Locle is a small village located in the Swiss Jura Mountains, which combines to perfection a romantic image with favorable conditions for the birth of swiss watchmaking.

    In the 18th century, its inhabitants were peasants with strong religious feelings. The particularly rigorous climate of the area did not enable them to cultivate an ungrateful soil, and thus the majority of the inhabitants became loggers, carpenters, stone cutters, blacksmiths or goldsmiths, while women dedicated themselves to making face which they regularly sold at fairs in big cities near by.

    Watchmaking found in Locle – like in other mountainous regions of Switzerland – the ideal conditions to create and introduce true masterpieces. In 1760, Locle counted 300 watchmakers and a hundred years later, in 1860, there were 3000! This sharp increase is enough to illustrate the impressive rise of watchmaking activities of the area.

    Among these craftsmen, the Favre family offered to the watchmaking art a great number of particularly gifted virtuosos.

    Georges Favre, son of Jules-Louis Favre-Bulle, also a watchmaker, was born in 1843, and left school at 9 to begin training as a watchmaker specialized in pivots and escapements. The talented Georges, in a hurry to gain his independence, left the workshop where he was working at 13, and tried to find a way which would enable him to fly his own way.

    At the young age of 20 he married Louise-Philippine Jacot-Descombe, watchmaker and also daughter of a watchmaker. She was a tremendous help to him when two years later he founded a workshop on Billodes street where he initially fabricated ebauches. This workshop will later become the famous Zenith’s manufacture!

    From the beginning, Georges Favre-Jacot was surrounded by young apprentices. Indeed, in addition to his undeniable gift of conceiving and creating watches, he also had the talent to train teams likely to guarantee an optimal result. He was clever enough to take advantage of this asset and this is how, barely ten years after its creation, his company already employed one thousand employees!

    Georges Favre-Jacot was one of the first to understand the importance of creating a true manufacture – instead of small workshops for each part – which would house under the same roof all the crafts and techniques of watchmaking, making it possible to produce all kinds of pendulums, pocket watches, as well as marine chronometers.

    The crucial factors that helped him to create a unique manufacture are the following:

    1. While remaining authoritative, Georges Favre-Jacot made a point of encouraging social dialogue and this is why during the strikes at the turn of the century, he was one of the rare industrialists to have been supported by Swiss workmen.

    2. He particularly appreciated the American model of industrialization, with a great interchangeability of parts, allowing a reduction of manufacturing costs.

    3. He avoided using financial support from Swiss banks. He preferred to trust his own resources, rather than to take out a bank loan.

    But Georges Favre-Jacot was much more than an experienced businessman. In very little time, he increased the facilities for manufacturing watches, and fabricated telephone dials, tachometers for cars, barometers, precision instruments for military use, oil lamps, sewing machines, projectors for cinema. But that was not enough to satisfy his overwhelming need for activity and he also built sawmills, forging mills etc. Not wishing to leave anything to chance he went so far as to build houses for the workforce of his factories, and a hotel with restaurant to accommodate visitors and customers coming to Locle to sign contracts with his companies…

    He bought several hectares in Petit et Grand Sommartel and Grandes-Coeuries so that he could have somewhere to stroll. At 57 he was the most distinguished resident of Locle, having worked his way to becoming the richest man in the district.

    Obviously, the history of Zenith, was influenced by many historical inventions, made at the end of the 19th century. The train that passed through Locle in 1857 linded the factory to the outside world, while the invention of electricity at the end of the century literally revolutionized the mechanical world and lowered the manufacturing costs considerably by replacing the coal hitherto used in steam engines.

    To spread Zenith to the world, Georges Favre-Jacot began with China where he undertook a spectacular advertising campaign. After China, he became interested in Russia, which had at that time a very rich clientele who did not hesitate to invest in watches and jewels.

    To penetrate the Russian market, George Favre-Jacot, partnered with Heinrich Moser, based in St-Petersburg since 1828. He made his reputation selling Swiss watches for 20 years, and already had a rich clientele. Moser, an experienced businessman, made a point of making sure of their quality before presenting Swiss watches to his Russian customers, and is how even the Tsars became his customers. For Georges Favre-Jacot, Moser was the ideal key to reach this demanding public, while going through this ambassador who was selling the most prestigious time-keepers of the time, such as the LeCoultre watches.

    To conquer the turkish market, rather important at the time, Zenith partnered with the Serkisoff house in 1889. The outcome of the first year of collaboration? 90,580 pieces sold!

    Over the following years, Favre-Jacot had to pay attention to balance between the expansion of his products to new countries and the problems of industrial production and financing generated by his worldwide success.

    At the end of the 19th century, he organized the distribution for France, Belgium, Algeria and the French-speaking overseas countries. This choice was far from being fortuitous, since this entrepreneur without match had foreseen the international attraction and the global reach of the French capital during the World Exhibition, which would be at the crossroads of a new century.

    Zenith won the Grand Prix of Precision in the competition organized during the World Exhibition in1900 in Paris. This title was to have an impact all around the world through newspapers and gazettes of the time and would remain at the forefront of public attention through the advertising material of the House and engraved on the back of pocket watches and, thereafter, on wristwatches until the 60’s.

    Georges Favre-Jacot, as a great commercial virtuoso, managed during the Exhibition and thanks to it, to sell out the previous stock and to present exceptional watches, like the model available in four different styles representing the four seasons according to the famous paintings by Alphonse Mucha.

    It thus seemed obvious that the doors were going to open to all associations and requests for representation in the whole world, since a World Exhibition constitutes a commercial event of an incomparable reach.

    However, the commercial result was not prove, ultimately, as positive as expected and the French distribution network ceased its activities in 1904, leaving behind a glorious history which would take a long time to be erased. 1565 first prizes for more than 50 calibres during the 20th century, it is not easy to forget! …

    According to legend, it was by looking at the starry sky one evening early in the 20th century that Georges Favre-Jacot thought up of a name for his best calibre: Zenith, the point in the sky directly above the observer. The baptismal name of his best movement later became that of the great watchmaking manufacture.

    By 1920 the house had produced two million watches! Subsidiary companies in Geneva, Moscow, Paris, Vienna, London and New York were born, in order to convey this passion for beautiful watchmaking mechanics and for precision that therefore became the brand image of Zenith. In the 30’s, the requirement for precision was more pressing and Zenith became the supplier of marine chronometers of the French, Italian and British Navies.

    All the friends of watchmaking know that 1969 is a key year for Zenith, as well as for automatic movements and high frequencies. “El Primero” was born and, with it, the notion of integrated automatic chronograph entered the watchmaking world forever.

    For more than ten years mechanical watches were generally relegated to the background and Zenith stopped producing El Primero. It is one of the most impressive stories in the world of watchmaking: that of a romantic watchmaker who managed to save the equipment required to manufacture El Primero in his house and thus, Zenith was able to continue its production in the 80’s!

    Among the pages of glory written throughout its history, El Primero was for several years the movement selected by Rolex to equip its most prestigious watch, a living myth of watchmaking, the Daytona.

    Today the classic Daytona with the El Primero movement costs, at auctions, more than a Daytona with the Rolex movement!

    In 1994, Zenith presented the extra thin movement Elite which will remain in production, offering beautiful models until today.

    In 1999, only one year before entering in the third millennium, Zenith was bought by LVMH, the luxury goods group leader. An overflowing creativity followed with the presentation of multiple models, which fully ally tradition and innovation in a “fashion” style…

    Tens of new models were added and followed one another, among which were Chonomaster Open El Primero which offered us, through an opening on the dial, a view in the heart of the historical movement, while the following year, in 2004, it will be the Tourbillon that impressed us, specially as it is the only high frequency tourbillon on the market.

    The two models immediately won the coveted prizes of watch of the year.

    The coming years sow the creation of very impressive models which gave Zenith a new, more fashionable image: in 2005, Starissime, a tourbillon for women, decorated with more than 230 diamonds, as well as Grande Class Traveller Minute Repeater El Primero, with chronograph, alarm, second time zone indication and Minute Repeater; in 2006, the DEFY and DEFY X-TREME collections, with watches of big size cases with avant-garde design, which also received the public prize of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie of Geneva, while in 2008, the Tourbillon Zero G, one of the rare watches with a three-axis tourbillon were born.

    2010 will forever be in the history of Zenith the year the House returned to its traditional values and the year when it was – finally – possible to admire the famous and unique tenth of a second of El Primero on the dial of a watch. It is called El Primero Striking 10th and it is the emblematic product of the Jean-Frédéric Dufour presidency, a passionate aficionado of Haute Horlogerie, a man who knew how to familiarize himself with Zenith’s history and who for two years already, has worked out and offered to the amazed eyes of the hundreds of thousands of friends of the historical House, new time-keepers which convey all the magic of Zenith to our time.

    Zenith settles back in again at the zenith of the watchmaking sky!…


    Visit the YouTube Zenith page and watch the videos containing information regarding the company’s products and activities.


    Visit Zenith official page on Facebook.