History of Zenith watches
Browse the history of the Zenith Manufacture online, from its foundation by Georges Favre-Jacot and the creation of the first pocket chronograph.
The founder of Zenith, Georges Favre-Jacot, revolutionised watch production by uniting all the watchmaking professions under one roof, thereby inventing the very concept of a Manufacture.
The Manufacture launches its first pocket chronograph.
Georges Favre-Jacot wins the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition.
1910 - 1960
Zenith devises onboard instruments.
The Manufacture established by Georges Favre-Jacot definitively adopts the name of Zenith, referring to the highest point reached by a heavenly body in the sky and thereby symbolising the heights of excellence to which the brand with the guiding star has been aspiring ever since.
The Manufacture Zenith employs 1,000 people. In the watchmaking haven of Le Locle and its neighbouring town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, it is nicknamed “the Manufacture with 2,000 gold and silver hands”.
Zenith launches its legendary Calibre 135. This legendary wristwatch chronometer movement equipped with a small seconds function was to earn no less than 235 prizes.
Launch of Caliber 5011K, boasting record-breaking precision in its category, which would be used to power marine chronometers, pocket watches and table clocks, as well as the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 in a limited edition.
Zenith created El Primero, the first ever integrated automatic chronograph movement, which is still the world’s most precise series-made caliber. It is the only one capable of measuring short times to the nearest tenth of a second, thanks to its balance oscillating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour.
The watchmaker Charles Vermot hid the plans, parts and tools required to make mechanical calibres in order to save them from destruction following the decision of the company that owned Zenith at the time to limit production to quartz watches only.
Mechanical watches were again in demand, and Charles Vermot gave Zenith back the production tools that he had kept safely hidden. Production of the El Primero caliber could begin once more. Major watch brands were eager to get a fresh start in this field by equipping their timepieces with this legendary movement.
Launch of the ultra-thin automatic Elite movement.
The first Zenith caliber to be developed using Computer Assisted Design technology, it was voted movement of the year by the trade press due to its extreme slenderness and its proven reliability.
Zenith joins the LVMH luxury group.
The brand with the guiding star invents the Open concept based on a dial opening revealing the escapement of the El Primero caliber. More than ever before, the now visible oscillations bring to life the magic of a mechanical watch beating at a high frequency.
The El Primero celebrates its 40th anniversary.
Since it was first created, this high-frequency movement has evolved constantly, incorporating countless and unusual mechanisms representing significant breakthroughs in the history of time measurement. This enduring vibrancy cements the enduring legacy of El Primero, of which an entire collection now the name.
The town of Le Locle is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its industrial architecture and urbanism, to which Zenith contributed by building the first Manufacture in watchmaking history in 1865. The brand with the guiding star has indeed never left these premises brimming with history and expertise.
Birth of the El Primero Striking 10th, of which the sweep seconds-hand displays tenths of a second.
The Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix (GPHG) awards the Best Complicated Watch Prize to the Academy Christophe Colomb équation du Temps.
Zenith renews ties with aviation and enriches the Pilot collection with three new models: the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20, the Pilot Doublematic and the Pilot Big Date Special. The latter wins the “Petite Aiguille” prize in the 2012 Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix.
The renovation of the central building of the Manufacture is completed, while work continues on the 18 other buildings. State-of-the-art technologies are implemented, while the historical architecture of the site is jealously preserved.
Zenith makes history with Felix Baumgartner
On October 14th 2012, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner becomes the first man to break the sound barrier in freefall, jumping from the edge of the stratosphere from a space capsule and landing in the New Mexican desert, 38,969.4 meters below. Zenith serves as official timekeeper for the milestone jump and the watch worn by Baumgartner while making the jump is a Zenith Stratos Flyback Striking 10th containing Zenith’s world-famous El Primero movement.
GPHG Sports Watch Prize – Chronomaster El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th
Sporting the sky-inspired light grey, blue and anthracite hues chosen to grace Zenith El Primero dials in 1969, the Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th wins the GPHG Sports Watch Prize. As well as housing the world’s most precise movement, El Primero also revolutionised watch design.
GPHG Sports Watch Prize – Chronomaster El Primero Lightweight
The resolutely forward-looking Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Lightweight wins the GPHG Sports Prize. The keynote of the specifications of this avant-garde version of the legendary El Primero chronograph is the focus on shearing off any excess weight, along with ensuring performance and originality. Drawing upon its latest research on new materials, this El Primero lightweight chronograph teams a titanium and silicon movement with an ultra-sporty carbon case.
Zenith 150th anniversary and the Zenith El Primero: Chronomaster 1969
An ideal occasion on which to take a panoramic look back across its history, the revolutions it has created and the feats it has accompanied, Zenith celebrates its 150th anniversary with the launch of the Zenith El Primero: Chronomaster 1969, a l150-piece limited edition picking up the style codes of the original model while featuring a distinctly contemporary style epitomising daring attitude and the enterprising spirit cherished by the brand.
Zenith DEFY EL PRIMERO 21 introduces 1/100th of a second mechanical accuracy
n 2017 Zenith leads watchmaking into the world of 1/100th of a second accuracy with the grand release of the Defy El Primero 21, a chronometric reinvention of accuracy and reliability and the ultimate embodiment of the spirit of innovation that has coursed through Zenith’s blood for the past 150 years. A legend reborn, the Zenith DEFY EL PRIMERO 21 represents a quantum leap in both performance and mechanical design.
Zenith gets a new CEO: Julien Tornare
April 2017 sees the appointment of watch industry veteran Julien Tornare as leader of the brand with the guiding star. His arrival coincides with a dynamic new turn for Zenith which adopts a resolutely start-up spirit and positions itself as the future of Swiss watchmaking.
Launch of the Defy Lab: a revolution in watchmaking mechanics
Equipped with a new and astoundingly slim monocrystalline silicon oscillator unaffected by magnetic fields, gravity or temperature, the Defy Lab is a major innovation challenging the very foundations of watchmaking mechanics: the sprung balance principle of regulation presented by in 1675 by Dutch astronomer, mathematician and physician Christian Huygens. Powering the watch industry into a whole new dimension, the incredible accuracy of the Defy Lab (an average of 0.3 seconds per day) is encased in Aeronith, the world’s lightest aluminium composite material, representing a second world premiere in this landmark timepiece.
GPHG Innovation Watch Prize – Defy Lab
Following its launch in September 2017, the revolutionary ZENITH Defy Lab wins the GPHG Innovation Watch Prize for the adoption of an entirely new scientific approach in modelling and innovating with regard to the mechanical watch, as well as the use of contemporary materials and revolutionary technologies resulting in unprecedented levels of performance and precision.