2016 Zenith Chronomaster Charles Vermot Tribute
Over each of the past several years, Zenith has come out with a stunning blue dialed limited edition in honor of Charles Vermot, the man who famously saved the El Primero. Last year, his namesake watch was the "complete calendar" 410, and this year the watch is a "Special Edition" (not sequentially numbered) Chronomaster model.
The story of Charles Vermot in 1975 is an attractive subject for limited editions because it is an allegory for the mechanical movement's struggle and determination to survive during the challenges of the quartz era in the 1970s. After Zenith had come out with the first El Primero in 1969 and designed a series of attractive chronographs in the early 1970s, the company struggled financially. In the mid 70s, Zenith was sold to American owners who decided to discontinue the manufacture of mechanical chronographs altogether. The watch's namesake, Charles Vermot, was a foreman at Zenith's factory, and was charged with the task of disassembling Zenith's El Primero production assembly and selling it off for parts. Instead of carrying out this task, he secretly hid away the parts, technical plans, and equipment used in the creation of El Primero. Years later, as Mr. Vermot had hoped, the manufacture of automatic chronographs once again became a priority at Zenith. To his delight, the parts and tools were discovered by new ownership and were instrumental in rekindling the production of Zenith's iconic mechanical chronographs.
As we described when looking at the "tri-color" last month, the signature element of the Chronomaster is the partially skeletonized dial or "open heart", a design feature influenced by Zenith watches of the early 2000s. The first Chronomaster was introduced in 2003 and featured an identical skeletal opening allowing a view of the pallet fork and escapement wheel. For the past several years, these two components have been made of silicon which both extends the service interval of the component and makes the opening more visually interesting with its different color hues. Though Zenith claims to test their pieces beyond COSC requirements, it is interesting to note that the Chronomaster Open is also a certified chronometer.
The monochromatic dial color and subtle dial design differences on the Charles Vermot tribute model make for an arguably more elegant appearance. Unlike most Chronomasters, the tribute version foregoes the bright red sweep second hand in favor of polished steel with a red tip. The silicon escapement wheel is also purple instead of blue providing for an interesting contrast to the all blue dial. The small seconds "rotor" is also blue in contrast to the normal steel color. Additionally, the small seconds rotor swaps out the usual three black striped hands for an interesting and more legible treatment featuring two hands with cut-outs and one with a white stripe.
Below are photos of this year's tribute chronograph next to the new anthracite dial tri-color model. Like the anthracite model, it retails for $8,600. Please call Topper for current pricing and availability.
The 42mm steel Chronomaster adornes a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides.
A side by side look at the anthracite dial tri-color model (left) and the 2016 tribute watch (right).
The hands and blue sunburst dial of the Zenith Chronomaster Charles Vermot Tribute.
The dial aperture of the Chronomaster reveals the beating heart of the 4061 caliber with silicon escapement wheel and pallet fork.
Like the anthracite dial tri-color, though much more subtle, this watch features guilloche patterned subdials at three and six o'clock.
Though harder to see on the Charles Vermot Tribute watch, it possesses the same guilloche pattern in the sub-dials as its tri-color brethren shown here.
The integrated and chamfered case lugs and the blue alligator strap of the tribute Chronomaster.
The simpler and arguably more elegant color palette of the Charles Vermot tribute model.
The signed crown and chronograph pushers of the tribute Chronomaster.
The sapphire case back of the Tribute to Charles Vermot showcasing the 4061 Calibre. Note the tribute text on the lower case back, and the "Certified Chronometer" text on the rotor.
The lume signature of the Chronomaster with obvious absence of nine, ten, and eleven o'clock indices at the location of the dial aperture.The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.