There's a new wind sweeping through the corridors and workshops at the Zenith manufacture in the guise of Jean-Frédéric Dufour, the company's new CEO, and it looks like his influence has helped to put the brand solidly in the running for Watch of the Year gong with the stunning new El Primero Foudroyante 1/10th Chronograph which breaks cover in the upcoming Baselworld 2010 industry showcase.
There is just so much to like about this watch aesthetically, and to admire technically. The first thing that strikes you is it's presence. Housed in a sensibly-sized 42mm rose gold or stainless steel case, it seems to have a depth to it. Beneath the sapphire, the applied baton hour markers sit proud of the silver sunray-brushed dial which itself features three recessed subdials in blue, black and grey at the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions and all of which, combined with the red chronograph seconds hand - check the cool little Zenith star at it's base - create an eyecatching 3-D effect.
A second later and the eyes begin to make sense of the fact that the outer chapter ring is scaled from 1 - 10, and each of the ten sectors punctuated by ten further markers with 0.5 marked midway. Now the purpose of the foudroyant 1/10 seconds function becomes clear. Once activated, the chronograph starts the small chrono seconds subdial in it's 60-second sweep and, much more dramatically, the red chronograph hand begins to sweep around the dial in a 10-second rotation, 'jumping' between each tenth of a second - that's 600 movements a minute! Stop the chronograph and the red hand halts precisely at that fraction of the second.
So you have this big red hand whizzing around the dial while the subdial marks the seconds and another up to 60 minutes. That's very cool indeed!
It's also a considerable drain on the limited available energy and so the new El Primero 4052B calibre automatic movement has needed to be refined in several areas so as to ensure practicality, consistency, accuracy and ongoing reliability. Some of the movement's components have been manufactured in silicon - some three times lighter than conventional materials - simply to reduce the amount of energy required to power them through the chronograph's hectic 100 stop-starts per rotation.
The new Zenith El Primero Foudroyante 1/10th Chronograph comes on a rubber lined alligator leather strap or stainless steel link bracelet with triple-folding clasp.
Having spoken with Zenith today - Februaury 19th - I was informed that the brand were intent on 'keeping their powder dry' and not releasing any details about the new piece until March 17th, the day before Baselworld opens it's doors, but somehow word and images have emerged online and so it would be rude of me not to write a feature on it.
We are awaiting further technical information and images from the Zenith manufacture and will post them as soon as they hit my inbox.
While we all wait, we can appreciate some images as found on TimeZone and reproduced here until I recieve our own press pack. I think it's one of the classiest gents sports watches seen so far this year and I can understand Zenith not wanting to unveil it until the famous watchshow, but as it's out there now, I'm sure they will find most commentators to be of a favourable disposition, so maybe all's well that ends well.