Yves, Head of Movement Development
A keen devotee of mechanical watchmaking since his childhood, Yves is Head of Movement Development at Zenith. Chronometric precision, balancing forces and distributing energy are his daily concerns. His creative work begins in his mind with theoretical reflection on innovative and useful functions liable to improve the performances of a watch. Based on these thoughts, he then imagines the kind of mechanisms that will help to achieve these aims.
This is precisely the conceptual process that led to the development of the gyroscopic “gravity control” module, the revolutionary Zenith-patented system equipping the Academy Christophe Colomb models. It all began with the principle, meaning ensuring that the regulating organ could be held in a single position in relation to gravity, as is the case on marine chronometers. After considerable research, the horizontal position turned out to be that which guaranteed the best timing precision.
Fascinated by watch mechanisms
from an early age
Given that conventional tourbillons as well as inclined or multi-axis tourbillons are held only briefly in the horizontal position, the solution appeared obvious to Yves: the movement had to be equipped with a constant horizontal escapement. After considering various aspects and key factors such as the small space available, energy management as well the high frequency at which the movement had to beat, Yves concluded that the solution would have to involve a system with a single differential.
Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane
Assembling movements in the Zenith workshops
"Gravity Control" Module, Academy Christophe Colomb
Once the theoretical groundwork had been laid, it was time to translate it into practice. The technical, R&D, materials, prototype and watch exterior departments all sprung into action. Permanent interaction and countless exchanges were involved as specialists designed, conceived, tested, eliminated, tried out other options and started all over again – and again. After five years of intense development the “gravity control” gyroscopic module was ready to assert its undeniable qualities. In 2011, it was fitted inside the Academy Christophe Colomb Équation du Temps model. That same year, this unprecedented model won the top prize in the stellar category of the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix, the watch industry’s most internationally coveted distinction, where it was honoured as the “Best Complicated Watch” of the year.
Innovating and constantly looking ahead Naturally, not all innovations are quite so spectacular for someone with less experienced watchmaking eye. Complexity is often hidden in solutions that are invisible for the wearer, and sometimes inside mechanisms that look pretty simple to the layman. Rethinking the architecture of a movement so as to house the regulating organ – the beating heart of the movement – just beneath the dial opening represents another challenge. Introducing new materials designed to improve performances or reliability; finding ways of facilitating assembly; conceiving programmes that will serve to develop such complex mechanisms as a fusée and chain device: these are all part of the daily work of the Head of Movement Development.
To constantly push back the limits
of achievement, and to believe
that nothing is ever impossible
Above and beyond talent, experience is crucial in this activity, since the devil is often in the details.
Hindsight is also vital, because observing a caliber evolving over time serves to constantly improve it, to enrich it with new functions, to make the most of new technologies and new expectations.
For Yves, the fact of being able to rely on the perfect interaction of 80 watchmaking professions united within the Manufacture Zenith is the cornerstone that enables it to give life to the mechanisms that are imagined. Thanks to this impressive sum of expertise that serves to constantly roll back perceived limits and to believe that nothing is impossible, he will long be able to continue giving free rein to his daringly inventive approach. In doing so, he remains keenly aware of perpetuating an almost 150-year heritage of horological innovations from Zenith that he is committed to both preserving and passing on.