This New Zenith El Primero Puts 500 Year-Old Tech Into A Sleek 21st Century Design

When it was first used by the earliest watchmakers, the fusee and chain mechanism was the height of 15th century technology. A miniature chain coiled around a conical fusee, the feature allows a timepiece to overcome the inevitable decrease in torque that results from the gradual unwinding of the mainspring. Much like the printing press, firearms and the nautical compass, all of which were invented around the same time, the fusee and chain is not only still used, but celebrated. Exhibit A: The new Defy El Primero Fusee Tourbillon from Zenith.

The Swiss watchmaker has taken the 500-year-old constant force mechanism – the chain alone consists of 575 hand-assembled parts in a blued finish – and placed it in a contemporary, skeletonised case. The timepiece also features a blued tourbillon cage, another centuries-old mechanism that once made a real impact on a watch’s precision and accuracy and now serves as an elegant throwback to a time when a man’s pocket watch rested in his trousers.

READ MORE: The Defy Inventor Is Zenith’s Blueprint For The Future Of Fine Watchmaking

“Combining the fusee and chain system with a tourbillon, we are putting precision at the forefront of this timepiece’s design,” says CEO Julien Tornare. “Zenith brings this 15th century technology to the modern era by utilising it in the newest Defy model furthering the brand’s status as the future of watchmaking since 1865.”

Zenith Fusée Tourbillon Carbon

The combination of traditional timekeeping and avant-garde aesthetics is made all the more dazzling by the materials Zenith chosen for the model’s two limited editions: The first one, limited to 50 pieces and priced at US$80,900 (about RM340,694), comes in a high-tech 44 mm carbon case with a carbon crown and buckle head. Its open dial is threaded with carbon fibre. The second, limited to just 10 pieces and priced at US$103,500 (about RM435,870), is encased in platinum.

Zenith Fusée Tourbillon Platinum

Both El Primero models feature stylish finishing that emphasises their 21st century pedigree, including a spoke design that combines a black satin-finished surface with polished sides in a lighter grey rhodium tone.


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