Pegged as an “unprecedented undertaking in watchmaking,” Zenith, Kari Voutilainen and Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo have come together to create the Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition. Like the name suggests, the watch is set with a historical chronometer movement and marks a monumental collaboration in watchmaking.  Read on for all the details:

What Is It All About?

With this timepiece, Zenith takes its most awarded movement from the golden age of chronometry competitions and gives it a modern twist. It marks the first time a chronometer watch from this era has been accessible to the general public. The idea of this timepiece came from Aurel Bacs and Alexandre Ghotbi of Phillips, in association with Bacs & Russo. They called in the renowned independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen to restore and hand-decorate a batch of the legendary Zenith Calibre 135-O movements—all of whom have taken part and won in the observatory chronometer competitions. 

Introducing: Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition

The result of this collaboration is the birth of the 10-piece Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition. A contemporary piece of horology, the watch is sold exclusively by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo. 

From the 1950s to Today

The story of this timepiece began during the 1950s when observatory chronometer competitions were the flavour of the day. It was during this time that Zenith had established itself as a pre-eminent maker of precision chronometers with the Calibre 135-0; the highly awarded observatory chronometer ever made. Seven decades later, Phillips auction house put forth a new kind of challenge for Zenith. It involved working with the highly esteemed living independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen to restore and hand decorate a handful of Calibre 135-O movements and house them in a new watch case. 

On the genesis of this one-of-a-kind collaborative effort, ZENITH CEO Julien Tornare shared, “I’ve known Aurel Bacs and Alexandre Ghotbi for years. We’ve had discussions about ZENITH’s patrimony and what were the hidden treasures that remained to be uncovered. Specifically, they asked about the Calibre 135. Then I had the idea, why don’t we collaborate with Phillips to create a special series around this movement? The beauty of having such a rich patrimony as ZENITH’s is to share it.”

Introducing: Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition

“Wouldn’t it be great to do a sort of super limited edition with Calibre 135?” recounted Aurel Bacs. “Julien and Romain (Marietta, Head of Product & Heritage at ZENITH) came back to us and said ‘guys, we have a surprise for you.’ But who would’ve thought that they would come with the real, observatory tested, sort of Formula 1 winning movements? This is how it all started.”

What About The Calibre 135-O?

Called the ultimate observatory chronometer, the Calibre 135-O movement is one of Zenith’s many pursuits of precision. Developed from 1945 onwards by Ephrem Jobin, the Calibre 135-O was produced from 1949 until 1962 in two distinctive versions; a commercial variant and a second one that was dedicated to participate in chronometry competitions at the Observatories of Neuchâtel, Geneva, Kew Teddington, and Besançon. Heavily tested, the Calibre 135-O holds the most awards among a total of 230 chronometry prizes. 

Alt Text: Introducing: Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition

Fun Fact: The 10 movements chosen for this limited edition belong to the “serial winning” years from 1950-1954, when the 135-O won the competition 5 years in a row. 

About the Watch

The all-new Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition is deeply inspired by past commercial wristwatch versions of the original and several 1950s references. The watch comes in a modest 38mm platinum round case that features tapered lugs for perfect fit and an oversized crown that bears the modern Zenith logo. The slightly domed black dial in sterling silver features Kari Voutilainen’s Comblémine atelier guilloché engraving in a fish-scale motif. Add to this the triangular hour markers and applied polished dot markers in rhodium-plated German silver and solid gold hands and you have got yourself a winner. The oversized second counter at 6 o’clock is inscribed with the movement’s serial number denoting the dedication and care that was put into each timepiece. Furthermore, the dial is signed Neuchâtel” at the bottom, signifying the place where the mother of all collaborations was taking place between Zenith, Kari Voutilainen and the historical Observatory. As for the movement, the watch is powered by the Calibre 135-O movement that has been decorated and finished by Kari Voutilainen. 

Introducing: Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition

The Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition comes in a wooden box made from walnut wood. These are inspired by the containers in which the chronometry competition calibres were transported from the Zenith Manufacture to the Neuchâtel Observatory when competing for a first prize at the time.

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Image Courtesy: Zenith Watches