Zenith was “the first manufacture”, one of the greatest watch companies in Switzerland, and the economic force behind Le Locle. Then it was purchased by an American electronics company and ordered to destroy its mechanical watchmaking assets. This is the story of the mighty Zenith, brought low, and returning thanks to a machine tools baron, a humble watchmaker, and two other famous brands.
Browsing through the archives of Europa Star, I came across a groundbreaking watch I had never encountered. The Jean d’Eve Samara was not just the world’s first automatic-winding quartz watch, it was also a remarkably novel design! My research rabbit-hole lead me to learn not just about this watch but about an entire dark corner of horology.
Today I’m wearing a watch that’s special only to me: Back in 2014 I traveled to the Swiss Jura, visiting La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle, and the Vallée de Joux and assembling my own watch at Les Apprentis du Temps. In the style of “marriage” and the tradition of “etablissage”, my oversized watch uses a classic pocket watch movement and components from various Swiss suppliers.
Le Locle is the birth- and work-place of Daniel JeanRichard, initiator of the Swiss watchmaking industry way back in 1672. He established the system of établissage, wherein a watch would be constructed from components created by specialist suppliers. So it is appropriate that, on my recent visit to the heart of the Swiss watch industry, I stopped in Le Locle and constructed my own watch!