Introducing the Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition

While a devastating Achilles injury might have ended four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers’ season on the field, the future Hall of Fame quarterback has been keeping busy. After two years of working together, Zenith is launching their revered ambassador’s first eponymous watch.

I’d wager there are few people on planet Earth as equally obsessed with the NFL and watchmaking as I am. As such, releases of this nature are pure catnip for me. I’m always curious to see how these two seemingly incongruous worlds can possibly combine to create something worthwhile. We’ve seen triumphant team-ups (between genuine watch lover Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings and Angelus), and questionable homages (Moritz Grossmann, I’m looking at you), but how will Aaron Rodgers, one of the game’s all-time talents, fare as a stand-in designer for one of watchmaking’s all-time greats?

Initial thoughts

Right off the bat, the partnership between Rodgers and Zenith made sense. Zenith’s motto, “Time to reach your star”, may well be low-hanging fruit for the brand that managed, by virtue of its early foundation, to snare not just the star as its logo but also the word “Pilot” for its dials, but it is an appropriate, almost iconic tagline for which many brands would sell their soul.

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers, the epitome of excellence on the football field, is thus a good match for Zenith. His precision is the stuff of legend. His QB rating is currently second best all-time (trailing only current Super Bowl MVP Pat Mahomes’ 105.3 mark), and blows his contemporaries’ stat lines out of the water.

Analyzing the top ten passer ratings in history shows that aside from Rodgers, only the now-retired Drew Brees (fifth all-time) began his career in the 2000s, with every other passer on the list making their pro debut in 2010s. For the layman, the significance of this modernity bias comes down to rule changes that emphasize the passing game. When Rodgers began his career, the NFL landscape was different. Receivers (the players who must catch the ball thrown by the quarterback) were not as protected by the rules as they are today, which meant timing was everything. Rodgers and his receiving corps would practice tirelessly so routes could be run and balls delivered with their eyes closed (or obscured by a 300 lb rusher crashing through the O-line).

Only four quarterbacks all-time (all of whom happen to be active players) have a career rating above 100, which, given the turnover of professional football players at the game’s most important position, shows an eliteness that speaks to Zenith’s values. Rodgers’ rating stands at 103.6 (for context, the maximum score possible is 158.3 with a modern-day average of around 94, up from an average score of 66.7 when the formula was first created).

Julien Tornare and Aaron Rodgers
Julien Tornare and Aaron Rodgers

Simply put, the man’s a bonafide legend and a superb ambassador for any watchmaking brand trying to communicate professionalism and performance. Better still, Rodgers is known off the field as a somewhat left-field character with a diverse range of interests and an amusing habit of dropping memorable soundbites that belie a depth of personality one might not expect from a high-level sports star. The question is, does that character translate into his abilities as a watch designer?

Zenith claims that Rodgers, the brand’s ambassador since 2021, went on a journey of self-expression with this piece. But how much value does a Gridiron god’s input offer the consumer? Let’s check it out…

What we think

The fact this watch employs green for the dial and bezel should come as no surprise. For 18 seasons, Rodgers suited up in the green and yellow of the Green Bay Packers on game day. Last offseason saw the QB traded to the New York Jets, a team that (coincidentally?) also plays in green.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition
Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition

Zenith has confirmed that this project has been in the works for 15 months. That means it began while Rodgers was a Packer and concludes with the watch’s release, while he is a Jet. Whether that caused any awkward conversations behind the scenes is debatable, but it does look like Zenith managed to strike a pretty decent balance between the greens of Rodgers’ pro jerseys…

The conciliative color selected is more akin to Jets green (known in New York as “Gotham Green”) but is perhaps closer still to the old shade of green made famous by Rodgers’ iconic predecessor at the position, Joe Namath.

One could point to the yellow flashes on the chronograph counting hands (the central 1/10 seconds hand and the sub-dial indicators at 3 and 6 o’clock showing the elapsed seconds and minutes respectively) as evidence that the similarity to old-school Jets green is nothing but a happy accident and that it was the Packers’ adored uniform set that provided the bulk of the inspiration all along, but it matters little: whatever the true inspirations and backstage wranglings might have been, this is a beautiful watch with a colorway that’s easy on the eye.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition
Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition

The most striking thing about the design (which is actually quite easy to miss for a reason I’ll explain momentarily) is that it utilizes Arabic numerals in place of baton indices for the first time in the modern Chronomaster Sport line.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition
Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition

I must say, it is a triumphant deployment. These applied and lume-filled Arabic numerals, in my opinion, elevate the whole design and make the Chronomaster Sport dial feel much more compact, complete, and characterful.

So why is such a massive change so easy to overlook at first glance? Quite simply because this version of the Zenith Chronomaster Sport, despite its vivid greenness, looks strikingly similar to a certain era of Rolex Daytona that no longer frequents the rival catalog. Because of this (possibly intentional?) callback, the watch looks very familiar. This, for me, is an advantage. It allows Zenith to do something new without it upsetting the apple cart.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition
Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition

Although it is almost certainly a coincidence, the biggest difference between the use of Arabic numerals on this Chronomaster Sport in comparison to their use on the old Daytona is the fact that the Rolex crown is replaced by the number 12 — the jersey number Rodgers was known for wearing during his stint in Wisconsin.

While he may have dropped the 12 (famously Namath’s number, retired by the team way back in 1985) in favor of eight when he joined the Jets, he will, in the hearts and minds of many, always be associated with the number that sits proudly atop the dial of this surprisingly satisfying collaboration that does just enough to warrant its association with one of football’s leading lights, while simultaneously enhancing the Chronomaster Sport collection.

Tech Specs

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition

Reference: 03.3117.3600/56.M3100
Movement: Automatic El Primero 3600, 36,000vph with 60-hour power reserve
Functions: Time, date, 1/10th Chronograph
Case: 41 mm stainless steel, water resistant to 100 meters
Dial: Green with sub-dials in three shades of gray; yellow accents on the chronograph hands
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Price: USD 12,800
Availability: Limited to 250 pieces. Watches will be available for purchase on the ZENITH digital boutique starting November 2, 2023.

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