The History of Zenith

One of the most prominent Swiss watch manufacturers of today, Zenith have an extraordinary history to back it up.

Zenith manufacture in Le Locle

Anyone born into a Mittel-Europa bloodline, with aspirations to become a trailblazing prodigy might think they stand an improved chance. The Austrian-born wunderkid Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first piece of published music aged five: Judit Polgár of Hungary achieved the title of chess Grandmaster aged 15: and Swiss watchmaker, Georges Favre-Bulle, aged 22, founded “Fabrique Georges Favre-Jacot”, later renamed Zenith. Nowadays, a vicenarian entrepreneur is deemed normal, but Favre-Bulle’s mission started seriously aged nine, drew bona fide horological attention aged 13, and by 22 in the town of Le Locle, he was altering the path of watchmaking tradition.

He married fellow watchmaker Louise-Philippine Jacot-Descombes, henceforth becoming known as Georges Favre-Jacot, two years before establishing his firm in 1865. Le Locle in the Jura Mountains – had in previous centuries been a cradle of watchmaking. In the winter, watchmakers based in Geneva bought their toolboxes there ­– to give to farmers who overhauled their living rooms to make parts. Over the next century or more, Le Locle saw an explosion of watchmakers, but ultimately all watch components were made by local craftsman in small workshops. Favre-Jacot had clocked the success of American watch companies utilizing mass production to sell reliable timepieces, and so set about uniting all the trades of watchmaking under one roof. He masterminded the birth of the first manufacture, that saw a fully vertical integration of watchmaking. His industrial empire covered 17’000 m2, connecting the workshops to the train station of Le Locle for a direct supply of raw materials for production. In the midst of this evolution, and after a creative meeting which ended with a conception – which he believed was his most special caliber – he named it Zenith, and as it would become his most famous work, he decided the company should bear the same name.

Contributor

Freddie Anderson

Published

February 2022

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