Zenith, which is always on the agenda with the new models being introduced one after another and it’s never ending quest for the right CEO, is the guest of Hands On corner with its Elite Chronograph Classic 18K Rose Gold model which is highly acclaimed with its classic dress watch style and retro design details.
I do not know what the sales and marketing situation is but for me, Zenith is a brand that is constantly going up and down. If I try to explain this with a metaphor from the automobile industry, as I often do, I can say that Zenith is like BMW at some point. BMW has an important place among the premium brands of the automotive industry. The brand, which gave a distinctive visual identity with its fused design elements from the day it was set up, undergone a terrible identity change led with the famous designer Chris Bangle in 2000s who was actually started at BMW at the beginning of the 1990s. BMW abandoned its dignified and modern structure that overlaped with its European identity through the years and became almost unpleasant with its highly exaggerated visual details, weird look which makes me think that it was developed only for US market and virtually non-usable electronic equipments. The interesting part is that while BMW’s loyal enthusiasts were absolutely unhappy, there was a drastic increase in sales of the brand, especially in the US market(!). The sales figures continued to make the face of the brand’s executives smile, while the experienced BMW users agreed that Chris Bangle’s touch had hurt the brand by giving names like Bangle Butt to the trunk design of the new BMWs.
I said that Zenith is like BMW to me. The Chris Bangle figure in Zenith’s history is definitely Thierry Nataf. He is the one who brought Zenith into a serious identity crisis in a design sense, bringing the symbolic details of the brand to the point of extinction. Let me add a small note here; In my interview with Zenith’s former CEO, Mr. Aldo Magada, I shared exactly what I thought about the Nataf period, and I showed the Zenith El Primero Rainbow Star Diver model as an example, which I see as a symbol of that period. Mr. Magada said that every CEO does something good for the company she/he works for, and the good thing that Nataf has done was the "Open Heart" style. The open-heart models do not mean much to me, so I am not really convinced about Nataf being good to Zenith but I am sure there are points that Mr.Magada is right.
I think that the brand has experienced a serious recovery after the Nataf period, which ended in 2009, and have returned quickly to its glorious days. For the last few years, with the influences of trends such as Re-Issue and Heritage that have been sweeping the watch industry, the brand introduced many successful models with classical Zenith design elements and it is moving on the right track. I have no idea about the commercial side of the business, and I do not know why there is a constant CEO change at the brand, but in terms of products everything seems to be in order.
The model we opted for review belongs to the brand’s iconic product line, Elite. The model, which bears retro details almost everywhere, is offered in an 18K pink gold case. The case sports classic 60s appeal with smooth lines and all mirror polished surfaces. Sized in a pretty balanced 42mm in diameter, the case sports a domed and slightly high sapphire crystal on the front side. The 18K pink gold caseback features a sapphire crystal display at the center and attached to the case with four miniature screws. With a thickness of 11.80mm, the case wears comfortably on the wrist with the help of its long lugs. The winding crown and the chronograph pushers are the other details that support the model’s retro appeal. The crown, which is designed with a wide diameter and thinner sidewall, is accompanied with classic looking chronograph pushers designed in a concave rectangular shape with rounded corners. The case is water resistant to 50 meters.
The model’s dial is simply amazing. The metallic silver tone dial is finished with SunRay surface pattern and accompanied by pink gold accents. Featuring a Bi-Compax chronograph lay out in line with the model’s overall retro character, the dial houses a pair of sub-dials located at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. The only text on the dial in terms of brand and features marking is the Zenith logo. There is the classic star emblem at 12 o’clock. Zenith did not put a date display to the dial which I think is a pretty good move. I always like the products that were designed with the “Less is more” motto in mind.
Elite Classic Chronograph is powered with one of the recent members of the legendary El Primero movements –Caliber Ref. 4096. 31 jewels self-winding movement features a column wheel chronograph. Designed to beat at 5Hz (36.000vph), the movement offers a power reserve of 50 hours when fully wound. The movement is decorated with classic Cotes de Genève patterns and can be enjoyed through the sapphire display caseback.
Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic 18K Rose Gold comes with a pink gold folding clip that is compatible with the brown alligator skin strap and case material.
The model is offered on a dark brown alligator strap. The strap is secured with an 18K pink gold triple folding clasp.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my article, the hard times are over for the brand – at least in terms of design. The brand, which created iconic models like the El Primero Chronograph, Respirator-X and Port Royal, offers a brand new collection which is capable of pleasing almost every type of watch aficionado. And Zenith Elite Chronograph Classic 18K Rose Gold is a perfect example among many others with its retro style, contemporary size, comfort and most importantly the symbolic Zenith design details.