History of Zenith

written by YWH team 1 January 2016
History of Zenith

History of Zenith
Founded: 1865
Founding place: Le Locle, Switzerland
Founded by: Georges Favre-Jacot
Current headquarters: Le Locle, Switzerland
Owned by: LVHM
Official name: Zenith SA

Zenith is a Swiss luxury watchmaker with a rich history dating back to its founding in 1865 by watchmaker Georges Favre-Jacot. He is born on the 12th of December 1843 and at the age of 22 he starts Zenith, although his company was then called Fabrique des Billodes. In its early years, Zenith gained recognition for its precision and craftsmanship, earning numerous awards at international exhibitions. The brand’s name, Zenith, reflects its aspiration to reach the pinnacle of watchmaking excellence. As it is the point in the sky or celestial sphere directly above an observer, the highest point to reach.

One of Zenith’s groundbreaking achievements occurred in 1969 when the brand introduces the El Primero caliber. Which is recognized as the world’s first integrated automatic chronograph movement. This marked a significant milestone in the watchmaking industry, as the El Primero featured a high-frequency escapement, allowing for accurate measurements to 1/10th of a second.

Revival of Zenith’s El Primero movement

Despite financial challenges in the 1970s, Zenith continues to innovate. The brand gains prominence when Charles Vermot, an employee, secretly preserves the plans and tools for a new El Primero movement during a period when quartz watches dominate the market. This foresight allows Zenith to revive the El Primero in the 1980s, securing its place as a pioneer in mechanical watchmaking.

In the 21st century, under the ownership of the LVMH Group, Zenith continues to produce timepieces while staying true to its heritage. And even today, Zenith’s iconic El Primero movement remains a symbol of the brand’s dedication to horological excellence.

The history of Zenith:

1843 – (12th of December) Georges Favre-Jacot is born
1865 – Georges Favre-Jacot establishes Zenith in Le Locle, Switzerland
1900s – Zenith gains recognition for precision and craftsmanship, winning awards at international exhibitions
1917 – (19th of May) George Favre-Jacot dies
1969 – Zenith introduces the El Primero, the world’s first integrated automatic chronograph movement
1970s – Faced with financial challenges during the Quartz Crisis, Zenith continues to produce mechanical watches
1984 – Charles Vermot, a Zenith employee, saves the plans and tools for the El Primero movement, allowing for its revival later
1986 – The El Primero movement is officially relaunched
1999 – LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) acquires Zenith
2010 – Zenith celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding with special editions and events
2017 – Zenith launches the Defy El Primero 21, a new high-frequency chronograph

Check the full list of oldest watch brands in the world

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