A pioneering spirit, a love of challenges and a thirst for exploration: the very same passion and the same quest for uncharted horizons guided Christopher Columbus and Georges Favre-Jacot – the former when he set sail across the vast expanse of ocean to open up a westward route towards the Indies; and the latter when he founded Zenith in 1865 by inventing the very first industrial watch manufacturing company or “Manufacture”. Almost a century and a half later, the brand with the guiding star is still faithful to this pursuit of precision and innovation, as is notably illustrated by over 300 patents. The Manufacture proved this determination in 1969 by creating the legendary El Primero automatic movement, which is still the world’s most accurate series-made chronograph. Moreover, fine watchmaking is not confined to the realm of mechanisms. Confirming its tradition of refined watch exteriors, notably embodied in a number of enamelled pocket watches, Zenith once again delights collectors and connoisseurs of rare models by presenting the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage – a limited edition that stands out from the rest of the line by its magnificent décor. It represented a challenge not only for the artisans, but also for the watchmakers and engineers who had to rework the movement. They occasionally pushed the boundaries of feasibility in seeking to accommodate these ornamental elements within the same 45 mm-diameter case in rose gold and beneath the same domed sapphire crystal – while making no compromises on precision and reliability. The result is a vivid illustration of Zenith’s creative daring and of its ability to combine a dream mechanism with exceptional decorative touches stemming from the most prestigious artistic crafts.
The majority of 16th, 17th and 18th century pocket watches were equipped with a fusée, but today very few watch manufacturers are capable of transposing and fitting this mechanism within the confines of a wristwatch. With the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage, stemming from two full years of development, Zenith has now entered this highly exclusive club.
Transmission between the barrel and fusée is handled by an 18 cm-long chain comprising 585 parts. This highly complex construction features alternating double and intermediate links. Once assembled, it is capable of withstanding a traction force of more than 3 kilos.
Throughout the power reserve, the mainspring transmits its energy to the fusée via a chain that wraps itself around the barrel. By adjusting the variations in tension, the fusée regulates the force that is passed on to the going train – and thence to the silicon escape-wheel fitted inside the gyroscopic carriage. While it takes more than 50 hours (the power-reserve duration) for the chain to wrap itself around the barrel, winding via the stem provides a fascinating sight. These few seconds enable the fusée and the barrel to turn in opposite directions so that the chain wraps itself back around the fusée.
The shape of the fusée was dictated by the optimal force that the Zenith master-watchmakers wished to give the barrel. Its grooved conical contours as well as its dimensions are the result of lengthy and particularly complex complications performed for each of the seven construction stages. This fusée could doubtless never have been created without the full integration of all professions (notably including movement prototype making) cultivated in the Manufacture Zenith, nor without the use of sophisticated equipment. Such is indeed one of the core strengths of an integrated Manufacture.
Working on the principle that keeping the regulating organ in a horizontal position engenders the best possible balance-wheel amplitude and thus results in optimal timekeeping precision, Zenith devised and patented a revolutionary module enabling the “heart” of the movement and the escapement to remain constantly in this position.
An avant-garde system brilliantly illustrating the creative daring of the Manufacture, the gravity control system is also a tribute to history, since it is inspired by the marine chronometers that Zenith used to produce, borrowing from these legendary instruments the principle of gimbal suspension introduced in the 16th century on marine compasses so that they would stay horizontal despite the pitching and rolling of the boat.
The gravity control system with its self-regulating gyroscopic mechanism serves to maintain the regulating organ in a permanently horizontal position whatever the angle of the wrist and thereby represents the ultimate evolution of the marine chronometer. The brand with the guiding star is the only watch manufacturer to master this system – duly rewarded in the “Best Complicated Watch” category at the 2011 Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix – that it invented after five years of intense development.
A magnificent ocean voyage and a splendid voyage to the heart of the infinitely small: with this limited edition combining fine watchmaking and artistic crafts, Zenith is setting out to conquer fascinating new horizons, inspired as ever by a blend of daring, authenticity and pleasure.