As journalists we often forget, visiting a watch manufacture isn’t something that’s simple and easy to execute for the average enthusiast. While established collectors will occasionally get a special invitation from their beloved brand (where they’ve spent a healthy pile of cash at their local boutique, no doubt), those newer to collecting, or those without a strong allegiance in one direction or another are often (but not always) left out in the cold. Sure, you can visit the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva, the Breguet museum in Paris, the Omega Museum in Biel/Bienne, and even some smaller-scale manufacturers out there (if you ask very nicely), but getting in the doors of one of the big guns of the industry is just not something that comes up as an option—that is, until now.
Organized in partnership with the tourism association of Neuchatel, Zenith Watches is now offering fairly intensive three hour manufacture visits—referred to by the manufacture as “LE MONDE ÉTOILÉ DE ZENITH”. These visits are available on Fridays between 9am and 12pm with prior reservation via the Explore Swiss Watchmaking website (CHF 40 per person, groups of up to 8 people). Over the course of the three hours, visitors will get a history lesson on the history of Zenith Watches and the El Primero movement, visit sections of Zenith’s production line to see how watches and watch calibers are crafted, and generally just get a real deep-dive into what goes into the watchmaking process. To be fair, not every last component is manufactured under Zenith’s roof (as is the case with 99% of watch brands out there), but according to the brand a total of roughly 80 watchmaking trades are executed at Zenith HQ, s there’s no shortage of horological geekiness to take in during the tour.At the end of the day, this is a pretty fantastic new experience to those traveling in or near Geneva (Neuchatel is roughly one hour north), regardless of whether or not you’re a Zenith fan at a personal level. That said, we can’t help but take issue with the way the brand refers to this experience as the first of its kind. Yes, it may be the first that posts scheduled availability through a website and can just be booked without any additional legwork, and we’ll give them that, but having posed the question previously to other watch brands out there, if an enthusiast or collector politely reaches out to HQ, private tours can sometimes be arranged. Furthermore, though it’s unclear if it came before or after, but tours of Corum’s manufacture in La Chaux-De-Fonds are also available, specifically of their haute horlogerie workshops and museum. On the flip side, it does seem that Zenith’s visitor experience takes a deeper dive into the many facets of the watch manufacturing process than you’d expect, starting from the caliber design process through to showing you the production line, assembly, and some hand-finishing processes. Being rather curious about the topic of watch movement design, we can’t help but wonder how in-depth tour guides will go on the topic.