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This article first appeared in Options, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on October 28, 2019 - November 3, 2019

At the recent A Star Through Time exhibition in Singapore, Zenith CEO Julien Tornare spoke to Anandhi Gopinath about respecting the watchmaker’s heritage in haute horlogerie by adjusting, adapting and firmly staking its claim on what tomorrow brings


For a mechanical movement that powers a wristwatch, Zenith’s El Primero calibre boasts quite a compelling history. In 1962, the idea of an automatic chronograph movement took root and in 1966, Zenith’s management decided to create the first ultra-thin, high-frequency integrated automatic chronograph calibre, beating at 36,000 vibrations per hour and able to measure one-tenths of a second. On Jan 10, 1969, at its manufacture in Le Locle, Switzerland, the watchmaker unveiled the El Primero — meaning the first, in Spanish — and went down in watchmaking history as the first brand to publicly launch its own automatic chronograph.

Two years later, the maison was sold to Chicago-based Zenith Radio Corporation. Its American administrators had more faith in quartz movements and, in the midst of the watchmaking crisis, ceased production of mechanical movements and disposed of tooling and machinery required to manufacture them.

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