To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the manufacture, Zenith presented several special watches this year. Today, we bring you our hands-on review with our now usual live pictures of the new Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II ref. 18.2215.8805/36.C713 in tribute to the legendary explorer and discoverer of the Americas Christopher Columbus. This exceptional timepiece issued in an entirely hand-finished 10-piece limited edition, 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 vph. Christopher Columbus and Georges Favre-Jacot —founder of the Zenith Manufacture— 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 new Zenith Academy Christophe Hurricane Grand Voyage II is not only distinguished by a remarkable décor adorning the back of the watch but also by the grandeur of its dial underneath the domed sapphire crystal. 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 including 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. Fitted with a very robust 18K rose gold case measuring 45 mm in diameter and a thickness of 21.80 mm —including the protruding domed sapphire crystal—, this new timepiece comes with an elegant dark brown alligator strap with 18K rose gold triple folding clasp.
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, small seconds at 9 and power reserve at 4 o’clock, have been finely guilloché, white enameled 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 of the new Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II itself is the unmistakable signature of a work of excellence, the back —visible via the display case back— harbors 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 America in 1492.
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 colors. 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 colors. 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 millimeter beneath the figurines.
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 beating at 36,000 vph 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. The fusée-chain transmission ensures constant force by driving force perfectly stable throughout the full power reserve. 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 Voyage II, stemming from two full years of development, Zenith has now entered this highly exclusive club. The El Primero 8805 manual wound calibre provides a power reserve of 50 hours when fully wound.
As if the watch wasn't impressive enough, the timepiece is presented in an exceptional presentation box —almost 2 feet long— made out of precious mahogany wood and featuring ox bone inlays on the top —a Waldseemüller’splanisphere from 1507— and on the front —Zenith branded lock keyhole. The box is really spectacular and can also serve as a humidor with a capacity for 80 cigars. Inside the box, a beautiful loupe, cleaning pouch and a special key are included.
On the wrist, the watch wears really big and high up due to the domed sapphire crystal on the back protecting the gyroscopic Gravity Control system. Surprisingly, the watch does wear quite comfortably. If you want one of the most impressive timepieces out there with unparalleled wrist presence look no further. The new Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II is a watch that honors the 150th anniversary of the manufacture in all splendor.
Sticker Price $353,000 USD. For more info on Zenith click here.