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Owen & Robinson’s guide to Zenith Watches

Zenith are renowned for a number of firsts and innovations. From the world’s very first automatic chronograph calibre to timepieces that can record a staggering 1/100th of a second – their reputation is inseparable from their pioneering heritage and their dedication towards creating wristwatches that combine precision, reliability and quality. Their most widely recognised timepieces are those from the El Primero watch collection – their chronograph calibre of which was produced exclusively for this collection in the year 1969. And since most chronographs today only tend to measure up to 1/8th or 1/10th of a second, Zenith still remain on another level when it comes to creating luxury watches with a difference.

History of Zenith watches;

Zenith was founded in 1865. The company now has over 150 years of excellent watchmaking expertise to look back on, and their innovations keep on coming. Watchmaker Georges Favre-Jacot founded the company in Le Locle and began focusing on creating watches of incredible quality. The logo which is now a distinct symbol associated with the performance and reliability of their luxury watches for men and women, is a five pointed star which can be seen emblazoned onto the surface of all Zenith watches. In the early years, Favre-Jacot’s focus became honed into creating elegant pocket watches, however having brought together a network of watchmakers, all of whom brought something unique to the bench, the company could begin creating timepieces independently without having to source parts from third party suppliers. From 1903 onwards, Zenith began winning awards for their developments in chronometer performance. One of the first wristwatches with an alarm function was created by Zenith at the beginning of the 20th Century, and it was around this time that they began creating pilot’s watches for the First World War. The calibre for the El Primero watch was and still is Zenith’s most famous product. It has been keeping reliable time since the 1960’s.

Which Zenith watch is for me?

Aside from creating pilot’s watches and reliable chronographs, Zenith is also a much-loved brand for its development in the genre of elegant dress watches. That’s good news for you if you’re a lover of clear, minimalist dial layouts that offer timekeeping at its simplest. By taking a look at our collection of men’s Zenith watches and ladies Zenith watches, you’ll see a broad selection of timepieces that each offer their own advantages. The El Primero collection is a vast array of classic yet elegantly sporty chronograph watches – some of which are fitted with stainless steel; bracelets, others a comfortable and stylish leather strap. There’s also a number of Pilot chronographs for those who’s tastes are more in favour of a retro-inspired look. Some Zenith Pilot watches however, forego the addition of the two chronograph counters that are otherwise located at 3 and 9 o’clock. Again, various straps are available on these, as well as a choice between stainless steel and bronze. The Elite models are the more classic of the bunch and these designs can be worn by both male and female collectors.

The Zenith El primero;

The Zenith El Primero collection launched in 1969 when the brand built its first automatic chronograph calibre to assist with precision timekeeping. Without a doubt this movement is one of the best in the world, resulting in a number of brands utilizing the movement within their own models. Even Rolex modified the El Primero, which became known as the 4030 between 1988 and 2000, using it for their Daytona watches. Current models within the El Primero collection range from the more discreet 38mm diameter to a broader 42mm. Those with larger dimensions are suited to those who like bolder, sportier timepieces as opposed to those with a slender wrist. Although stainless steel is the more widely used material for Zenith El Primero watches, some are also available with a ceramicised aluminum case. Zenith launched the El Primero 21 at Basel in 2017 – the successor to the original El Primero Chronograph. With two separate, independent escapements, the first can perform at 36,000 vibrations per hour, ensuring that the time is displayed. The other performs at a rate of 360,000 vibrations per hour, enabling you to measure 1/100th of a second. The retro inspired layout of the chronograph dials in the El Primero 21 watches – some of which are skeletonised – others of which are not – are encased within ceramic and titanium cases.

The Zenith Elite:

The classic, elegant Elite watches are loved for their ultra slim case designs and their beautifully manufactured calibre which offers an impressive 100 hour power reserve. Some ladies Zenith watches from this collection are adorned with scintillating diamond dot indexes and a moon phase display. The in-house movements equipped within these refined wristwatches are built in a unique way so as to fit inside the discreet dimensions of their cases. The Elite’s flat construction ensures it sits comfortably on the wrist for wearing with business attire in particular. For those who want something a little more technical, there is a chronograph version within the Elite line – the Zenith Elite Chronograph Classic. The sub-dials for the small seconds and 30 minutes are displayed at 9 and 3 o’clock. A symmetrical and harmonious look is achieved through the Zenith Elite Chronograph since its designers decided against an hour sub-counter and a date display.

The Zenith Pilot:

With inextricable links to the aeronautical industry, Zenith produced a line of timekeeping tools for pilots that are reminiscent of early pilot’s watches. Their distinct retro looks are appealing to those with a love for vintage-styled watches used in aviation, as well as a love for Zenith’s in-house developed movements, developed by some of the most talented craftsmen in the world. Mechanical engines from the Zenith Elite and the Zenith El Primero models are used in these timepieces. Additional features such as annual calendars, GMT and chronograph features are also available. The current models from the collection which are based on historical pilot’s watches of the past, still feature characteristics like a large crown, black dials and large numerals, giving them a retro and trendy look. If you’re looking for a Pilot’s watch from Zenith, you can choose between the classic black dial or a slate grey colour, as well as a smooth brown leather calfskin strap or a Green oily nubuck leather strap, with a protective rubber lining.

In Summary. . .

Zenith’s approach to watchmaking, although faithful to traditional methods and techniques that have been handed down throughout their heritage, has enabled them to create a huge array of different styles and designs. Whilst the classic three handed dial designs belong to collections like Zenith’s Elite line, the eye-catching retro-inspired pilot’s watches offer something unusual and quirky. Of course for a watch filled to the brim with Zenith’s cutting edge technology, the trusty El Primero watch is a grab-for-any-occasion wristwatch that will never let you down.