In tribute to the legendary explorer Christopher Columbus, Manufacture Zenith presents one of its most fascinating watch creations, clothed in truly stunning attire. The unique nature of the complex mechanism is matched by an exceptional exterior and decoration. Delicate expressions of top-flight craftsmanship, engraving and micro-painting showcase the full measure of Zenith’s virtuosity in creating horological works combining technical refinement with magnificent artistry . Issued in an entirely hand-finished 10-piece limited edition, the impressive Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage thus pursues its flamboyant evocation of the adventures of the Italian seaman – which it undertook in 2013 with the first Grand Voyage version featuring a unique and splendid decor. On a technical level, this creation sets the stage for three major breakthroughs in watchmaking history: a patented Gravity Control system, fusée-chain transmission, and an exceptional frequency of 36,000 vibrations/hour.
Christopher Columbus and Georges Favre-Jacot – founder of the Manufacture Zenith – definitely have in common a pioneering spirit, a thirst for discovery and a love of challenges. The same passion and the same enterprising spirit guided Christopher Columbus and Georges Favre-Jacot towards uncharted horizons; the former when he braved the oceans to open up the western route to the Indies; and the latter when he founded Zenith in 1865, by creating one of the first industrial watch Manufactures. Almost a century and a half later, the brand with the guiding star remains faithful to this quest for precision and innovation, notably illustrated by more than 300 patents. The Manufacture proved this in 1969 by creating the legendary El Primero automatic movement, which is still the world’s most precise series-produced chronograph. But fine watchmaking is not confined to mechanisms. Continuing its tradition of refined exteriors (notably embodied in its many enamelled pocket watches or in recent Academy models), Zenith once again delights collectors and devotees of rare creations by presenting the Academy Christophe Hurricane Grand Voyage II – a limited edition distinguished by a remarkable décor adorning the back of the watch. This work of art represented an authentic challenge for the artisans, watchmakers and engineers,who had to rework the movement of the original Academy Christophe Colomb model. They were sometimes required to push the limits of feasibility in order to accommodate these adornments within the same 45 mm-diameter rose gold case, and beneath the same domed sapphire crystal, without making any compromises on precision or reliability. The result is a perfect illustration of Zenith’s creative daring and its ability to combine prodigious mechanisms and decors stemming from the most prestigious artistic crafts.
On the dial side, Zenith sets the stage for the horological feats gracing the movement, by creating an open structure affording a chance to view three mechanisms in action: the barrel with fusée-chain transmission (between 10:30 and 1:30), the gyroscopic Gravity Control system, and the high-frequency regulating organ (at 6 o’clock).
This technical, three-dimensional effect also provides scope for intense aesthetic sophistication, as well as the use of the finest artistic crafts that Zenith is committed to perpetuating with its customary excellence. The three small gold subdials (hours/minutes at 12 o’clock, small seconds at 9 o’clock, power reserve at 4 o’clock), have been finely guilloché, white enamelled and fitted with blued steel hands and screws recalling the grand watchmaking tradition. The mainplate has been entirely hollowed out by hand so as to reveal the Zenith logo in relief and a parade of stars; the hollowed parts have been filled with midnight blue lacquer. The counterweight of the Gravity Control system has also been adorned with a sophisticated and poetic decor featuring an entirely hand-crafted micro-painted depiction of the Southern hemisphere.
While the dial itself is the unmistakable signature of a work of excellence, the back of the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II harbours its own sources of wonderment. Providing a vivid and subtly layered portrayal of the adventures of the famous Italian explorer, this superb miniature highlights the virtuosity of the most brilliant artisans. Secured to the movement by a sophisticated system of gold appliques, this painting brilliantly illustrates Christopher Columbus’ discovery of Americain1492.Created around the mechanism reminiscent of the gimbal suspension system on marine chronometers, the foreground of this tiny work reveals the effigy of Christopher Columbus brandishing the flag of the Spanish monarchy, surrounded by palm trees, two natives offering him exotic fruit, as well as a parrot. These delicate applied figures are finely hand-engraved and then alternately patinated or adorned in dazzling colours. Behind them, sailing across a deep blue ocean, the three famous Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria ships stand out against the backdrop of a luminous sky. The entire scene is micro-painted by hand. The hand-engraved décor portrays the “discovery of the Indies” with an infinite wealth of details, notably in terms of the clothing of the natives, the feathers of the flamboyant parrot, and the crests on the Spanish flag. The palm tree foliage as well as the bowl of fruit are hand-engraved and then decked out in colours. Integrating this masterfully executed scene required considerable ingenuity and notably included finding points to which the applied elements could be fixed, while reducing the movement thickness and the spaces between the calibre and the adornments to an absolute minimum (less than a tenth of a millimetre beneath the figurines). Entirely hand-finished by artisans endowed with extreme dexterity, the fabulous ornamentation on the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II makes each timepiece truly one-of-a-kind.
While Christopher Columbus pushed back known horizons, the watch bearing his name also rolls back the limits of time by combining three mechanisms guaranteeing enhanced precision: a regulating organ with a high oscillation frequency (36,000 vibrations/hour) dividing time up into tenths of a second; a fusée-chain transmission system compensating for the barrel’s variations in force while it is unwinding; and a patented Gravity Control module serving to neutralise the effects of gravity on the rate of a watch. In other words, it successfully solves the problems relating to wearing the watch (gravity) and to its running time (leading to a drop in torque), while ensuring remarkably precise time measurement (related to the oscillation speed of the balance). These feats are achieved by an exceptional movement comprising 939 parts, including 354 for the calibre itself, which in turn houses the 173 parts of the Gravity Control module; while the fusée-chain system comprises 585 parts.
FUSÉE-CHAIN TRANSMISSION ENSURING CONSTANT FORCE
As a mechanical watch gradually winds down, the movement loses amplitude (corresponding to the balance-wheel’s angle of oscillation) and thus becomes less accurate. The fusée-chain transmission system serves on the contrary to keep the driving force perfectly stable throughout the full power reserve – with the iso-torque shape of the fusée compensating for the progressive reduction in the force of the barrel.
The majority of 16th, 17th and 18th century pocket watches were equipped with a fusée, but today very few watch manufacturers are capable of transposing and fitting this mechanism within the confines of a wristwatch. With the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand VoyageII, stemming from two full years of development, Zenithhas now entered this highly exclusive club.
Transmission between the barrel and fusée is handled by an 18cm-long chain comprising 585 parts.This highlycomplex construction features alternating double and intermediate links. Once assembled, it is capable of withstanding a traction force of more than 3 kilos.
Throughout the power reserve, the mainspring transmits its energy to the fusée via a chain that wraps itself around the barrel. By adjusting the variations in tension, the fusée regulates the force that is passed on to the going train – and thence to the silicon escape-wheel fitted inside the gyroscopic carriage. While it takes more than 50 hours (the power-reserve duration) for the chain to wrap itself around the barrel, winding via the stem provides a fascinating sight. These few seconds enable the fusée and the barrel to turn in opposite directions so that the chain wraps itself back around the fusée.
The shape of the fusée was dictated by the optimal force that the Zenith master-watchmakers wished to give the barrel. Its grooved contours as well as its dimensions are the result of lengthy and particularly complex complications performed for each of the seven construction stages. This fusée could doubtless never have been created without the full integration of all professions (notably including movement prototype making) cultivated in the Manufacture Zenith, nor without the use of sophisticated equipment. Such is indeed one of the core strengths of an integrated Manufacture.
GRAVITY CONTROL: DEFYING GRAVITY
While fusée-chain transmission eliminates variations in isochronism (the equal duration of the oscillations), the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II also cancels out another effect that is detrimental to the rate of a mechanical watch: the influence of gravity.
Working on the principle that keeping the regulating organ in a horizontal position engenders the best possible balance-wheel amplitude, that the rate is adjusted in only one direction and is not therefore the result of a compromise, and thus results in optimal timekeeping precision, Zenith devised and patented a revolutionary module enabling the “heart” of the movement and the escapement to remain constantly in this position.
An avant-garde system brilliantly illustrating the creative daring of the Manufacture, the Gravity Control system is also a tribute to history, since it is inspired by the marine chronometers that Zenith used to produce, borrowing from these legendary instruments the principle of gimbal suspension introduced in the 16thcentury on marine compasses so that they would stay horizontal despite the pitching and rolling of the boat.
The Gravity Control system with its self-regulating gyroscopic mechanism serves to maintain the regulating organ in a permanently horizontal position whatever the angle of the wrist and thereby represents the ultimate evolution of the marine chronometer. The brand with the guiding star is the only watch manufacturer to master this system – duly rewarded in the “Best Complicated Watch” category at the 2011 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève – that it invented after five years of intense development.
A STYLISH PRESENTATION BOX
Such an exceptional model deserved an equally exceptional presentation box. The Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II comes in a precious mahogany box featuring ox bone inlays and that can also serve as a humidor with a capacity of 80 cigars. In tribute to Christopher Columbus, this box is adorned with a screen-printed motif on parchment-style papyrus reproducing Waldseemüller’s planisphere (1507), the first world map to mention the name “America”.
A magnificent ocean voyage and a splendid voyage to the heart of the infinitely small: with this limited edition combining fine watchmaking and artistic crafts, Zenith is setting out to conquer fascinating new horizons, sailing as ever under the banner of daring, authenticity and pleasure.