In the 19th century in the region of Le Locle, the cradle of Swiss watchmaking, numerous artisans worked in small scattered workshops, or in their own homes, with no particular links between them. Based on the principle that all the parts of a watch are interdependent, Zenith founder Georges Favre-Jacot decided to bring together the full range of watchmaking professions under one roof in 1865. This marked the birth of the first ever Manufacture – a term to which only a few watch companies can still lay claim, since it involves in-house mastery of all stages involved in developing and producing movements.
Uniting all skills within a single location made a major contribution to the advancement of production technologies – especially since Georges Favre-Jacot constantly developed new machines and production processes in his relentless quest to improve the reliability and the precision of his timepieces. To back the hand-crafted care lavished on developing and finishing each part, the watchmaker once again demonstrated his impressive entrepreneurial spirit by devising the concepts of interchangeable parts and automated production. Results were not long in coming.
The Manufacture in Le Locle soon began worldwide exportation of the most precise watches ever made, sealing its destiny as bound up with chronometric (precision-timing) performance.
Still located in the premises where it was founded in 1865, the Manufacture Zenith currently houses 80 professions exercised by its 250-strong personnel. Whether exponents of the more artistic crafts or of ultra-technical skills, all are engaged in the task undertaken by Georges Favre-Jacot almost 150 years ago: that of mastering each gesture in order to enable free-spirited creation of mechanical marvels combining noble watchmaking traditions with avant-garde innovations.
The founder of Zenith, Georges Favre-Jacot, revolutionised watch production by uniting all the watchmaking professions under one roof, thereby inventing the very concept of a Manufacture.
The Manufacture launches its first pocket chronograph.
Georges Favre-Jacot wins the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition.
The Manufacture established by Georges Favre-Jacot definitively adopts the name of Zenith, referring to the highest point reached by a heavenly body in the sky and thereby symbolising the heights of excellence to which the brand with the guiding star has been aspiring ever since.
The Manufacture Zenith employs 1,000 people.
In the watchmaking haven of Le Locle and its neighbouring town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, it is nicknamed “the Manufacture with 2,000 gold and silver hands”.
Zenith launches its legendary Calibre 135.
This legendary wristwatch chronometer movement equipped with a small seconds function was to earn no less than 235 prizes.
Launch of Caliber 5011K, boasting record-breaking precision in its category, which would be used to power marine chronometers, pocket watches and table clocks, as well as the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 in a limited edition.
Zenith created El Primero, the first ever integrated automatic chronograph movement, which is still the world’s most precise series-made caliber. It is the only one capable of measuring short times to the nearest tenth of a second, thanks to its balance oscillating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour.
The watchmaker Charles Vermot hid the plans, parts and tools required to make mechanical calibres in order to save them from destruction following the decision of the company that owned Zenith at the time to limit production to quartz watches only.
Mechanical watches were again in demand, and Charles Vermot gave Zenith back the production tools that he had kept safely hidden. Production of the El Primero caliber could begin once more. Major watch brands were eager to get a fresh start in this field by equipping their timepieces with this legendary movement.
Launch of the ultra-thin automatic Elite movement. The first Zenith caliber to be developed using Computer Assisted Design technology, it was voted movement of the year by the trade press due to its extreme slenderness and its proven reliability.