June 27, 2010
by Ariel Adams
The first new Zenith watch of 2010 that I saw bored me to sleep at night. It wasn’t a bad watch, but it just didn’t do anything for me except remind of all the other watches that look like it. Now I learn about another new for 2010 timepiece that I actually do like (though it is not very practical). It isn’t the neatest watch in the world, but it does take a very uncommon complication and places it into 1970s retro sport watch (why? Don’t ask why… What? You know better than the Swiss?). Jaeger-LeCoultre released a watch with the same complication this year, but in a more classy traditional style watch. The complication is a foudroyante, and Zenith is specially equipped to make one. A foudroyante (also known as a “jumping seconds” watch) is a watch with a chronograph that is able to measure fractions of a second, done via a dedicated dial. The Jaeger-LeCoultre watch does more things as a watch, but doesn’t have as fancy a foudroyante being able to measure only 1/6th of a second. Using its El Primero movement that runs at a higher rate of 36,000 beats per a minute, Zenith is able to measure 1/10th of a second because its movement beats 10 times per a seconds.
What is really cool about foudroyante watches is what I call the “crazy seconds hand.” The hand in the dial that is used to measure the fraction of a second moves like mad around the dial when the chronograph is operating. So in this Zenith El Primero Foudroyante Chronograph watch, the foudroyante dial is the large centrally mounted seconds hand in the middle of the watch. It spins around the entire dial once each second making 10, very brief stops. These complications actually look really cool in action. I have no idea how they don’t wear out the movement or fly off the dial. Plus, making the hand stop is really tough. Zenith has indicated that in this watch a special brake is used to ensure that it comes to an immediate halt when you stop the chronograph.
Zenith uses the new El Primero 4052 B automatic movement in the watch, which itself is very reasonable in size and appearance. The influence behind the design seems to be last year’s Zenith El Primero Vintage 1969 Chronograph watch. No doubt you will see a resemblance. When are they going to do a proper redo of the Rainbow watch? The El Primero Foudroyante Chronograph will be in a steel or 18k rose gold in a 42mm wide case. It will have that retro sport look to it (and the colors) with a raised sapphire crystal that is means to look like a acrylic crystal (another sapphire crystal will be placed on the caseback as well). Dial design is pretty good. Attractive overlapping dials in soft technical tones. I like the red foudroyante hand with the small Zenith star counterweight. The watch looks pretty easy to read – but that will all depend on how well the hour and minute hands stand out from the silvered dial (the hands also have applied SuperLumiNova, and there is more SuperLumiNova on the hour markers). Functions include the time with subsidiary seconds dial, 1/10th of a second foudroyante “jumping seconds” 60 minute chronograph, and the date. Unless you uses the watch and its functions, the subdials could be confusing as they all have scales that go up to 60. That will come with a black or brown rubber lined alligator strap with a buckle that will match the metal type of the case.
While the watch is cool, and the function is fun to use. How useful it will be for more people is unclear. I would guess that most people interested in being able to accurately measure 1/10th of a second accuracy are going to be using digital time keepers, if they need the functionality that often. This watch will likely remain a fun toy for collectors given its likely expense. Still collectors who use chronograph’s often might be pleased with the additional level of information the complication gives them.See Zenith watches on eBay here. See Zenith watches on eBay here. [phpbay]zenith, num, “14324”, “”[/phpbay]