On the occasion of the Journées Particulières (Special Days) organised by the LVMH Group, over 40 locations in Switzerland and Europe opened their doors to the public to discover the skills and crafts of the 100,000 men and women composing the Group workforce. An impressive range of watchmakers, needlewomen, bootmakers, cellar masters, jewellers, baggage-makers, wine riddling specialists, head seamstresses and head chefs were on hand to welcome visitors and reveal the secrets of their respective professions. Thanks to this unique event, visitors were able to get a backstage look at a dream world and to share the passion of these artisans united by the same taste for excellence.
It was in the exceptional town of Le Locle, of which the industrial architecture is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in the very spot where the founder created his company in 1865, that Zenith welcomed about 400 visitors to its Manufacture from 8 am onward last Saturday and Sunday.
Proud of having recently completed the renovation of its main building, and of having done so with complete respect for its watchmaking heritage, the brand with the guiding star invited the public to enter its ultra-modern workshops where traditional tools rub shoulders with avant-garde technologies.
Generation after generation, the Manufacture owes its reputation to the talent and passion of its artisans. It is they whom the brand’s guests were able to meet in the course of these two open days that provided a chance to discover some of the 80 professions involved in the production of a Zenith watch and its components during a process that takes an average of nine months. From making movement blanks to cutting out components and on to decorating and assembling a movement, visitors were able to follow the various stages right the way through to the finished product. This event gave the brand a chance to provide all devotees of Fine Watchmaking with a vivid reminder that, at the heart of each Zenith watch, beats a Zenith movement developed and produced within this historical Manufacture of a company that has 330 employees worldwide, of which 270 in Le Locle. At the end of this experience, everyone undoubtedly left the premises with their head full of stories to be told and stars in their eyes…
Georges Favre-Jacot created his watchmaking Manufacture in 1865. A true visionary, he had spacious, well-lit workshops built in Le Locle, a small town in the Swiss Canton of Neuchâtel, with the aim of bringing the entire range of watchmaking skills under one roof. The very first integrated watch Manufacture was born and has remained in its original location ever since. He was thus able to develop and produce all components and to control the entire production process – an approach that naturally applied to the movements, but also to enamel or painted dials and even watch cases. He soon passed on his sense of mission to his artisans: free-spirited, constant inventiveness devoted to creating incomparable watches from A to Z.
The history of the company has been punctuated by landmark inventions embodying this constant quest: El Primero, the first series-made automatic integrated chronograph movement beating at the exceptional frequency of 10 vibrations per second, meaning tenth of a second accuracy; the Gravity Control system that breaks free of gravity and represents an exclusive token of the Manufacture’s unique expertise; and finally, the world-first Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane, which not only combines two guarantees of absolute precision, but also provides a solution to the loss of isochronism usually suffered by a watch as it winds down. In the course of its history, the Manufacture has registered 300 patents and created over 600 movement variations. Launched in 1969, the first integrated automatic chronograph movement beating at the exceptional rate of 36,000 vibrations per hour, the El Primero chronograph, remains a watch industry benchmark and is indeed still the world’s most precise series-made calibre.