Zenith (watchmaker)

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TypeWholly owned subsidiary
IndustryLuxury Watches
FoundedLe Locle, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 1865
FounderGeorges Favre-Jacot
Area served
Key people
Julien Tornare (current CEO)

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.[1] Zenith was purchased by LVMH in November 1999, becoming one of several brands in its watch and jewellery division which includes TAG Heuer and Hublot. Julien Tornare is the current CEO after Jean-Claude Biver (Interim CEO) in 2017, replacing CEO Aldo Magada, who had replaced Jean-Frédéric Dufour in 2014.[2] Zenith is one of the Swiss watch manufacturers that still produce their own movements themselves.


George Favre-Jacot was born 1843 and died 1917.[3] He was an apprentice within the watchmaking industry while still a youth.[4] Favre-Jacot at some time requested that a house be built for himself at Le Locle, by the architect Le Corbusier.[5] He was also closely involved with another prominent architect, named Alphonse Laverrière. His relationship with this latter architect was the source of influence upon the Werkbund movement. The two men collaborated with a shared artistic vision of the nature of production, to the extent to which they themselves somewhat reformed the artistic situation within francophone Switzerland at the time.[4]

In 1865, at the age of 22, Farve-Jacot begin manufacturing watches under his name at a small workshops in Le Locle, Switzerland. After witnessing the success of American watch companies Waltham and Elgin utlitizing mass production to sell affordable and reliable timepieces, he invested heavily in his own company to created a vertically integrated watchmaking operation. He renamed his company Zenith.


Currently, Zenith has the following collections:[6]

  • Defy ("the future of tradition")
  • Chronomaster ("an icon worn on the wrist")
  • Elite ("timeless elegance by Zenith")
  • Pilot ("heading for far horizons")

Notable models[edit]

El Primero[edit]

The El Primero calibre, when it was first unveiled in 1969 was the first high frequency automatic chronograph movement, [1] [2] and certainly the one to put Zenith Watches on the map. One of the original watchmakers who worked on the movement, Charles Vermot took upon himself to save the brilliant calibre when the owners of the brand decided to abandon the idea of a mechanical chronograph and focus on Quartz timepieces in 1975.[7] While all the tools, components etc. used to manufacture the calibre were being dumped or sold, Vermot gathered all the necessary technical plans and tools and hid them in a walled-off attic at the Zenith manufacture to protect the El Primero for future generations. [3][4]

A decade later, when it was resurrected in 1986.[8] the same tools, plans and components helped start the production of the El Primero again.[5][6]

It was one of the first automatic chronograph movements and has a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour (10 Hz). Zenith's El Primero movement was used by Rolex from 1988 to 2000 for the Rolex Daytona chronograph. The El Primero movement's 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 vibrations per hour (8 Hz).[9] 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.[10][11][12][13][14]

Photo gallery[edit]

Notable patrons and owners[edit]

Mahatma Gandhi owned a Zenith pocket watch with alarm function, which was given to him by Indira Gandhi, the 3rd Prime Minister of India.[15] On March 5, 2009, the pocket watch along with some of Gandhi's other personal belongings were auctioned by Antiquorum in New York, altogether fetching US$2,096,000.[15][16] The leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan had a Zenith watch when he was detained by the Turkish authorities.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Georges Favre-Jacot". Zenith International. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  2. ^ "Zenith - Aldo Magada new CEO - People and interviews - WorldTempus". en.worldtempus.com. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  3. ^ Birksted, Jan (26 October 2018). Le Corbusier and the Occult. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262026482. Retrieved 26 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b Zenith Watches. Georges Favre-Jacot. Zenith Watches. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  5. ^ Flint, Anthony (26 October 2018). Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780544262225. Retrieved 26 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Zenith - Swiss Luxury Watches & Manufacture since 1865". Zenith Watches. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  7. ^ "CHRONOMASTER - Iconic & Timeless Watches - Zenith".
  8. ^ "The Zenith el Primero – Revisiting One of the Most Iconic Movements Ever". 6 July 2018.
  9. ^ "The Stainless-Steel Zenith El Primero Chronomaster". timezone.com. Archived from the original on 2 July 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  10. ^ "Best Watches of 2012: Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th". R.G. Holland. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  11. ^ https://www.timepiecechronicle.com/features/2017/10/3/thehistoryofthezenithelprimero
  12. ^ "On the Cusp: A Brief History of the Zenith el Primero". 12 July 2021.
  13. ^ Nast, Condé. "How carbon fibre is giving watchmaking a makeover". Wired UK.
  14. ^ Beckett, Kathleen (14 November 2018). "A Swiss Town Designed for the Glory of Time". The New York Times.
  15. ^ a b "Gandhi - Gandhi's Pocket Watch with Alarm - Zenith". Zenith Watches. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Mahatma Gandhi's Pocket watch formely owned by Mahatma Gandhi, political and spiritual leader of India, later given to his grandniece, Abha Gandhi". catalog.antiquorum.swiss. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  17. ^ "BBC NEWS | Monitoring | Text of the Ocalan verdict". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2021.

External links[edit]