In a bid to preserve its most revered historical references and offer them a second life while allowing watch enthusiasts to own a piece of watchmaking history, the Zenith Manufacture has created Zenith ICONS – a new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. Offering only the finest examples of historically important references, Zenith Icons watches are sourced, restored and certified by the Manufacture in Le Locle and sold exclusively at Zenith's boutique.
On the Zenith Icons collection and what it means for the Manufacture, CEO Julien Tornare shared “This is an exciting new chapter for Zenith’s legacy, and I’m extremely proud of the teams at the Zenith Manufacture for taking on this initiative. We are bridging the past with the future by celebrating Zenith’s rich history and the references that have become true icons of watchmaking. We are acquiring historical timepieces from sources who have cherished them for a very long time and allowing others the opportunity to enjoy them. These rare pieces can now embark on a second life using existing resources at the Manufacture, and I’m really excited to share these pieces of history with our customers. This is just the beginning!”
Zenith invites its customers to discover and shop some of its most significant creations from the comfort and convenience of a Zenith boutique, with the peace of mind in knowing that there can be no doubt about the watch’s provenance and history, and that it has been restored faithfully by the Manufacture with complete traceability.
To offer a Zenith Icons watch, it all begins with finding the right piece. The Manufacture laboriously tracks down the finest, most well-preserved examples of its most iconic historical references. Once a watch is found that appears to be in excellent condition, the Manufacture works with its Heritage department that conducts research tracing back the origins of the watch, to ensure that all parts are genuine and coherent. Thanks to a massive archive spanning the entire history of the manufacture’s production, Zenith is able to identify and authenticate even the smallest component of any watch it has ever built. Once the Heritage Department approves a watch, the Manufacture purchases it and hands it to the Heritage team, who conduct further inspections on it.
After the watch has been approved by the Heritage department, it enters the restoration phase. Here, the objective is to preserve its original condition and respect its patrimony, retaining as much of the original parts and materials as possible. In the event that certain components have to be replaced to preserve the longevity of its functionality, Zenith will use historical components.
The final and most important step in the watch's future life: The issuing of a passport that ensures its traceability for the rest of its new life. It is printed as a unique example and is stored digitally in the Zenith Archives, within the Manufacture's Heritage Department. Zenith provides a 3-year warranty for its Icons watches, covering the movement and any manufacturing defects and normal wear-and-tear of components. And to complete the historical experience, the watches are delivered in a special blue leather case, inspired by those that Zenith offered in the past.
Given the rarity of these historical references and the amount of time for research and restoration work required, Zenith ICONS is a highly exclusive collection of curated timepieces that are available at Zenith boutiques around the world, beginning with Ginza since October 2020 and next Shanghai, before being offered by other Zenith boutiques around the world over the coming months.
With this second destination added for the Zenith ICONS collection, Zenith is entering a new phase of the program to reach watch enthusiasts in different markets. The aim is to release Zenith Icons pieces as capsule collections, bringing together references with a shared history, function or theme. One of the first collections, available at Shanghai Nanjing West Road Boutique, will focus on some of the earliest and most iconic El Primero references from 1969 to 1972.
The A384 made its debut in 1969 as the face of the El Primero that figured on launch press cuttings and on the cover of the first El Primero brochures. It stands out with its "square barrel" case signed with the Zenith 4-pointed star logo and its “panda” dial – which has turned tropical in this case, making it all the more desirable.
One of the original trio of stainless steel references that launched alongside the El Primero calibre, the A385 is the model Zenith chose for its advertisements and photo-shoots in 1969. It left its mark on the era with its "shaded smoky brown" gradient dial, unprecedented at the time, and its "square barrel" case, signed with the Zenith 4-pointed star logo.
What would become the template for Zenith’s signature Chronomaster line, the A386 was launched in 1969 in a more classical round-case with straight lugs variant of the first El Primero-equipped watch. It garnered attention for its unprecedented tri-colour chronograph counters and decimal scale, becoming one of the most significant references in the history of the El Primero calibre and an icon among chronograph wristwatches.
Nicknamed the “Cover Girl” for its appearance on the cover of Manfred Rössler’s book “Zenith: Swiss Watch Manufacture Since 1865”, the A3818 made its debut in 1971 and stood out for its vertically satin-brushed oxidized blue dial, with a “pyramid track” fractional scale. Only 1’000 examples of the A3818 were produced in total.