Zenith - From Café to Café
Gisbert L. Brunner was born in 1947 and has worked with every sort of precision timepiece, though mainly wristwatches, since the 1960s. He has been writing on the topic since 1981.
A CAFÉ RACER FOR YOUR WRIST
No, Aldo Magada doesn’t own a two-wheeled Café Racer. Nor has the Zenith CEO ever dashed from the legendary Ace Café in London to the nearest roundabout and back on a converted motorbike while a single blasts out of the jukebox. Yet as Aldo told me at Baselworld 2016, he can still get excited about these nostalgic bikes.
The story goes back to the 1960s when suburban English rockers would paint the town red to rebel against tradition on converted and souped-up production motorbikes. These personalised bikes could reach speeds of 100 mph or more. In the 21st century, Benelli, BMW and Moto Guzzi have all revisited the topic of the Café Racer.
The irrepressible spirit of freedom which gave rise to those racers has inspired Zenith to a new retro-look wristwatch, the Heritage Pilot Café Racer, a chronograph, of course. The forerunner of the in-house El Primero 4069 automatic calibre made its debut in 1969, when the café-racer era was drawing to a close in parallel with the decline of the British motorbike industry.
The rotorwind mechanism with a 50-hour power reserve, 5 Hz frequency, column wheel control and horizontal wheel clutch ticks away in a 45-millimetre case reminiscent of the Pilot line from the early 20th century. The antique look of the stainless steel is particularly impressive. The bottom of the case, water-resistant to ten bar, has been decorated especially and is made of hypoallergenic titanium. The strap is made of fat nubuck leather with rubber lining and a titanium pin buckle for security and comfort on the wrist. The cost: €7,500
TRIBUTE TO THE ROLLING STONES
In 1969, the same year the Zenith El Primero calibre created such a sensation in the watch industry as the first automatic chronograph in the world accurate to within a tenth of a second, the Rolling Stones were raising hell on the music scene.
Radio presenter Kai Blömer announced that the cult band would perform live for citizens of the East on the roof of the Axel Springer building right next to the wall in West Berlin on October 7th, the 20th anniversary of the founding of the now defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR).
The Stasi’s reliable contacts in the West soon established that it was nothing more than a crafty hoax by the DJ. Nonetheless, the authorities enacted a travel ban so that known fans of the British band within the country couldn’t travel to Berlin on that day. Some youths were even arrested as a precaution. Yet despite these preventive measures, more than 1000 fans appeared in the German capital on October 7th. It led to skirmishes with the police, arrests and suspects being fingerprinted and photographed. So a concert that never even took place thus went down in history.
The free concert the Rolling Stones performed on March 26th 2016 for 450,000 people at Ciudad Deportiva in Havana did too.
To honour the legendary rockers, Zenith presented five exclusive samples of the Academy Christophe Colomb at Baselworld. The peculiarity of this wristwatch with its glass bubbles front and back is an oscillation and escapement system which always oscillates horizontally, like a marine chronometer. This effectively prevents any of the negative impacts of gravity. The 8804 hand-wound calibre (37mm across and 5.85mm thick) is made of 308 components, 171 of which are for the gyroscope module alone.
As with all Zenith watches, the balance oscillates at 5 Hz. One of the five pink gold Tribute to The Rolling Stones wristwatches will set you back €223,000.