Watch History

Story of Zenith Since 1865 [Watch History]

Zenith SA is a Swiss luxury watchmaker. The company was started in 1865 by Georges Favre-Jacot at the age of 22, in Le Locle in the canton of Neuchâtel. Zenith was purchased by LVMH in November 1999, becoming one of several brands in its watch and jewellery division. Jean-Claude Biver became Interim CEO in 2017, replacing CEO Aldo Magada, who had replaced Jean-Frédéric Dufour in 2014. Zenith is one of the Swiss watch manufacturers that still produce their own movements in-house. The El Primero calibre, which was first released in 1969 and is still produced today, was one of the first automatic chronograph movements and has a frequency of 36,000 alternations per hour (5 Hz). This high rate allows a resolution of 110 of a second and a potential for greater positional accuracy over the more common standard frequency of 28,800 alternations per hour (4 Hz). The El Primero was honoured with a 2012 release of the El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th, limited to 1,969 pieces (in honour of the original 1969 release date), that housed the same 36,000 vph movement and a sub-dial measuring in tenths of a second to make a complete rotation every ten seconds.

1865
Georges Favre-Jacot founds the Zenith manufacture, combining all the elements of luxury watchmaking under one roof for the first time.

1899
Zenith’s first pocket chronograph is unveiled.

1900
Zenith is awarded a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.

1909
Air pioneer Louis Bleriot becomes the first person to fly across the English Channel – he wears a Zenith for the duration of the flight.

1911
The Zenith name is officially incorporated.

1925
Zenith’s manufacture is employing 1,000 workers.

1948
The Calibre 135, a wristwatch chronometer featuring small seconds, is premiered. It will go on to win more than 230 prizes for accuracy and design.

1960
Zenith unveils Calibre 5011K, a movement whose accuracy will see it installed in marine chronometers and pocket watches.

1966
Indira Nehru becomes India’s Prime Minister. During her term of office, she will give Mahatma Gandhi a Zenith pocket watch. The peaceful revolutionary uses the timepiece to mark his prayers for the rest of his life.

1969
A legend is born: Zenith releases the world’s first automatic chronograph calibre, El Primero. El Primero will go on to become the world’s most precise movement made in series, and is destined to sit at the heart of the brand’s most sought-after luxury watches.

In the same year, Zenith becomes a part of the Mondia-Zenith-Movado group.

1975
A Zenith watchmaker, Charles Vermot, takes the unusual step of concealing all tools, plans and parts needed for the manufacture of mechanical movements. This will protect Zenith from the long-term effects of the quartz revolution.

Zenith’s parent company is preparing to destroy all mechanical luxury watch technology in favour of all-quartz production: Vermot’s audacious act will ensure the brand lives to see a new age of haute horlogerie.

1984
With mechanical timepieces resurgent, Charles Vermot reveals the hiding-place of his tools, plans and parts. Zenith begins to manufacture the El Primero movement again. It will be incorporated not just into Zenith watches, but timepieces made by many prestige brands as they fight to regain their positions in the luxury watch market.

1994
Zenith begins using CAD to design movements. The Elite, an ultra-thin automatic calibre, is premiered. The new movement is lauded by the press.

2000
Zenith is acquired by LVMH.

2003
Zenith starts a trend for open-working, revealing the El Primero escapement in a novel dial design.

2009
The El Primero movement celebrates its 40th birthday.

2010
Zenith unveils the El Primero Striking 10th, a luxury watch whose sweeping hand measures tenths of a second.

2011
Zenith is awarded the Grande Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve for its Christophe Colombe Equation du Temps.

2012
Zenith restores its historic manufacture in Le Locle. In the same year, its Pilot Big Date Special is awarded the Little Hand prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogere de Geneve.

2012
Daredevil BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner leaps from the edge of space in the first freefall to break the sound barrier. On his wrist: a Zenith Stratos Flyback Striking 10th.

2013
Zenith releases the Stratos Flyback Striking 10th Tribute to Felix Baumgartner.

2014
Zenith unveils a collaboration with legendary rockers The Rolling Stones, re-releasing the El Primero Chronomaster 1969 emblazoned with the lips logo and fitted with brightly coloured movement wheels.

Here you can view our Zenith watches as well as the latest pre-owned luxury watches in stock now.

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