Unique Zenith powered by a mid-century movement up for grabs

The 11th example in Zenith’s Caliber 135 Observatoire collection will be auctioned in November.

By Sony Thomas
Zenith Observatory

Zenith is arguably one of the most underrated luxury watch brands in the world. A modified version of the Swiss brand’s El Primero movement has powered iconic watch models such as the Rolex Daytona for more than a decade, yet Zenith has never received the recognition it deserved. While the El Primero is widely regarded as the watchmaker’s most important contribution to horology, there is another movement from Zenith that achieved great feats in precision but remained relatively obscure; the Caliber 135, which was produced from 1949 to 1962 in a commercial variant, and an “O” iteration made exclusively for observatory chronometry competitions. Never commercialised, the Calibre 135-O received more observatory chronometer awards than any other movement in the history of watchmaking. Rightly considered by watch collectors and enthusiasts as one of the finest and most precise manual-wind wristwatch movements of all time, interest in this historic movement was revived in June this year when Zenith announced 10 limited edition watches housing restored Caliber 135-O movements from the 1950s.

Out of the 11 vintage calibers available, 10 were restored and decorated by celebrated independent watchmaker Kari Voutilanen, and cased in platinum with a black dial to be exclusively available via auction house Phillips as the Zenith Caliber 135 Observatoire Limited Edition. Now Zenith and Phillips have announced an 11th example in this collection, a unique timepiece housing the mid-century movement in a case made from Niobium and featuring a striking salmon guilloché dial. Niobium, a metal rarely used in watchmaking, is said to be characterised by a unique sheen, which should help the watch stand out even more. The salmon dial has the movement number printed on the seconds subdial, and the movement itself has a pink gold finish, as against the gilt finish of the 10 limited-edition models. The movement used in this unique piece dates from 1953 and was used in  the Neuchatel Observatory trials the same year when it received the highest points.

“I’m honored to come together again with Phillips and Kari Voutilainen for a truly exceptional piece, and for a good cause. The Calibre 135 Observatoire Unique Piece is a highly embellished and invaluable piece of Zenith history,” said Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith.

Phillips and Zenith have jointly announced that all proceeds of the sale will go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The auction house said the watch will be included in their highlights tour to Hong Kong, Singapore and London. The auction preview will then open in Geneva on November 2 before the live auction on November 5 and 6 at the Hôtel La Réserve.

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