Clearly excited about the launch of Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition, CEO Julien Tornare kicks off his presentation for the watch saying, “I remember it like it was yesterday, it was mid-November, 2018. I was in a marketing meeting here [at the manufacture] and suddenly I got a phone call from two of my colleagues asking me, ‘Julian, can you come to the attic? We found something very interesting [that you must see].
“I replied saying, ‘are you sure [right now]? I mean, I’m in a meeting right now.’ But I know that [they would] never pull me out of a meeting like this if it wasn’t important. I said, sure – left the meeting and I ran to the attic.”
When Julien got there, his colleagues held out a small box to him with some old dials in it. Zenith’s Le Locle manufacture is a facility that has been there for several generations, aside from the famed attic of treasures stowed away by Charles Vermot, one would expect to find dials all over the grounds.
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A quick tribute to Charles Vermot. In 1975, an American brand that owned the Zenith watch company mandated that the watchmaker should focus on making quartz watches only. To the people at the Manufacture who had given their heart and soul to their labor, this was horrible news. Among them was Charles Vermot, a specialist in chronograph movement construction who had followed the development of El Primero ever since the first sketches and spent his entire career within the Manufacture. He was convinced that mechanical watchmaking would return before long and asked the management at the time to not do away with all of the production equipment. His request was, however, met with a firm no. He then took it upon himself to stow away the more essential equipment including, the presses (150 of them, weighing more than a ton), the technical plans, the cams and the cutting tools. Not only that, he even listed each component and each tool carefully in a ring-binder file that he kept in a forgotten attic of the Manufacture. Fast forward to 1978, Zenith was now under new management again, who decided that Zenith should reclaim its craft. Thanks to Charles Vermot’s quick thinking back in 1975, Zenith was able to pick up on its mechanical watchmaking prowess without having skipped a beat. - Come learn more of such interesting stories about the El Primero at its 50th anniversary celebrations in Singapore. Mark your calendars for the 28th August to the 1st of September, as Zenith takes over Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, in the heart of Orchard Road. Stay tuned for more details in the coming days. - Event: A Star Through Time Dates: 28 Aug - 1 Sep, 2019 Venue: Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, Orchard Rd in SG
“Here what we loved is that the blue dials with the three shades of blue has never been ever commercialized,” says Julien. “These guys were probably prototype dials. And it was part Charles Vermot’s treasures that he decided to hide. Did he just bring a lot of such boxes and things into the attic? We don’t really know. What we know is that these dials had never ever been used and commercialized. And the fact that we only found them in 2018 in the heart, and the soul of our manufacture, in the attic.”
Quite clearly these were dials bound for the A386, having that tri-color design. But much like the Chronomaster Revival “Shadow,” here’s another vintage toned release that finds its origins in the grand tale of the famed attic.
When Julien returned from the attic that day, he asked Zenith’s executive committee to gather along with the two people who found the dials. He quickly turned the subject of the disrupted meeting and asked, “What do we do with these guys? They’re incredible.”
Julien admits at this point that it took the team and him quite a bit of time to decide exactly what needed to be done. But the decision was ultimately made to produce the dials for a fresh new A386. The watch was also given a name: the Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition.
Now, why Manufacture Edition? “Because it was found in the manufacture,” explains Julien. “And as you all know, Zenith being an innovative brand was also the first to open up its doors to visitors two years ago, with the Tourism Board of Neuchatel. We are the only brand to have taken such an initiative. At first it was once per week, but I’ve had to double it since because of the high demand. We basically have two and a half days per week, when people can sign in and visit our manufacture, and we open up all our doors to them.
“With this in mind, we’ve decided to call it a ‘Manufacture Edition’ because you can only buy it when you visit the manufacture,” shares Julien. “Meaning that if one day you see someone wearing this watch, on a plane, at an airport, at an event, wherever you are, you know that this person has been to our manufacture. We are not going to sell it through our retailer or our boutiques. You will be able to purchase this watch, only when you come to visit us at the manufacture.”
Well that all sounds like a great idea, but with the present state of the world, no one’s going to be traveling up to Le Locle anytime soon. What then? “Of course, you can imagine that visits to the manufacture, unfortunately, are suspended for now. So, I decided because we are launching our e-commerce in so many countries, to make this watch exceptionally available on our own online shop. As today we are not in a position to offer a visit, we had to make a little compromise.”
Once visits can be allowed again, however, the watch will be taken off the online shop and be available to buy only at the manufacture for visiting customers. Zenith’s online shop will be rolled out in phases across different geographies, starting with Italy, France and Switzerland in May. Thereafter, in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
More information: zenith-watches.com
El Primero 400 Automatic; hours, minutes and small running seconds; chronograph with central chrono hand, 30-minute and 12-hour totalizer; date; approx. 50-hour power reserve
38mm stainless steel; water resistant to 50m
Blue alligator leather strap with protective rubber lining with stainless steel pin buckle
CHF 8,900; not limited by quantity, but limited to production and availability
Additional notes: The watch comes in a special packaging, mimicking a book that can be displayed on a bookshelf and bearing a blueprint of the Zenith manufacture on its cover. It will also include a comic book about Charles Vermot by renowned Swiss cartoonist Cosey, as well as a reproduction of the vintage dial found in the attic.