Consistently cultivating a distinctive and special relationship with challenges, the brand with the guiding star has always accompanied human adventure at its most daring and creative. Witness this new Academy Christophe Colomb, which pays tributes to one of the great early 21st century explorers of human nature, a champion of surpassing personal limits. An experienced parachutist and base jumper, he achieved three feats in 2012 by jumping from a stratospheric capsule. A personality echoing the creative daring and the enterprising spirit of Zenith, expressed through one of the greatest horological discoveries of recent years equipping this spectacular model: the Gravity Control module. Issued in an exceptional ten-piece DLC-coated platinum limited edition, the watch features a set of splendid decorations evoking the feat accomplished by the Austrian sportsman. Felix Baumgartner achieved his most breathtaking feat with Zenith as a companion on October 14th 2012, 65 years to the day after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier.
Moreover, he broke not just one, but three freefall records on this occasion. The first is about height, since he jumped from a capsule hoisted by a helium-filled stratospheric balloon to the drop altitude of 38,969.4 meters. The second relates to speed, since during his fall he broke the sound barrier at 1,357.6 km/h, meaning Mach 1.25. Finally, the third is about the duration of his jump: four minutes and twenty seconds. This extreme athlete, who is nonetheless not a reckless adrenalin-seeker, has made excellence his rule of life and aims for success in all that he undertakes. The Academy Christophe Colomb Tribute to Felix Baumgartner is entirely in harmony with this philosophy.
Like all models in the line, the Academy Christophe Colomb Tribute to Felix Baumgartner stands out at first glance from the rest of the Zenith collection. Its dial illustrates Felix Baumgartner’s feat and the exceptional setting in which he accomplished it, by means of original decorations and unusual materials.
The Zenith master artisans have succeeded in faithfully reproducing the famous photo of Felix Baumgartner preparing to jump from the capsule that has reached its maximum height. The figure in a space suit adorning the power-reserve dial at 3 o’clock is chased and engraved on a hand-polished 18-carat gold plate fixed to the dial by two screws: one above the helmet, and the other under the left foot. The 12 o’clock hours and minutes dial bears a subtle detail: a mark lightly drawn between the number 12 and the first hour-marker, discreetly evoking the duration of the jump —4 minutes and 20 seconds. Like all models in the line, the plate is hollowed to embrace and enhance the shape of the gyroscopic Gravity Control module at 6 o’clock. The other striking feature of the watch face is the dial base, with the turquoise Earth occupying the greater part, while the upper section shows the Milky Way viewed from the stratosphere and depicted in aventurine. Rarely used in the field of Fine Watchmaking, the latter material was born in the 16th century workshop of a Venetian master glassmaker. While working on his latest creation, he dropped a speck of metal dust into the molten paste, thereby inadvertently creating a glass with a spangled radiance. What more beautiful and natural way could one possibly imagine of portraying the star-studded sky?
On the case-back side of this model, the 18K gold power reserve bridge illustrates the incredible free fall of the Austrian base jumper. All the motifs are hand-engraved using the line engraving technique, with Baumgartner’s stylized silhouette at 12 o’clock, the capsule at 9 o’clock and the Earth at 3 o’clock, overlapping the gyroscopic Gravity Control module. These are surrounded by engraved inscriptions indicating the champion’s three records: “The highest 38,969.4 m = 127,852.4 feet / The fastest 1,357.6 km/h = 843.6 mph / The longest 4min 20s Free Fall”, as well as the “Forty-Five (45) Jewels” on the movement, and the mention “Zenith Manufacture Le Locle”. In a particularly subtle detail, six jewels are placed on the capsule and the spacesuit, including one at the exact same spot as the watch that Felix Baumgartner wore when doing the jump.
The highly precise manual wound calibre powering this timepiece —El Primero 8804— is composed of 308 components and a unique gyroscopic system that ensures perfect horizontal positioning of the regulating organ. The gyroscopic carriage is made of 171 components and the movement beats at a frequency of 36,000 vph to provide a power reserve of 50 hours. The movement is housed within a 45 mm platinum case with a DLC coating that gives the material its spectacular matte black color as well as its highly desirable properties of hardness and scratch resistance. Issued in a 10-piece limited edition, the watch comes in a carbon-clad ebony presentation box which may if required be used as a humidor. It also bears a silkscreened stainless steel plate with Felix Baumgartner’s signature.
Sticker Price $275,000 USD. For more info on Zenith click here.