Zenith is rewriting the rules of the humble oscillator. The often-overlooked watch brand housed within the LVMH watch division is expected to create quite a reputation for itself with a brand-new oscillator made using a monolithic component of monocrystalline silicone. That’s a huge change from the 30-or-so components used for a regular oscillator.
It is being marketed by the brand as a “major innovation in the watch industry since the 1675 invention of the balance and hairspring principle by scientist Christiaan Huygens” which, at first glance, might appear to be marketing hype.
The technical specifications, revealed at Manufacture Zenith in Le Locle, tell a different story.
The oscillator was revealed by Jean-Claude Biver, president of LVMH watch division, Julien Tornare, the new CEO of Zenith, and Guy Sémon, the CEO of the research and development institution within the LVMH watch division.
Here are a few details that were revealed on September 14:
• The oscillator is barely 0.5mm tick: sleek is its middle name.
• It has no sprung balance: the new oscillator forms a monolithic whole made of monocrystalline silicon, a material that is finer than human hair, and replaces the sprung balance.
• It doesn’t need oil: there’s no need for lubrication as there is no friction caused by the new oscillator. This saves owners having to bring their watches into the store for lubrication.
• It boasts 15 Hertz or 108,000 vibrations per hour: the frequency at which the oscillator beats. This is three times higher than the traditional, historical El Primero movement. It comes with an amplitude of +/- 6 degrees and a power reserve of almost 60 hours.
• The new oscillator is almost 10 times more accurate: the mean daily rate is accurate to within 0.3 seconds. This rate is better than what is expected from a COSC-certified chronometer, which requires a daily rate from -4 to +6 seconds to be certified.
• It maintains same degree of precision for 95 per cent of its power reserve: the level of accuracy goes beyond 24 hours, which is the moment when energy and accuracy starts to get lost.
• It has enhanced resistance to temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields, which leads to increased precision.
“With this system, it will be the most precise mechanical watch worldwide ever made,” Tornare told us in Hong Kong, several weeks before the official reveal in Switzerland.
The oscillator is housed inside 10 unique Defy Lab timepieces, each costing a staggering 29,900 Swiss francs (HK$242,000). With that price tag comes a first-class, round-trip ticket from anywhere in the world to Le Locle, plus a dinner with Biver and Tornare, during which they will open, “a rare bottle of Château d’Yquem, [a] very high-end wine,” says Tornare.
The Defy Lab also marks the first watch with a case made from a material called Aeronith, the world’s lightest aluminium composite material. It is 2.7 times lighter than titanium and 10 per cent lighter than carbon fibre. Inside the new timepiece ticks the calibre ZO 342, which measures just 32.8mm in diameter and is just 8.13mm thick.
If you’re hoping to get your hands on one of them, you’re out of luck as they have already been quietly sold out.