We were recently invited to the UNESCO World Heritage village of Le Locle, in Canton Neuchatel, for a very exclusive visit to one of Switzerland’s oldest watch manufacturers. Zenith Watches, started by Georges Favre Jaquot in 1865, was the first company to fabricate all of the movements and entire watch assembly under one roof. And after nearly a century of painstakingly meticulous workmanship, it was nearly lost for good in the 1970’s and 80’s with the advent of the quartz watch revolution, which spelled doom for mechanical timepieces.
But the story of this historic brand didn’t end there, due to the passionate disobedience of one watchmaker - who hid the essential tools and machinery in an attic to prevent their short-sighted destruction, and when Rolex approached them 10 years later to ask for the use of their “El Primero” movement, they discovered that the legacy of the brand had been preserved in hiding. And now, Zenith is back as a cult luxury brand, owned by LVMH, and one of the most storied examples of fine Swiss watchmaking.
We arrived in Le Locle a week ago, and were met by representatives of their marketing and communications department. After a brief presentation on the history, we began our tour of the factory with a visit to the development department - where designers come up with intricate new “complications”, and master watchmakers at tables nearby try to create what the computers designed. Photos can’t do justice to the precision of the work that these master watchmakers do.
Then it was on to the assembly line, beginning with the machines that cut the cases out of brass and stainless steel. On through floor after floor of very focused workers, each with a different job, and repeating the same assembly all day long. There is no question that I would lack the concentration necessary to have a job there for a minute. And then on to the “Haute Horlogerie” department, where the truly exotic and inimitable timepieces are crafted - limited edition, one-of-a-kind masterpieces.
Stay tuned for news of an upcoming partnership with Zenith, and just maybe you can join us for a special visit to this paragon of the legendary Swiss watchmaking industry.