Shades of blue: How Zenith conquered an entire colour by stealthLuke Benedictus
Things generally don’t work out too well when brands try to “own” a colour. Cadbury lost a five-year court battle to register their Dairy Milk shade of purple as a trademark for their chocolate bars, while the oil giant BP was similarly out of luck in its long-running bid to claim the colour green in Australia. Zenith has taken a far more indirect and meritocratic approach. The watch brand has never staked an official claim to the colour blue. But, with apologies to the sea, the sky, and The Smurfs, they’ve kind of earned it all the same, simply by dint of creating watches that use blue with such memorable success.
The recent release of the Zenith Chronomaster Original Boutique Edition ($12,900 AUD) with its striking blue sunray dial paired with silver chronograph registers was yet another case in point. Here are five more watches than prove that Zenith has few competitors when it comes to playing the blues.
Zenith Defy 21 Spectrum
The five colours presented in the Defy 21 Spectrum collection are, the brand explains, supposedly based on the wavelength of visible light. This translates to options in black, orange, purple and green, plus – you guessed it – this fetching number in blue. The 44m case is encrusted with 288 diamonds, but the bezel is bedecked with 44 baguette-cut sapphires to match the coloured movements and rubber strap. Despite these visual pyrotechnics on the outside, the internals are still strictly business with this blue-eyed boy powered by the dual-escapement El Primero 9004 automatic movement that can carve things up to 1/100th of a second. CHF 34,900
The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A386bManufacture Edition
Charles Vermot, a senior engineer in the ébauches department, famously saved the El Primero movement from extinction during the quartz crisis by defying company orders and stashing equipment used in the caliber’s production in the Zenith building’s attic. Inside one small box, he included dials with three different blues for the counters along alongside other prototype dials of the A386.
Vermot’s rogue act meant that almost a decade later, Zenith could resume the production of the iconic movement. Given this lucky escape, the 50th anniversary of the El Primero triggered an excitable flurry of launches. This watch was the final version of the A386 in the original revival case and was inspired by those dials discovered in the famous attic. Here the overlapping subdials are yielded in subtly different shades of blue that range from lapis to navy. $8,700 USD
Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint
Zenith has such a deep relationship with aviation that it holds the trademark on having the word “Pilot” on a watch. This limited-edition piece is inspired by the blueprints of the early aircraft that first flew across the English Channel. Inside the 45mm brushed steel case, the royal blue dial features a schematic network of white lines designed to convey the production plans that go into it. The lines are printed on the dial, as well as the underside of the crystal, casting thin but precise shadows to create a pleasing sense of depth,. Price: $12,200 AUD
Zenith DEFY 21 Ultrablue
Housed in a dark matte sandblasted titanium case, here’s another chance to peek through the sapphire dial to admire the El Primero calibre with its the 1/100th second hand and its 360,000vph. That mechanical feat is visually enlivened here by the blue accents on the bridgework and finissage of the El Primero’s innards. Flip it over and those metallic blue details become even more prominent underneath the blue star-shaped rotor. CHF 13,400
Zenith DEFY Midnight
Forget your moonphase, this watch is far more evocative of any astral experience. The concept is inspired by the graduation of the sky at dusk and the way the colour intensifies from the horizon up to the heavens. The navy blue starts at the bottom of the galvanised blue dial in a lighter shade and then sweeps up almost indiscernibly to black at the top half. Out of this celestial backdrop loom the diamond indices in a display guaranteed to enrapture any star-gazer. $15,800 AUD