Watchmaker bets on new way of keeping time
HIGH-END watchmaker Zenith is replacing a part that has kept time in mechanical watches for almost 350 years, hoping its new, apparently more accurate mechanism will help to revive its fortunes.
The Swiss brand, recently the laggard in the watches stable of luxury goods group LVMH, which also includes Bulgari, TAG Heuer and Hublot, unveiled its Defy Lab watch yesterday with a new kind of oscillator.
It was developed in the group’s research and development centre and replaces the traditional balance spring.
Unlike quartz watches, mechanical ones do not need a battery, because they derive energy from a mainspring that is either wound by hand or, in an automatic watch, by the natural movement of the wearer’s wrist. This energy is transmitted to the oscillating balance spring, which divides time into equal parts.
The new Zenith watch no longer uses a balance spring, a mechanism invented in 1675, but replaces its approximately 30 parts with a single silicon oscillator that, Zenith says, beats at a higher frequency and is more accurate than standard parts.
An employee makes adjustments to a Deny “El Primero” wristwatch at Zenith, a 152-year-old brand whose timepieces sell for an average 7 500 francs (R102 000).