innovation Watch Prize’. A unique and new approach was used by Zenith in creating the mechanical watch, a purely innovative scientific technique that also combined modern technology and materials to come up with exceptional precision and performance.
Zenith won a total of 2,233 chronometry prizes since 1865, many of which were because of its specialty in precision. But other kinds of awards, especially the recent ones, highlight the capability of the brand to excel in other aspect, too. While we want to elaborate more on Zenith’s award, we might literally need hundreds of pages to acknowledge every single one of them.
Zenith El Primero Tourbillon Chronograph Watch
Having a heavy history of innovation and stellar performance, Zenith continues to uphold its reputation as the connoisseur brand. It might not be one that immediately pops into the head of the larger market, but true experts in the watchmaking industry know that Zenith is a brand they can fully trust—both performance-wise and design-wise.
Even with the use of its classic ideas and past innovations, the brand remembers to bring in fresh looks, new technologies, and advanced movements to ensure that the caliber of its pieces are on par with the world’s highest standards. Try out one and you’ll know what we’re talking about.
Zenith Pilot Type 20 GMT. Hadrian / Shutterstock.com