Georges-Favre Jacot envisions the future of watchmaking with ZENITH, a new vertical approach to Swiss watchmaking
ONE MAN’S DREAM OF PERFECTION
A young visionary dreams of creating the most precise watch known to mankind. He knows that to achieve this, he must rethink the traditional way watches are made and bring together under one roof all the talents and crafts required. This is the story of Georges Favre-Jacot and ZENITH, pioneers of vertically integrated Swiss watchmaking.
BIRTH OF AN EMPIRE
The Manufacture was conceived in such a way that it integrates itself with its environment rather than impose itself upon it. Natural ventilation and optimal lighting were emphasized, using bricks produced on site in Le Locle, according to dimensions that allow optimal light within the workshops. The fact that the historical building still hosts the ZENITH Manufacture today is living proof of its ingenious design.
ZENITH’s brings its irreproachable quality from Le Locle to the rest of the world
ZENITH ACROSS THE GLOBE
One country after another, ZENITH develops its presence in Russia, Europe and the Americas. Asian countries followed at the turn of the century, allowing ZENITH to make its mark in key markets and with prime retailers that would help position the brand as a household name.
THE “PILOT” TRADEMARK
Founder Georges-Favre Jacot was certainly a man who was ahead of his time. In 1888, he registered the trademark for “PILOTe” and later “PILOT”, along with names in other domains that he deemed promising. ZENITH remains the only watch brand that can have “PILOT” on its dials.
REACHING THE ZENITH OF PERFECTION
The lifelong pursuit of precision through vertical manufacturing reaches its peak.
BIRTH OF THE ZENITH CALIBRE
With the development of the ZENITH calibre, the Manufacture’s founder was well on his way to reach his star: The creation of a dependable movement using standardised production methods. It is one of the movements that has had the most longevity, accompanying ZENTIH with different variations for nearly half a century - including at chronometry competitions.
A time of recognition for the Manufacture and its chronometers
GRAND PRIX DE PARIS
The first year of the 20th century proved to be a monumental one for ZENITH. At the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition, among the latest technological developments from across the world, the Manufacture was honoured with a gold medal for its innovations on the technical side as well as its aesthetics.
INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIPS AND SIGNIFICANT ORDERS
Merging art and industry, accompanying pioneers and becoming a reference of precision across many domains.
ZENITH collaborated with some of the most prominent Art Nouveau masters of the time, such as Mucha and Lalique, on numerous ZENITH pocket watches as well as miniature clocks that merged art and industry in creative and novel ways.
George-Favre Jacot commissioned a young Le Corbusier, who would later be recognized as the father of modern architecture, to design his personal villa in Le Locle. Over a century later, the villa remains a landmark of Le Locle and a fine example of Le Corbusier’s work.
Having recognized the potential and progress of the earliest aviation pioneers, ZENITH offered a watch to Louis Bleriot, author of the first successful flight across the English Channel. In 1913, Blériot recalls ZENITH’s precision with these words that he shared in the brand’s guestbook: “I am very satisfied with the ZENITH watch which I usually use and I cannot recommend it highly enough to people who care about accuracy”.
PRECISION IN EVERY FIELD
ZENITH solidifies its international reputation as the leading manufacturer of precision chronometers and instruments across many domains.
ZENITH, SYNONYMOUS WITH PRECISION
During the first half of the 20th century, ZENITH became the reference for precision watches and other measurement instruments in many domains. Public institutions such as the Swiss postal service and astronomical observatories as well as banks, insurance companies and even the military chose ZENITH as the supplier of choice.
OTHER ILLUSTRIOUS OWNERS
ZENITH watches found their way to some of the most inspiring and influential personalities of the 20th century.
Mahatma Gandhi himself was gifted a ZENITH pocket watch by his friend Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s Prime Minister from 1947 to 1964. This silver pocket watch became one of his rare few material possessions and accompanied his daily life, notably signalling his prayer times thanks to its alarm function. An anecdote about how it was stolen and ultimately returned to him was shared by Gandhi in his journal.
A NEW BENCHMARK OF PRECISION
One of the most legendary chronometer calibres sets a new standard of precision.
ZENITH AT THE POLE POSITION OF CHRONOMETRY COMPETITIONS
During the fierce chronometry competitions of the 1950s, ZENITH and its Chronometry Laboratory unveiled a movement that would trump all others: Calibre 135. It included several innovative features that allowed it to win an unprecedented five consecutive Neuchâtel Observatory chronometry prizes from 1950 to 1954. To a larger extent, ZENITH movements have won over 2’330 chronometry prizes over the years.
THE SUMMIT OF INNOVATION
ZENITH reigns supreme in chronometry and ushers in a new era for the chronograph movement.
5011K: THE ULTIMATE REIGNING CHAMPION OF CHRONOMETRY
During the final era of precision chronometry competitions, ZENITH once again took its rightful place at the vanguard with its 5011K, which had set an absolute record in its category and has never been beaten since. Originally used in marine chronometers and pocket watches, the 5011K was even housed in wrist watches and continues to be one of the most prized chronometer movements ever made.
EL PRIMERO : THE BIRTH OF A CHRONOGRAPH ICON
As cheaper foreign quartz watches were taking a toll on traditional watchmaking, ZENITH revolutionized mechanical chronographs in 1969 with the unveiling of the El Primero, the world’s first automatic, integrated high-frequency chronograph calibre. This was the result of intensive R&D by the Manufacture, which envisioned a modern production method using the latest generation tools, as well as by the designers who translated the modernity of the calibre into unprecedented designs.
DAWN OF A NEW ERA
The seventies was a transformative decade for watchmaking and for the world. For ZENITH, it was a period of daring designs and heroism.
‘THE MANY FACES OF TIME’
With the rapid technological evolutions of the 1970s, the era of space-age futurism gave way to daring and optimistic designs. This was a period when ZENITH was at its most experimental when it came to novel design concepts in watchmaking.
CHARLES VERMOT – THE EVERYDAY HERO
When ZENITH’s management decided to cease the production of the El Primero in 1975, watchmaker Charles Vermot took it upon himself to secretly protect the El Primero for future generations by gathering all the technical plans and tools necessary to produce the movement and hiding them in a walled-off section of the Manufacture’s attic. His heroic act became a cornerstone in the El Primero’s enduring legacy.
THE RETURN OF EL PRIMERO
After nearly disappearing forever, the world’s first automatic high-frequency chronograph movement is brought back into production.
BACK BY PRESTIGIOUS DEMAND
As the demand for Swiss mechanical watches returned by the 1980s, several watch brands - most notably Ebel - were seeking ZENITH El Primero movements to use in their own watches. Eventually, ZENITH received a massive order from Rolex, which convinced the Manufacture to relaunch the unrivalled chronograph into production. The renewed surge in demand inspired ZENITH to create its own lines of classical and sporty El Primero chronographs.
A MANUFACTURE ONCE AGAIN IN FULL FORCE
As the new millennium approached, ZENITH created a new movement and formed what would become its most emblematic collection.
1994 marked the arrival of a new ZENITH manufacture movement that would also prove to be a staple for the brand for years to come, like the El Primero before it. The ELITE, which was voted “movement of the year” by the press, stood out with its slimness and versatility.
DEBUT OF THE CHRONOMASTER
The year 1994 marked the creation of the CHRONOMASTER collection, positioned as a line of high-end mechanical chronographs that embodies all the Manufacture’s prowess and mastery of the complication. It would become ZENITH’s core collection and the main line for the El Primero movement.
ZENITH JOINS LVMH
The start of a new phase for the Manufacture, ZENITH became one of the very first watch manufactures brands to join the LVMH conglomerate. It offered the group its unrivalled expertise in vertical watchmaking, and could count on the group for its further development and prosperity.
NEW MILLENIUM – NEW RADIANCE
ZENITH continues exploring creative watchmaking solutions while developing the El Primero into new complications
THE OPEN HEART OF EL PRIMERO
In 2003, ZENITH introduced the CHRONOMASTER Open with the aim of bringing the high-frequency beating heart of its El Primero calibre face-to-face with the wearer. It marked the first time that a chronograph featured a partially open dial solely to reveal the regulating organ and escapement.
EL PRIMERO TOURBILLON
Demonstrating the Manufacture’s mastery of the El Primero and its virtuosity in integrating additional complications, the El Primero Tourbillon was released as the world’s first high-frequency tourbillon watch. It joined numerous other notable complications added to the El Primero including the minute repeater, alarm, dual-time, world-time, split-second chronograph, foudroyante, perpetual calendar and annual calendar.
Defying gravity itself has long been the grail of watchmakers. That’s exactly what ZENITH accomplished with its patented “Zero G” mechanism, which places the regulating organ in gyroscopic cage inspired by gimbal-mounted marine chronometer that always keeps the balance wheel in a horizontal position. A groundbreaking achievement in a long line of patented ZENITH innovations.
ZENITH: A WORLD HERITAGE MANUFACTURE
ZENITH, one of the only manufactures to have continued production in its original site since its foundation, within its original buildings (completely restored between 2012 and 2015), is listed with the town of Le Locle as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A great recognition for ZENITH, which largely contributed to the development of Le Locle as a Swiss watchmaking hub.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP TOWARDS INNOVATION
Never content with simply repeating the past, ZENITH forges ahead with more extraordinary world-firsts.
FIRST WATCH TO FREE-FALL THROUGH THE STRATOSPHERE
Daredevil Felix Baumgartner took on the impossible: the Red Bull Stratos mission. With his ZENITH El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th on his wrist, Felix Baumgartner plunged into the stratosphere from a space capsule lifted by a helium balloon. During the free-fall, Felix Baumgartner reached a record speed of 1,342 km an hour – breaking the sound barrier. Upon landing, the watch was still working perfectly.
MASTERING 1/100TH OF A SECOND
Further proving its mastery of chronographs and specifically high-frequency precision, ZENITH unveils the DEFY El Primero 21 with a new El Primero calibre beating at a phenomenal rate of 50Hz for an accurate 1/100th of a second chronograph function. It is the world’s first and only serially produced true 1/100th of a second automatic high-frequency wristwatch.
THE FIRST MANUFACTURE TO OPEN ITS DOORS TO THE PUBLIC
To promote the art of watchmaking to as many people as possible, ZENITH becomes the first manufacture to open its doors to the public. It partnered with the Neuchâtel Tourism Office to create an unforgettable experience for those visiting the cradle of Swiss watchmaking and wishing to discover what goes into making a true manufacture watch from start to finish.
UNPRECEDENTED WARRANTY OF 50 YEARS
For the 50th anniversary of the El Primero and as a testament to its robustness and unwavering performance, ZENITH offered a warranty of 50 years for a selection of its anniversary models and limited editions; an unprecedented guarantee of reliability that’s fitting for the first automatic chronograph ever made and the only one that has remained in production for such a long period of time.
A GALAXY OF ICONS
Honouring its glorious past while looking beyond the horizon, ZENITH crafts the future of Swiss watchmaking and creates the ICONS of tomorrow.
To preserve its most revered historical references and offer them a second life while allowing watch enthusiasts to own a piece of watchmaking history, the ZENITH Manufacture has created ZENITH ICONS – a new concept offering the possibility of acquiring a curated selection of iconic and highly sought-after vintage ZENITH watches that are sourced, restored and certified by the Manufacture.
With the unveiling of the CHRONOMASTER Sport in 2021, ZENITH once again set a new gold standard for automatic sporty chronographs. Featuring the latest generation of the El Primero with a 1/10th of a second chronograph function and improved autonomy, the CHRONOMASTER Sport was crowned with the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2021 “Chronograph” prize.