Zenith (Swiss Watch Manufacturer)



2015-06-26 10:36:40

Zenith watches are timepieces produced by the Swiss watch manufacturer Zenith.


Zenith are a Swiss-based watch manufacturers established in 1865 by George Favre-Jacot. As of November, 1999 it has been owned by French luxury goods conglomerate LMVH.

Zenith have received 1,564 1st place precision awards and are the maker of the El Primero, the first automatic chronograph movement. This watch has a frequency of 36,000 hourly alternations , some 8,000 more than is common and as such is known for it's high positional accuracy. They were imported to the US in 1909 by Edmond E. Robert.

Rare and collectible Zenith watches

Of particular appeal to collectors are the Zenith Raildroad watches. Highly rare and sought after, they were produced for the North American railroads. Zenith watches are identified by their serial numbers - information on the railroad watches are scarce but a list of Zenith grades suitable for use as standard watches include:

  • Grade Prima – Size18 with 17 Jewels – Serial numbers begin: 1,644,8xx. (No Size 16s manufactured in this format)
  • Grade Prima – Size 16 with 19 Jewels – Serial numbers begin: 1,730,4xx (No size 18s in this format)
  • Grade Superior with 19 Jewels – Serial numbers begin: 2,389,2xx
  • Grade Superior – Size 18 with 21 Jewels – Serial numbers begin: 1,644,8xx (An extra grade with 23 jewels was also manufactured)
  • Extra RR 56 Lever set – Size 16 with 21 Jewels – Serial numbers begin: 4,679,xxx & 4,732,xxx (No size 18 made)
  • Extra – Size 18 with 23 Jewels – Serial numbers begin: 1,644,8xx
  • Extra – Size 16 with 23 Jewels – Serial numbers begin: 1,671,xxx

It would be useful for collectors to note that Zenith watches created prior to 1911 do not include the company name and need to be identified by features exclusive to Zenith at that time, such as the chronograph movements. Watches created after 1911 contain the Zenith name and the trademark star image.

Auction results

In March, 2009, in New York a Zenith pocket watch made headlines when it sold for a massive $1.8 million. The watch was owned by Mahatma Gandhi and travelled with him throughout India. It was made in 1910 (Movement No. 421357, Case No. 4952) and was purchased by Vijay Mallya, a liquor baron.

In November, 2011 Christie's in Hong Kong auctioned a signed Zenith wristwatch. It was stainless steel and automatic with triple calendar, chronograph and moon phases function. This sold for HK$25,000. (Approx. $3,224)

In July, 2011 Sotheby's in London sold an 18K Pink gold automatic wristwatch with calendar, chronograph and moon phases function. (Circa 2002). It was included in their 'Fine Watches' auction and sold for £7,500. (Approx. $12,240)

In April, 2011 Sotheby's in Hong Kong sold a yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with register. (Circa 1950). It realised HK$22,500. (Approx. $2,890)

Also, in April 2011 Sotheby's sold a gilt automatic wristwatch with calendar, chronograph, register and moon phases function. (Circa 1985.) This reached HK$43,750. (Approx. $5,619)

  • In December, 2010 Tajan of France sold n 'El Primero HW' wristwatch with bracelet and chronograph for 3,188 EUR.
  • Also sold by Tajan of France in December was an 'Elite' with Ref. Number 03.0520.683. This sold for 2,805 EUR.
  • Also by Tajan but in July, 2010 was a 'Baby Star' from the Contemporary series. This reached a price of 893 EUR.
  • An 'Open Heart' from the Contemporary series in the same auction sold for 3,953 EUR.

Sotheby's in Geneva sold a stainless steel and diamond automatic wristwatch with chronograph. (Circa. 2004). This realised 4,000CHF. (Approx. $3,937.)

In September, 2009 Bonhams in London auctioned a stainless steel and gold automatic bracelet watch with chronograph. It sold for £1,440. (Approx, $2,220)

Also in September, 2009 Christie's in London sold a ladies' diamond set wristwatch with emerald and diamond brooch for £732. (Aprrox. $1,232.)

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