Zenith continues to operate from the same site in Le Locle, Switzerland where the company began in 1865. Throughout its history, the chronograph has been synonymous with the maison. Zenith released its first chronograph in 1899, however, its most iconic chronograph remains the El Primero, introduced in 1969.
The high frequency of the movement, the silky-smooth operation of its push pieces and its commendable finishing are just some of the attributes which make the El-Primero loved by legions of watch collectors around the globe. In 2000, Zenith was acquired by the luxury conglomerate, LVMH. The El-Primero now features in some models belonging to its sister companies: Bulgari, Hublot and TAG Heuer.
The early 1970s represented a dark period for the Swiss watch industry with the advent of the quartz movement in 1969 threatening the domain of the mechanical watch. In 1975, Zenith, owned by an American company at the time, received a mandate to cease production of mechanical watches and focus solely upon the manufacture of quartz watches.
Charles Vermot, a watchmaker at Zenith took the bold decision to ignore the American owners and hide the parts, plans, plant and tools for safe keeping.
In 1984, after mechanical watches began to enjoy a renaissance, Vermot returned the various items he had secretly stored for nine years to Zenith. Shortly thereafter, the production of the El-Primero recommenced. Several other brands procured the movement, including, most notably, Rolex for its Daytona model.
While Zenith continues to make other movements, including remarkable tourbillons, it will forever be associated with its legendary El Primero chronograph.
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