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Hands-On: Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb

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Early October, 2018, we had the pleasure to go hands-on with Zenith’s Academy Christophe Colomb. One of only 75 pieces ever made. It was presented to us during the exceptional Master Class in Haute Horlogerie given by the kind team of Maison De Greef (see and read all about that here). This is the sort of watch that really goes above and beyond and is a testament to the ingenuity & mastery of the watchmakers. The Christophe Colomb Equation of Time has won the ‘best complicated watch’ prize a few years ago at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand prix, and you’ll quickly understand why this is so well deserved.

Let’s begin with looking very briefly at the four essential elements on the dial:

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Most obvious is the gorgeous and mesmerizing gyroscopic module. However, there’s more going on with this watch. Having to share the limelight with the Gravity Control, are three readouts on the dial: The time, power reserve, and the equation of time.

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Note also the extraordinary curvature of the sapphire on both the front and the back of the watch.  And yes, despite what you would think, it wears surprisingly well despite that little bump on the back.

The gyroscopic module named “Gravity Control”, is an innovation patented by Zenith. Technically speaking, it is not a tourbillon. It is however no coincidence that the Academy Christophe Colomb Équation du Temps won the 2011 “Best Complicated Watch Prize”, the star category in the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix which is the most highly coveted international award in the watchmaking world. As per Zenith this module was inspired by the Marine chronometers from the old days which Zenith also produced way back when (they were seated in wooden boxes). These chronos, bobbing around the ocean, had a similar style of gimbal-like suspension to keep them as stable as possible, which is also what you’ll see when looking at this module. As you rotate the watch in any direction, the entire cage keeps trying to stay as level as possible. Fascinating to look at.

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Another technical feature on this watch, as the name suggests, is the equation of time. It essentially shows the discrepancy between the true solar time (what you see on a sundial), and mean solar time (what you see on your watch). The difference, or ‘deviation of time’ between both can run between minus 16 minutes and plus 14 minutes (more or less), and the little gauge on the dial shows you precisely that deviation. This cocktail of the hyper technical escapement module with the astral equation of time makes for a watch that is able to tell the time in an extremely precise fashion. And arguably, also in an extremely fantastic looking fashion.

You’ll also notice an additional month indicator, which is hidden and nicely presented on the back. Overall, the movement is finely finished with blued screws and all the bells & whistles you’d expect on a real haute horlogerie piece:

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The watch is powered by a manual wound calibre “El Primero 8804” with a 50hrs power reserve. It beats away in typical El Primero fashion at 36000 vibrations per hour.

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All of this mechanical wonder is packed in a 45mm case, rather on the large side, but then again this isn’t exactly a watch that one would wear to try and fly under the radar:

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2 replies »

  1. I wonder who would actually wear it. I mean it looks fantastic. But when and where would you wear this, it’s just as fascinating as the watch itself 🙂

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