One of the most influential Swiss brands in history, Zenith is best known for their groundbreaking El Primero caliber. The first fully-integrated, self-winding chronograph movement ever made, it is still among the industry's finest mechanical movements and powers a variety of contemporary and iconic watches. Zenith was among the first manufacturers to unite all the varied watchmaking disciplines under one roof. Check out Bob's Watches selection of some of Zenith's supremely sophisticated timepieces, all available for the best prices.
Since 1865, Zenith has been creating luxury wristwatches associated with precision and reliability. Some of their timepieces rank among the most complex and intricately built in the entire world, gaining the company global recognition for their dedicated approach to creating in-house developed masterpieces. Zenith watches are most closely affiliated with their iconic El primero movement – the world’s first automatic chronograph caliber. It made history not only because it was the first of its kind, but because it operated at an impressive frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour. This performance allowed for a watch with a far more accurate timing than most watches operating at 28,800 vibrations per hour, enabling it to measure short times to the nearest tenth of a second.
Zenith later went on to create the second generation of the El Primero in 2017. The Zenith El primero 21 features two escapements: one escapement displayed the time – the other the chronograph functions. This ground-breaking chronograph measures 1/100th of a second with a performance of 360,000 vibrations per hour as opposed to its ancestor measuring 1/10th of a second.
Other masterpieces developed in-house by Zenith’s prestigious team of skilled watchmakers, include the likes of the Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Equation of Time belonging to the Academy Christophe Colomb watch collection. The timepiece won the Best Complicated Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève in 2011 and featured the Gravity Control module - a regulating mechanism to optimise the precision of the movement by ensuring the escapement and oscillation system remained in a horizontal position.
Other innovations developed by the manufacturer include their flyback features and double chronographs. Zenith believes their unique approach to fine luxury watchmaking is leveraged by passing time-honoured manufacturing technique down the family line to forge innovations for the future.
It took founder of Zenith, 22 year old Georges Favre-Jacot a while to realise that he had become a pioneer in the art of fine watchmaking. The small intricate components of the mechanical engines powering his watches imitated the way in which the stars revolved around the Pole Star – thus the name of the watch company was born – Zenith – the highest point in the universe. Today, the company logo star can be seen emblazoned onto each watch’s dial underneath the iconic “Zenith” lettering.
Favre-Jacot had a vision to bring all the master craftsmen involved in the making of his watches under one roof. The idea would reduce time and cost, quicken the watchmaking process, and ensure a more efficiently running workshop. Georges Favre-Jacot’s creations became more complex and reliable, gaining him numerous achievements. He won Grand Prix medals for timekeeping precision in Barcelona, Neuchatel, Paris, and Geneva, along with more than 1,595 first-place observatory prizes in chronometry. Zenith was acquired by LVMH in the year 1999 and is still associated with some of the highest quality watches in the entire world.
Zenith are renowned for creating luxury watches of the highest quality for both men and women, that still retain a certain level of affordability. Due to their vast range of materials, models, and complications, the price range for Zenith watches can vary from a few thousand dollars for entry-level models on the secondary market, well into the six-figure range for high-complication pieces in precious metal cases.
Retail prices for brand-new Zenith watches start out at as little as $4,700 for their most simple entry-level models; however a savings can often be found for non-vintage models on the pre-owned market. Many of the brand’s iconic El Primero chronograph watches cost less than $10,000 at retail; however, El Primero tourbillon watches can cost easily ten times that, while the Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane with power reserve display and a rose gold case is accompanied by a retail price of just under $300,000.
|Model||Reference||Retail Price (MSRP)|
|Defy El Primero 21||
Defy El Primero 21 Rose Gold
|Chronomaster El Primero Full Open||
|50th El Primero Anniversary A384 Revival||
|Pilot Chronometro Tipo CP-2 Flyback||
|Pilot Type 20||
|Elite Lady Moonphase Rose Gold||
Early pre-owned El Primero watches made in 1969 or soon after are often the more collectable timepieces. Compared to a TAG Heuer Monaco from the same year or a Rolex Daytona from the 60’s, vintage El Primero watches are still considered relatively affordable, and come with their own rich history as one of the watches that helped pioneer the entire industry.
Today, the brand’s current catalog is broken up into the following five collections. Some collections are relatively concise, while others contain a vast variety of watches made from various materials and fitted with movements with a wide assortment of features complications.
The El Primero watch was the first automatic chronograph in the world. It performed at a rate of 36,000 oscillations per hour enabling it to measure 1/10th of a second. Its name, El Primero refers to “the first”, anchoring its elite position within the luxury wristwatch industry at that time. The timepiece was produced in 1969 and compared to movements like the ETA's Valjoux 7750 for example (which provides a 44-hour power reserve) - the Zenith El Primero promises a longer lasting power reserve of 50 hours. Some of the top models equipped with the El Primero movement feature tourbillons and boast cases made from luxurious materials like rose gold and ceramic. Additionally, their often-skeletonised movements offer an exclusive glimpse into Zenith’s world of horological wizardry.
Those Zenith El Primero watches that aren’t skeletonized include stainless steel, titanium, and 18 karat rose gold variations. Zenith El Primero watches with a tourbillon were created to compensate for gravity-related deviations, therefore enhancing the watch’s precision. The El Primero collection also includes the 2015 Chronomaster El Primero Tourbillon GFJ, which references company founder, Georges Favre-Jacot’s initials. The timepiece is available with a ceramic or 18-karat rose gold case. Most Zenith watches using the El Primero movement are elegant and sporty, constituting an everyday watch that can be worn for socialising, leisure, work, or travel.
Cementing Zenith’s long-standing relationship with the aviation industry is their very own collection of wristwatches dedicated to professional pilot, with a distinct vintage flair. During the 1940’s Zenith was creating timepieces for pilots characterized by oversized onion crowns, chunky central hands and a large case that would enable the pilot to handle the watch through gloves as well as legible luminous dials for reading the time in low-light conditions. Although there are a number of Zenith Pilot watches crafted from bronze, the company also developed versions made from stainless steel that are artificially aged, boasting a beautiful old-world patina that adds character and charm to the design, like the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special 40mm watch.
Top models from the Pilot collection by Zenith are equipped with features like tourbillons, chronographs, and rose gold cases, as well as annual calendar complications. The timepieces use movements like the El Primero and the Elite – another engine crafted in-house by Zenith’s expert team of technicians and artisans. It is believed that French aviator Louis Bleriot wore a Zenith Pilot watch upon his wrist when he first flew across the English Channel in 1909. Brightly illuminated indexes and rotatable bezels adorned with an arrow-shaped marker soon became a signature look for a Zenith Pilot watch.
The Elite collection of timepieces manufactured by Zenith are stylishly elegant dress watches that feature an in-house developed caliber that was crowned "Best Movement of the Year" in 1994. The first models from this special series of Zenith watches were developed in this same year. The engine is an important staple in the company’s rich watchmaking heritage since it offered an extremely flat construction, enabling it to sit inside an impressively thin case.
The slimline profile of the Zenith Elite watch is a popular choice that is enjoyed by women and gentlemen alike – the lady’s versions of which are often diamond-adorned to exude femininity, luxury, and glamour. The Caliber Elite 6150 promises a reliable performance and an impressive 100-hour power reserve. Top models from the range include a tourbillon for improving the movement’s accuracy, with its rotating cage that can been seen from the dial side.
In choosing the perfect watch, there are a number of things to consider before you part with your money. First, decide on your preferred style. Are you drawn to the vintage-inspired Pilot watch of the 1940’s, equipped with a classic black dial and additional features like a rotatable bezel and luminous indexes? Do you prefer the compact and discreet size of the Zenith Elite watch? Or is Zenith’s impressive 360,000 V.P.H El Primero 21 movement capable of 1/100th of a second, a feature that you are likely to get plenty of use out of?
As one of the oldest and most famous watch manufacturers on the planet, Zenith is a popular target for counterfeiters, and as always, it is always important to purchase your timepieces from a trusted and reputable source. All Zenith watches at Bob’s Watches are 100% genuine and have been examined and inspected by our team of in-house watch experts to ensure that every watch sold is completely authentic and upholds the prestigious reputation of its world-class manufacturer. Shop our complete selection of pre-owned Zenith watches online for the very best prices available.