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Haute Horology

New timepieces unveiled at this year’s watch fairs acknowledged both the sophisticated consumer and the tighter economy
Elizabeth Doerr
From the Print Edition:
Adrien Brody, September/October 2010

(continued from page 4)

Following the Chronomètre Royal 1907 and the Historiques American 1921 models of the last three years come two timepieces that celebrate the heritage of ultrathin watches. The Ultra-Fine 1955 is a classic round model, while our nominated timepiece-the Ultra-Fine 1968-shows a bit more unique character housed within a golden square. Additionally, while it is easier to make an ultrathin hand-winding movement, it is considerably less easy to do so while retaining the comfort of an automatic movement, thanks for the most part to the addition of the rotor needed for the automatic winding, which automatically adds height. Caliber 1120 is just such a mechanism-and it measures only 2.45 mm in height, just under twice the height of its manually wound counterpart ticking away in the Ultra-Fine 1955 model.

The Geneva-based company pays tribute to both its past and its future by equipping this classic with the same vintage caliber that powered the original model, though it has been rebuilt using modern production methods and now bears the ultimate mark of quality: the Seal of Geneva.

The aesthetic revisitation of this model includes some interesting stylistic elements: the 18-karat gold is a darker rose gold color framing the dial in a strict square. This contrasts with the case sides, which offer a slight curve that release the geometry from extreme strictness. While it pays almost direct homage to the beautiful model released in 1968, it has also been updated in accordance with modern production methods with water-resistance to 30 meters and a scratchproof sapphire crystal. Despite these improvements, the watch is actually more than one millimeter thinner than the original and retails for $28,200.

Zenith Elite Ultra Thin
Welcome back, Zenith! The company's return to its classic designs has resulted in many worthy introductions of 2010, all of which longtime Zenith followers are sure to adore.

The last decade now seems almost like a faraway dream; under new management brought in after the Le Locle, Switzerland-based company was taken over by luxury powerhouse LVMH (Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy) the Zenith style was changed so much as to be almost unrecognizable. Manufacture movements and legendary status mainly propagated by the El Primero chronograph caliber combined with a nearly unbeatable price made Zenith one of the standout brands during the mechanical renaissance of the late 1980s and onward. An agreement with the Zenith Radio Corporation prevented these classically styled timepieces from being distributed in the USA before the LVMH takeover.

LVMH not only rectified that situation, it also immediately brought new management on board to revamp the company's style. This was done successfully, but two things happened: Zenith's signature style changed dramatically and the prices skyrocketed. Consequently, unshakable Zenith followers became disenchanted. The strategy didn't take.

This is why Zenith hired Jean-Frédéric Dufour, who brought back the classic Zenith look. The new collection presented at Baselworld 2010 was heartily applauded, and fans of mechanical timepieces are certain to enjoy the more moderate pricing.

"I want to use Zenith's rich manufacturing capability to realize new timepieces representing all these values," Dufour recently revealed. "But most importantly, I see Zenith continuing to be the leader in manufacturing chronographs, especially with our El Primero movement." Dufour plans to base the new Zenith collection on two main pillars: El Primero (chronographs) and Elite (time only).

While the new El Primero chronographs are beautifully traditional and moderately priced, the Elite timepieces that have emerged fall directly in line with the consumer's current need for classic aesthetics and value for the money. Caliber Elite 681 is automatic and outfitted with an unusual rotor crafted in tungsten.

The watch's look is clean and uncluttered, and the restrained dial comes in a myriad of colors: silver, black, slate-gray, and white, as well as three limited editions (brown, silver with diamond hour markers, and black with diamond hour markers). Housed in a classic 40 mm case, it retails for $3,900 in stainless steel and $10,800 in rose gold. v

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