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Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage Revolucion: the art of provocation

Occasionally, the world of luxury indulges in its primary leaning: unadulterated creativity. That is when it manages to escape from the constraints of tradition and the market economy as applied to superb objects, and plunge into a wild universe, in which everything seems possible, including the most bewildering associations… 

By Vincent Daveau

Let us now penetrate to the heart of some expressionistic watchmaking that seems free of any boundaries. 

Watch out, though: not everyone will have the mettle to appreciate the iconoclastic character of this approach. Indeed, if you think about it, it is odd to imagine a bunch of subversives cheek-by-jowl with watches of rare complexity whose price alone could finance several revolutionary movements aimed at transforming the society in which we live. But luxury itself does offer safe haven to an art that allows all forms of expression and has no apparent limitations, other than the appreciation of those for whom the objects themselves were created.    For the moment, we are looking at a group of three pieces in a single case going for about 1.2 million Swiss francs.

A star is born

This timepiece was discovered a few years ago already, and it has evolved slowly thanks to a string of gifted watchmakers plus a brilliant individual who understood how to breathe life into this device. For ever so long, Gérard Pourcelot, technician-watchmaker, outstanding teacher, designing engineer and airplane pilot, was eclipsed by this strange machine, whose regulating module looks somewhat like a gyroscope. His goal was to preserve that module's horizontal position as much as possible in order to ensure optimal functioning. It works along the same principles as the marine chronometers and even features a similar architecture, with a rare chain and fusee constant force mechanism located under the enamel hour disc at 2 o'clock: a miniature chain like that of a bicycle, which is pulled by the mainspring barrel and unravels from a cone shaped spindle to even out the energy of the mainspring.

It's a consummate piece, more complex than a tourbillon, and the manufacturer named it “Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane.” That is probably why the designers chose to boost the Latin America evocation by paying tribute to men who, as revolutionaries, liberated people from dictators and spawned numerous political changes. The three pieces, each made of a specific precious metal, bear the image of one of the three great revolutionaries from Latin America. 

The whole ensemble is presented in an inestimable case built by Opal, a company from La Chaux-de-Fonds known for the quality of its work, its mastery of outstanding marquetry, and the originality of its technical, and often innovative, fittings. 

Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage Revolucion Tribute to Simon Bolivar

This piece, with its 45-millimeter platinum case and very original regulating mechanism, is a phenomenon in itself. But the real horological revolution is located at the back of the watch, where the Le Locle manufacturer placed a memorial to the glory of the revolutionary Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) in the space left free of mechanical elements. This man, who was born  in  Venezuela and died in Colombia, seems to have spent his life inside a general's uniform. But which country the uniform came from remains a mystery, since Bolívar carried the revolutionary torch to many different countries in South America during his lifetime.  He fought notably for the independence of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. He was nicknamed "El Libertador" by the people he liberated from the yoke of the Spanish crown. That outstanding achievement was worth platinum for Zenith. 

At the bottom of the timepiece, we even find the most typical portrait of the great man in the same general's uniform, sitting on his horse on a backdrop obviously inspired by the iconography of the territories that this revolutionary helped liberate. This work was drawn by pantograph on solid gold and is an exceptional rendering that examination with a 3X loupe will reveal to be impeccable. The piece is then micro-engraved by hand and painted with acrylic. Note , too, that the counterweight of the escapement assembly is also micro-engraved with a depiction of the southern hemisphere. 

Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage Revolucion Tribute to Emiliano Zapata 

This yellow-gold work harboring an outstanding caliber – that we really no longer need to praise – features a representation of this revolutionary leader drawn from some popular imagery. Emiliano Zapata was born in 1879 and died in 1919. In his day, he was known as the "Caudillo del Sur." This man, whose love life was among the most revolutionary and unfettered of his time, was one of the main protagonists in the Mexican revolution and the civil war that followed it. He was a scintillating, emblematic and popular figure, thanks mainly to his struggle to give the land appropriated by wealthy land-owners back to the people. Pre-Hispanic customs, as represented by a horse and a skeleton, have been integrated on the back of the Zenith. This micro-engraving is very forceful and graphic. It was created with a pantograph on a casting reworked by hand and enhanced by micro-painting.   It illustrates some of Mexico's culture with a number of details, like a group of saguaro cactus and a symbolic festoon colored in acrylic paints. Appropriately, the counterweight of the gyroscope is engraved with a rendering of the southern hemisphere.

Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage Revolucion Tribute to Ernesto « Che » Guevara

This fascinating precision watch tucked into a 45-millimeter rose-gold case, features a large picture of "Che," the famous political and guerilla activist born in Argentina in 1928. He was active in the Cuban revolution, fighting at the side of Fidel Castro. Ernsto "Che" Guevara was a charismatic personality, an icily determined man, who was a member of the revolutionary Cuban government right from the start. He tried to export his theories of Marxist revolution to all of Latin America. He was naturally considered a dangerous propagandist for anti-capitalistic values, and this in the midst of the Cold War. In 1967, he was captured and shot by a unit of the Bolivian army trained by the CIA. The timepiece pays tribute to this towering subversive of the 20th century by portraying him in his most famous pose, using micro-casting and micro-engraving done by hand and painted with acrylics. He was the emblematic image of a modern firebrand, a veritable incarnation of the ideals of millions of young people who created their own revolutions on the barricades in Paris and elsewhere in 1968, to transform a society these somewhat spoiled baby boomers considered to be reactionary and "petit bourgeois."

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