Celebrating 150 years: a Zenith retrospective

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July 2015

The Swiss manufacture celebrates it’s 150th birthday by introducing the limited edition Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot timepiece.

For Zenith, 2015 is an important year. The brand with the guiding star logo is celebrating its 150th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, the brand will launch a special Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot timepiece, in honour of the brand’s founder. It was in 1865 in Le Locle, a small village in the mountains of Switzerland, that Georges Favre-Jacot set up his own watchmaking workshop at the age of 22.

Given the special occasion, the watch will be limited to 150 pieces, as they usually are. And as a result, it will come at a reported price of around 80,000 Swiss francs. Price and limited quantity aside for the moment, the special edition masterpiece will be powered by the iconic El Primero movement. The El Primero is famous for its chain and fusée mechanism, which was the most accurate movement ever produced when it was first introduced by the brand in 1969.

Celebrating 150 years: a Zenith retrospective

It’s fitting that the brass at Zenith decided to go back into the brand’s history and employ that legendary movement in this new model. Indeed, celebrating a 150 year anniversary provides a great opportunity to take a brief, panoramic look back into the brand’s history and its accomplishments.

Innovating spirit

Georges Favre-Jacot’s aim was to create complete watches in an era when movement components were made by scattered and isolated artisans. The entrepreneur invented the concept of regrouping the region’s many talents under one roof. This enabled him to incorporate a foundry, rolling-mills and stamping machines, as well as case- and dial-making.

Discovering the world

The second half of the 19th century brought considerable progress in the domain of transport. From 1870 onwards, Georges Favre-Jacot began traveling on foot as well as by train, car and boat around the world – and notably to Russia – for the purpose of selling his watches. It was Zenith that developed one of the watch industry’s earliest distribution networks.

Celebrating 150 years: a Zenith retrospective

Pushing the limits of speed and time

Zenith has consistently been right there alongside those who constantly push back human limits. Whether in accompanying the early days of aviation at the start of the 20th century, or racing on Europe’s most prestigious tracks at the wheel of classic cars, the brand has a flair for associating itself with daring individuals.

Celebrating 150 years: a Zenith retrospective

The all-conquering spirit

Zenith’s enterprising spirit and innovation go hand in hand with the conquests it has accompanied. In the air, one such pioneer was Marcel-Georges Brindejonc des Moulinais, who became the first pilot to fly from Paris to Warsaw. On land, Zenith was sucessively appointed from 1910 onwards as the official suppplier to the US army, the Swiss postal service as well as a number of national railway companies. At sea, Zenith quickly earned a reputation for its on-board instruments and marine chronometers.

Aiming for perfection

Between 1903 and 1968 (the year the last chronometry competition of the era was held), Zenith won prestigious prizes for the excellence of its calibres. Among them were Calibre 5011-O, which won the absolute precision record in the Pocket Chronometer with spring balance category (1967); the famous Calibre 135, which earned 235 chronometry prizes from 1949 onwards; and of course, the legendary El Primero (1969), the world’s first integrated chronograph.

Celebrating 150 years: a Zenith retrospective

The elegance of watchmaking

Zenith has also been a attuned to its times. From the start of the 20th century, it began cooperating with artists of the Art Nouveau movement, and from 1925, with proponents of Art Deco. Naturally it expressed its appreciation for women, to the extent that at one point in its history it was actually producing more ladies’ than men’s watch models.

Celebrating 150 years: a Zenith retrospective

What’s next?

Going strong for 150 years, Zenith’s accomplishments are well worth celebrating. And the special Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot timepiece is a good summary statement of what the brand is all about. Personally, I look forward to see how the brand will grow moving forward. (VJ)