An Exploration of Arts and Crafts — the ZENITH Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage
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Let’s see in more details the crafts that contributed to the creation of this magnificent timepiece.
A pioneering spirit, a love of challenges and a thirst for exploration: the very same passion and the same quest for uncharted horizons guided Christopher Columbus and Georges Favre-Jacot – the former when he set sail across the vast expanse of ocean to open up a westward route towards the Indies; and the latter when he founded Zenith in 1865 by inventing the very first industrial watch manufacturing company or “Manufacture”. Almost a century and a half later, the brand with the guiding star is still faithful to this pursuit of precision and innovation, as is notably illustrated by over 300 patents.
The Manufacture proved this determination in 1969 by creating the legendary El Primero automatic movement, which is still the world’s most accurate series-made chronograph. Moreover, fine watchmaking is not confined to the realm of mechanisms. Confirming its tradition of refined watch exteriors, notably embodied in a number of enamelled pocket watches, Zenith once again delights collectors and connoisseurs of rare models by presenting the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage – a limited edition that stands out from the rest of the line by its magnificent décor. It represented a challenge not only for the artisans, but also for the watchmakers and engineers who had to rework the movement.
They occasionally pushed the boundaries of feasibility in seeking to accommodate these ornamental elements within the same 45 mm-diameter case in rose gold and beneath the same domed sapphire crystal – while making no compromises on precision and reliability. The result is a vivid illustration of Zenith’s creative daring and of its ability to combine a dream mechanism with exceptional decorative touches stemming from the most prestigious artistic crafts.
Technical sophistication reigns supreme on the front
On the dial side, Zenith opted to give pride of place to the horological feats incorporated in the watch, while maintaining an open architecture providing a chance to admire its three original mechanisms in action: the barrel with its fusée and chain transmission (at 10.30 and 1.30), gyroscopic gravity control system, and the high-frequency regulating organ at 6 o’clock.
Yet this technical, three-dimensional appearance does not preclude considerable aesthetic sophistication, as well as the use of the finest artistic crafts that Zenith is devoted to perpetuating.
The three gold subdials (hours/minutes at 12 o’clock, small seconds at 9 o’clock, power reserve at 4 o’clock) are finely guilloché, enamelled in white and fitted with blued steel hands and screws echoing the grand watchmaking traditions.
The plate has been entirely hollowed out by hand so as to leave only the Zenith logo and a flurry of stars standing out in relief; and the troughs thus created have been filled with midnight blue lacquer.
The counterweight of the gravity control system has also been enhanced with a sophisticated and poetic touch by a hand-crafted micro-painted depiction of the Southern hemisphere.
The back is an open travel invitation
The back of the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage springs a big surprise with a vividly coloured and lively evocation of the famous navigator’s many adventures. This authentic miniature painting was created by the finest specialists in various artistic crafts using a sophisticated system of gold appliques fixed directly on the movement. In the foreground, on either side of the mechanism reminiscent of the gimbal suspension typical of marine chronometers, one may admire the finely engraved portrait of Christopher Columbus along with a sextant, the astronomical instrument serving to calculate longitude.
The background bears a reproduction of the Santa Maria, the flagship with which Columbus sailed on his first voyage in 1492. The tiny manually cut-out and micro-engraved décor depicts the vessel in abundantly rich detail, particularly in terms of the ropes and rigging.
The various sails, crafted in enamel on a cloisonné base using an engraved champlevé technique, are adorned with the famous red cross – replaced on one of them by Zenith’s famous guiding star in a nod to connoisseurs. Behind the sailboat, the going-train bridge has been chosen to represent the ocean with a background engraved with tiny waves and then coated with a layer of translucent lacquer. In the background, the barrel bridge opens up the horizon with a micro-painted décor depicting a sky divided into day and night. In a subtle detail, the watchmakers of the Manufacture have arranged the movement structure in such a way as to reveal a small gilded gear train evoking sunrise or sunset. Integrating this décor called for a wealth of ingenuity, including finding points to which the applique elements could be fixed, while reducing the movement thickness and the spaces between the calibre and the ornamentation to an absolute minimum (less than a tenth of a millimetre beneath the sails). Entirely hand-finished by artisans gifted with great dexterity, the fabulous adornment of the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage makes each watch a unique work of art – and a true collector’s watch.
To find out more about the technical innovations that went into this watch, see The jaw-dropping ZENITH Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage