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File:Favre-Jacot, George.jpg
Georges Favre-Jacot (1843-1917)

Zenith is a Swiss watch manufacture, currently part of the LVMH group.

Foundation in 1865

Only 22 years young, in 1865 Georges Favre-Jacot founded the „Fabrique des Billodes“ in Le Locle. First he manufactured precision pocket watches, which were signed with his name. About 1900 the product range was expanded: There were on-board chronometers, table clocks, precision pendulum clocks and later marine chronometers.

The name "Zenith" came to his mind, when he just had developed a movement which seemed to him more perfect than all previous; looking up at the sky full of stars the sky appeared to him similar to the game of the wheels and cones in a perfect mechanical instrument, and he decided that his new movement and its manufacture should be named after the highest point of the universe: the zenith. From this emerged also the choice of a five-pointed star as corporate icon.

From 1903, the Favre-Jacot company took part regularly and very successfully in the competitions of the observatory Neuchâtel with its pocket watches and on-board chronometers. In 1903, he achieved a first prize in the competition of the observatory of Neuchâtel. The nephew of Favre-Jacot, James Favre, sold the watches to North and South America, Russia, India, China and Japan. 1908 followed the establishment of a branch in Moscow, 1909 in Paris, 1910 in Vienna and 1914 in London.

The brand Zenith

By transforming the firm into a stock company in the year 1911 the Zenith brand arose. In the same year Favre-Jacot retired and handed the management of the company over to James Favre. By James Favre, there was a revival of old traditions, especially with the "neuchâteloises". These new pendulum clocks were equipped with a 8-day carillon and on demand had also a quarter-hour repetition. 1923 he founded another company in the French Besançon and 1926 an additional office in New York.

After the First World War Zenith began with the development and manufacture of wristwatches, including alarm and chronograph functions. Zenith was instrumental in developing the now-standard central seconds complication, with the direct arrangement of the 1948 calibre 133 now widely used. For the chronographs movements by Valjoux, Excelsior Park and from 1960 on by Martel were used, which were bought by Zenith. In May of the year 1929, the astronomical observatory in England told the public that out of 19,835 watches from all over the world a watch by Zenith set a new record with a daily deviation of only 0.6 seconds.

The legendary movement 'El Primero'

File:Zenith El Primero Werk.jpg
The legendary automatic chronograph movement 'El Primero' by Zenith

In 1948 the precision calibre 135, successful at many chronometer competitions, entered the market.

1969 followed the first automatic chronographEl Primero“, developed along with Movado. Mondia and Movado are included in the company. From this merger arises the holding company "Mondia-Zenith-Movado".

The development of the automatic chronograph movement "El Primero" (English: the first) had already started in 1967. Not only was it the first automatic chronograph movement in the world, but the movement oscillated with even 36,000 A/h. The 'El Primero', presented on 10 January 1969, outcompeted the concurrent development of a competing consortium with Breitling, Heuer-Leonidas, Hamilton/Buren Watch Company and Dubois Dépraz, which presented their product only on 3 March 1969 under the name of Calibre 11 "Chronomatic".

In contrast to the "Chronomatic" the 'El Primero' is produced even today with great success and is highly esteemed by connoisseurs as one of the top-quality chronograph movements.

Alternating history in the 70's and 80's

In 1971, the majority of shares of the company is taken over by the American Zenith Radio Corporation of Chicago, America's largest group for the manufacture of electronic components. One of the reasons, perhaps, were to exclude problems the Americans feared because of the name similarity. Zenith was planned to be used as a base for sales of quartz movements produced in the U.S. Believing in their imagination of the future the Americans soon lost interest in the mechanical movements and in 1978 ordered the production to be stopped and all movements, fournitures and machinery to be destroyed. It is thanks to the head of the chronograph studios, Charles Vermot, that the 'El Primero' was saved for the afterworld. He objected to the order and hid large quantities of plants, tools, machines, and all design and manufacturing drawings in the attic of the manufacture. <ref>Watchtime: Zenith El Primero Chronomaster / Geschichte and Hintergründe (Thomas H. Ernst)</ref><ref>Hieber Journal 16.06.2002</ref>

End of 1978, the Zenith brand was sold to the Swiss Dixi group. With the support of the watch manufacturer Ebel the production of the 'El Primero' was resumed. First the movements of Ebel were used, but since 1984 there were again watches from Zenith.

1990 to the 125th Anniversary of the company's founding Zenith presented a collection, which consisted of four models: three mechanical watches with manual winding and one chronograph. All models had a COSC chronometer certificate. The edition of the mechanical models amounted to 300 copies, while the chronograph was published in a limited edition of 500 copies. The numbering together with the Zenith Crest could both be seen on the dial as well as on the caseback. The chronograph was equipped with a 13-lignes El Primero movement 400, while the mechanical models possessed round 11-lignes Zenith calibres with 17 jewels and had also a small second. All models featured enamel dials and were produced with various indications.

At the Baselworld 1991 Zenith showed two particularly valuable collections to the 700th Anniversary of the Confoederatio Helvetia. Both series were produced in limited and numbered editions and offered chronograph chronometer models. The calibres 400 and 410 were used. The Calibre 410 consisted of 354 components, of which 277 were not interchangeable with each other. On the face of these models a full calendar could be seen, and at the outer edge of the moon phase indicator at the 6 appeared the 12-hour schedule of the chronograph. The dial of the Calibre 400 shows only the date. Both casebacks showed a serial numbering: 250 copies for the Calibre 410 and 900 copies for the Calibre 400. The caseback showed also an inscription to the 700th Anniversary as well as a map of Switzerland with Swiss heraldic.

Reorientation in the LVMH


After Zenith, together with TAG Heuer, had become part of the luxury goods group LVMH, the brand was positioned as a luxury watch brand of the top class. Zenith plays a special role within the group as supplier of manufacture movements. From January 2002, Thierry Nataf, who was also responsible for the design of new models as an art director, was president of the Swiss watch manufacturer.

To the changed direction under the new leadership also belonged that the qualities of the legendary "El Primero" no longer had to sleep in secret. Moreover, the watches appeared stronger and much more spectacular. This could be seen, for example, at the successor models of the Chronomaster, namely the "Open" series. With the new dial design, which provided a direct front view to the movement, the watch friend could now witness closer the mechanical finesse of the watch. A feature of this series was also the unusually arranged display of the power reserve indicator, namely horizontally in the middle of the dial, which let the watches "smile."

Zenith Chronology

Georges Favre-Jacot

Georges Favre-Jacot started the company that would become Zenith in 1865 at just 22 years of age. He maintained sole control of the firm until 1904, when he relinquished some say to his son-in-law (and nephew) Jämes Favre who forced the founder out of the company completely in 1911.

  • 1865 - Georges Favre-Jacot founds "Fabrique des Billodes" in Le Locle
  • 1883
    • January 27 - The "Maison Georges Favre-Jacot" is registered at Billodes; Georges Favre-Jacot is chief director, with Louis-William Favre of Ponts-de-Martel also made a director; the headquarters is simply "Billodes" in Le Locle
    • A penny farthing bicycle logo is registered;
  • 1884 - More logos are registered: A "Billodes" shield and "Clos Dunods" with black horse
  • 1885
    • July 4 - A branch in La Chaux-de-Fonds is opened at Rue Léopold-Robert 14
    • Louis-William Favre dies
    • The "Diogenes" brand is established with registration of the lamp logo
  • 1886 - A Prussian helmet logo is registered
  • 1887 - More logos are registered: "Micromêtre", "Schutzmarke"
  • 1888 - The "Sentinelle", "Marguerite", and "Pilote" logos are added
  • 1890 - A logo with the statue of Daniel JeanRichard is registered
  • 1894
    • January 31 - The La Chaux-de-Fonds branch is closed
    • The "Terminus" brand is added
  • 1896
    • July 16 - The company becomes a limited public partnership under the name "Georges Favre Jacot et Cie." with 1.25 million francs in shares in two series; Georges remains sole director; headquarters are Rue des Billodes 32 in Le Locle
    • All previous trademarks are transferred and "Eclipse Z" and "Ariadne" are added
    • Georges Favre-Jacot's nephew Jämes-Albert Favre moves to Le Locle to work at the firm; he had previously worked for his father, Jämes Favre-Fallet of Saint-Imier
    • The company earns a gold medal at Geneva
  • 1897 - More trademarks are added: "Björn", "Rheingold", and "Chic"
  • 1898 - A star-shaped logo is registered using the name "Reform Watch"
  • 1900 - The brand "Zenith" is registered on October 3 following an elaborate stylized "Zenit" on July 24; more logos are "Blume" in Arabic and "Styr"; Fritz Cosandier (future technical director) joins the company
  • 1901
    • January 16 - Share capital is increased to 1.6 million francs by increasing the number of Series A shares to 1200 while the Series B remains unchanged
    • September 16 - Georges Favre-Jacot registers a company to exploit the nearby quarries at Col des Roches, which will produce bricks for his factory; headquarters for this new enterprise are also Billodes 32
  • 1902 - The brands "Rainbow" in Russian, "Intact", "Svea", "Defi", and "A.R. & C.T. Co." are registered
  • 1903
    • The Favre-Jacot company wins a first place in the Neuchâtel observatory chronometer competitions
    • Nephew Jämes Favre sells Favre-Jacot watches in North and South America, Russia, India, China and Japan
    • The brand "Run Flag" is registered in Chinese; also "Amethyst", "Saphire", "Topaz", "Opal", "Agate", "Beryl", "Olivine", "Sardoine"
  • 1904
    • August 1 - Against the wishes of her father, Fernande-Amélie Favre-Jacot marries her cousin Jämes-Albert Favre
    • September 28 - Jämes-Albert Favre is named to a new post of manager; Series B shares are reverse-split, reduced in number from 2000 to 800
    • The brands "Troy", and "Pilot" are registered
  • 1905 - The slogan "Zenith Watches give the right time every time for a lifetime" is registered; the brand "Zenith Eclat" is registered, along with "Take Poetry" in Chinese and "Bear" in Finnish
  • 1907 - Charles Rosat joins the company as an adjuster - he would bring fame to the brand in chronometry competitions and would head the company's Boudry branch
  • 1908
    • February 25 - A new Société Anonyme called "Zénith SA" is established in Le Locle with share capital of just 120,000 francs, divided into 80 Series A and 40 Series B shares; Léon Vuille (of the La Chaux-de-Fonds maker of gold watches, Paul Vuille-Perret) is named director
    • A branch is established in Moscow and the brand is registered in Russian
  • 1909
    • February 18 - Another Société Anonyme, "Zenith Cie Francaise et Suisse d'Horlogerie," is created with share capital of 200,000 francs to exploit the French market under the direction of Paul Leuba (watch merchant and future Swiss consul in Besançon and Marseilles) with a branch in Paris and headquarters in Le Locle at Billodes 38
    • August 17 - Share capital of Zenith SA is increased to 240,000 francs in 240 shares; Russian Ossip ("Oscher") Cheifetz of Warsaw is named director

Jämes Favre

  • 1910
    • January 14 - The name of the company is officially changed to "Fabriques des Montres Zénith, Georges Favre-Jacot et Co"
    • May 13 - A new company, "Montres de Précision Zenith SA", is established with 210,000 francs capital, under president Jämes Favre, vice president Raoul Goetschmann (of the Banque Cantonale Neuchâteloise), and secretary Fritz Cosandier (also technical director) with headquarters at Les Billodes in Le Locle
    • A branch is established in Vienna
  • 1911
    • October 30 - "Fabriques des Montres Zénith, Georges Favre-Jacot et Co." is dissolved
    • October 30 - Shares are taken up by a new company founded that same day called "Fabriques des Montres Zénith, Successeur..." capitalized at 1.6 million francs and headquartered in Le Locle at Billodes 32; Jämes Favre is director while Georges Montandon (watch vendor in Fleurier) and Fritz Cosandier are shareholder proxies
  • 1912
    • The "Zenith" brand is officially transferred to the new company
    • The young watchmaker Charles Ziegler (1891-1956) joins the company for an apprenticeship: He would become technical director from 1934 until his death
  • 1913 - Share capital of the new company is increased to 2.1 million francs; Charles Rosat moves his Le Locle atelier to Boudry
  • 1914 - Liquidation of the original company is complete; Jämes Favre is given sole power over Zenith SA; Albert Favre becomes attorney; Zénith Watch Co. Great-Britain is established with 150,000 francs capital under president Jämes Favre, vice president Albert Piguet, secretary Henri Lehmann, and directed by Hermann-Frédéric Roost
  • 1915 - The related company "Zénith Cie. Française et Suisse d'Horlogerie" is dissolved and liquidated by the Successor company and Fritz Moeri of Saint-Imier
  • 1916 - A new firm, Compagnie Zenith, Paris, is created with 300,000 francs capital, Jämes Favre is president and lawyer Léon Baron of Paris is administrator
  • 1917 - Chief Mechanic Hans Hunziker joins the board; Montres de Précision Zénith SA names Jämes Perrenoud president, with Jämes Favre becoming managing director; Zénith SA is renamed Maison de Commerce des Fabriques des Montres Zénith with Jämes Perrenoud becoming president and Jämes Favre moving to managing director; A new company in Geneva, Comptoir des Montres Zénith SA, is created with 200,000 francs capital under managing director Jämes Favre and attorney Robert Gründmann of Geneva
  • 1918 - Georges Favre-Jacot dies; the quarry company is dissolved; Charles Rosat is promoted to Zénith management
  • 1919 - Share capital of the Geneva company is increased to 500,000 francs
  • 1920 - Fabriques des Montres Zénith SA offers public shares to raise 1.5 million francs, increasing the total 3.15 million francs; Albert Piguet is president, Paul Châtelain (of Banque Cantonale Neuchâteloise) is vice president, Jämes Favre is director, Emile Lambelet is attorney, and watchmaker Albert Huguenin and Jämes Perrenoud are also on the board
  • 1921 - Edouard Fallot is made factory manager, Kurt-Ernest Petzold is commercial chief, Charles-Henri Lauterer is another factory manager, Walter Stoll is director
  • 1922 - The Zénith companies are again reorganized:
    • "Successeur..." is managed by Albert Piguet, Jämes Favre, Jämes Perrenoud, Albert Huguenin, and Emile Lambelet; Louis-Edouard Berthoud (of Universal Genève) soon replaces Paul Châtelain (of the Banque Cantonale Neuchâteloise) on the board
    • "Montres de Précision Zénith SA" is managed by Jämes Perrenoud, Fritz Cosandier, banker Raoul Goetschmann, Jämes Favre, Albert Huguenin, Louis-Edouard Berthoud, and Georges Perret
    • Case maker "L'Aurifère, Fabrique de Boitiers de Montres" is managed by Jämes Favre, Albert Piguet, Jämes Perrenoud, Fritz Cosandier, and Chs-William Maire
    • Real estate developer "Société du Construction du Clos du Nods" is managed by Jämes Favre, Albert Piguet, and Jämes Perrenoud
    • "Compagnie Zénith" is managed by Jämes Perrenoud, Albert Piguet, Jämes Favre, Charles Rosat, and attorney Léon Baron
    • "Zénith Watch Co, Great Britain" is managed by Jämes Perrenoud, attorney Emile Lambelet, Albert Piguet, Jämes Favre, and Louis Dubois-Favre
    • Newly-acquired "Fabriques Le Phare" is managed by Albert Piguet, Charles Rosat, Jämes Favre, Jämes Perrenoud, Albert Stolz, Albert Huguenin, and attorney Emile Lambelet
    • "Maison de Commerce des Fabriques des Montres Zénith" is managed by Jämes Perrenoud, attorney Eugène Wille, Jämes Favre, financial director Léon Vuille, and banker Raoul Goetschmann.
  • 1923
    • April 20 - A factory in Besançon France is opened under the name Nouvelle Fabrique des Montres Zenith
    • "Comptoir des Montres Zénith SA" of Geneva is managed by managing director Jämes Favre, Jämes Perrenoud, Albert Piguet, authorized representative Fritz Cosandier, executive secretary Justin Duplain, and Robert Grundmann; Albert Sunier and Walter Stoll are removed and Albert Eluber is attorney
    • Charles Rosat's Boudry branch is officially listed as Zénith SA Atelier de Boudry

Ernest Strahm

The Cantonal Bank appears to have forced Jämes Perrenoud out of the company during 1923, first taking away his executive powers and then removing him altogether. By 1925 he was forced to resign from every business he had previously been involved with, and Ernest Strahm of Vulcain was brought in to manage the company for 9 turbulent years.

Raoul Perret

Ernest Strahm became increasingly involved in consolidation of the industry, leading to the formation of ASUAG in 1931, of which he became director in 1933. After the sudden death of his father in 1933, Raoul Perret took over Universal Genève, long-time partner to Zenith and Martel. Perret appears to have seized control of Zenith soon after, replacing the former management team with his own, headed by Edgar Bichsel (1889-1956), a young man who was previously tasked with a financial turnaround at the firm of Achille Hirsch, with Charles Ziegler, who apprenticed at the company in 1912, returning as technical director.

Georges Perrenoud

Le Locle industrialist Georges Perrenoud acquired Zénith "at the beginning of World War II" to acquire its manufacturing capacity. He already owned Dixi and was selling time fuses to the Germans, which would cause great issues for him during the war as he was also convicted of hoarding livestock and grain by 1943.

Dupasquier-De Montmollin

The private bank of Dupasquier-De Montmollin acquired Zenith from Georges Perrenoud; some claim this happened in 1948 but it was made official in May 1949.

  • 1975 - September 9 - The Besançon France branch is closed



Zenith International SA
Billodes 34-36
CH-2400 Le Locle



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