Some models have become a symbol of historical milestones in the watchmaking industry, whether for technical, scientific reasons or aesthetic considerations. Listed below are ten models of history writing, each with its own story.
6. Zenith El Primero 1969 Watch: Automatic Legend
Zenith El Primero watch, 1969
Zenith was founded by Georges Favre-Jacot in the industrial town of Jura, Switzerland, in 1865, and celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2015. The watchmaker has always been known for its precision instruments. 2,333 Swiss Observatory time-testing awards, 300 patents, and more than 600 movement models are proof of the brand’s technical strength. In 1969, Zenith introduced the famous El Primero movement: the industry’s first mechanical chronograph movement that was automatically wound by a 360 ° bidirectional rotation of the central rotor. Another rare feature of this movement (13 ¼ law minutes) is that the frequency of the speed control mechanism reaches 5 Hz (36,000 times / hour), and the high frequency is sufficient to ensure the accuracy of any condition and short-term measurement (up to 1 /10 seconds).
This reliable and visually appealing movement was equipped with a certain number of models until the quartz crisis broke out. By the time the pearl of dust was reappeared, it was the 1990s. Some employees, including watchmaker Charles Vermot, have retained the tools and the hope of a future revival with personal courage and perseverance. In addition, brands that purchase Zenith movements, such as Rolex and Ebel, are also helpful. Le Locle has regained its foothold and has even further expanded its collection of Chronomaster, Rainbow and DeLuca, which are sought after by collectors. In 2000 Zenith joined the LVMH Group, and later established partnerships with the Tour Auto Rally, Felix Paulcana and Spindrift, continuing the legend of El Primero. The El Primero Chronomaster 1969 is undoubtedly the most iconic and timeless symbol of Zenith.
7. Seiko Astron Watches: Absolute Precision at First
Seiko Astron watch, 1969
When it comes to this unique model, care must be taken, as there are more than one Seiko product called Astron. Looking at the name alone, amateurs who do not have a deep understanding of the brand’s history can easily be misled into the mists and clouds. This is not a solar watch, GPS satellite positioning, a watch that can recognize the wearer’s time zone and automatically adjust the precise local time; it is the first watch released at the end of December 1969, the first quartz movement analog display watch. At that time, many people ignored the quartz properties of this watch. It was regarded as the pinnacle achievement of watchmakers seeking precise timekeeping. It was neither plasma cutting nor mechanical automatic molding, but was completed by hand under a microscope. As soon as it was launched, the price of this watch was relatively high, about the same as a small car of that era.
In fact, the advent of this watch did not pose a serious challenge to the Swiss watchmaking industry, nor was it the beginning of the Swiss watchmaking crisis. The latter really arrived ten years later. Electronic giants mastered liquid crystal display (LCD) technology and mass-produced cheap instruments to meet demand. The Swiss traditional watchmaking industry has no choice but to accept transformation, provide relatively poor practicality (less accurate), and more products used to highlight the identity of the wearer.
8. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Watch: Design Specifications
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Watch, 1972
In the early 1970s, Audemars Piguet, a professional manufacturer of complication watches (founded in the small town of Brassus, Ru Valley, in 1875), was supported by talented young watch designer Gérald Genta. The latter’s mission is to conceive a luxury watch with a future design that meets the expectations of the ‘rebellious youth’. From the first draft, his unique idea of the octagonal (neither truly circular nor completely geometric) case received positive response from the brand. Earn enough gimmicks before the invention, and after the advent, they quickly established the normative status of contemporary luxury watches among celebrities with original designs and high prices (made of stainless steel and selling at the same price as gold watches). Royal Oak is highly strategic for Audemars Piguet, and even the quartz crisis has not stopped it from becoming a legend.
A generation of legends has cultivated and cultivated for 20 years. Based on this, Audemars Piguet has launched the Royal Oak Offshore Watch. In 2003 and 2007, the more athletic Royal Oak Offshore series helped the Swiss Alinghi sailing team to win the historic America’s Cup. This partnership strengthens the image of Royal Oaks, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2012, and has been closely related since its inception. Today, Audemars Piguet is still run by the founding family and has established a comprehensive research and development department under the company Renaud et Papi, providing connoisseurs with high-quality timepiece creations (combining traditional inspiration and avant-garde technology).
9. Swatch: The Age of Reason
In 2016, Swatch was 33 years old. In 1983, the advent of Swatch was regarded as a long-awaited freshman in the industry. 33 years old is a rare and admirable age. However, to understand the above evaluations correctly, we must go back to that particular era. Between 1977 and 1983, Swiss watch exports plummeted by half and the global market share fell from 43% to 15%. The consequence was a sharp reduction in watchmaking jobs (90,000 to 40,000) during the same period. Swatch-the abbreviation for Swiss and Watch-came at the right time.
The GN701 plastic watch was designed by Marlyse Schmid and Bernard Muller, and its success is attributed to the marketing genius Nicholas G. Hayek. The latter has clearly felt the full potential of the first prototype developed by researchers Elmar Mock and Jacques Muller. In 1981, Swatch registered its trademark. The following year, the brand began its adventure and released the first Swatch in the United States-a very interesting watch with a classic design that weighs only 20 grams and is waterproof to 30 meters. The watch looks like a whole. In fact, Plexiglas glass is ultrasonically welded to an injection-molded, highly wear-resistant plastic case. The movement of the watch contains a total of 51 parts, which are directly built on the case and become an integral part of the whole. Diversified changes, reasonable prices, and sturdiness made in Switzerland have earned Swatch a remarkable achievement. Coinciding with the timely consumer-driven 1980s, these watches were placed in the spotlight and favored by collectors. Their continued enthusiasm for this watch has also become a sales model worth exploring.
10. Piaget Emperador Coussin XL 700P watch: the light of the future that blooms at the moment
Piaget Emperador Coussin XL 700P
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first quartz movement launched in 1976, Piaget La Côte-aux-Fées has launched the Emperador Coussin XL 700P concept watch. The design of the image is traditional, and the technical level is new: the watch is equipped with an original movement, a pioneering fusion of mechanical and quartz worlds. In other words, this limited-production 118-piece timepiece has a ‘hybrid’ heart: classic power mechanisms (spring barrel, mainspring and running gear train) and a new speed governor that replaces the Swiss lever escapement . In fact, the principle of Jean-Claude Berney’s registration under Swiss Patent No. CHF 597 636 (part) in 1972 is the basis of this watch’s movement.
The overall structure of the watch is very similar to the Spring Drive mechanism introduced by Seiko at the 2005 Basel International Watch & Jewellery Show: adding a device to drive the ‘thruster’ through the classic running gear train. The thruster vibrates at a frequency of 5.33 times per second and is driven by a quartz device with a vibration frequency of up to 32,768 Hz. Its operating mode is similar to that of an electromagnetic retarder equipped in a heavy vehicle. This original movement combines two technologies to ensure that performance and accuracy are almost equivalent to quartz. It is also worth mentioning that this architectural pattern is perfectly compatible with traditional complex functions.
Related Reading: Ten Legendary Timepieces in History (Part 1)