Zenith has at last added yet another member to its growing Vintage collection. Coming in a round case of 18-karat rose gold, it will be a good treat to those admiring classic design. If I understand correctly, their automatic Vintage 55 (ref. 18.1955.689/21.C492) is going to be officially introduced next month at the upcoming SIHH 2010 industry event.
The Vintage 55, as you may have already noticed, exploits the always winning combination of polished rose gold for the case, hands and indices, and dark chocolate brown for the dial and leather strap. The combination does not make the timekeeper look even more expensive, but also increases its legibility increasing contrast between the dial itself and the indicators. Although the lack of even a drop of Superluminova makes nighttime readability problematic (I am trying to put it mildly here,) I don’t see a serious problem here since this is primarily a dress watch after all. Surely, removing even a single point in the “readability” department of this brief review would be unfair both to the watch itself and the extremely talented people who designed it.
The in-house Zenith Elite caliber 689 automatic movement is only 25 millimeters in diameter and is just 4 millimeters thick. The large polished 40 mm round case features prominent, satin-finished lugs. The mechanism, by the way, was modified to reposition the small-seconds indicator from its usual position at 9 o’clock to a more classic place at 6 hours.
Although I can only applaud to the emerging trend of a gradual reduction in the size of dress watches and returning them to saner proportions, the new Vintage 55 still is a bit large for a “classic” timekeeper (especially taking into account the rather small movement beating inside the mid-sized case.)
For example, a similarly-styled Patek Philippe Calatrava 5196G model is only 37 millimeters wide, which not only makes it less conspicuous but also more suitable to be worn with business attire.
If Zenith plans to compete in this overcrowded niche with such established brands as Patek Philippe, they should put their dressy timekeepers on a low-fat nutrition plan.
Although the timepiece leaves a good impression of understated elegance, there is one more serious drawback to its design.
With its dauphine hour and minute hands, triangle hour indices and even the typeface of the Arabic numeral at 12 o’clock, the Zenith Vintage 55 looks similar not only to the last year’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control 1833 Ultra Thin powered by a hand-wound movement, but a whole plethora of other classic-styled timekeepers that are currently on offer from the most established Swiss brands!
Well, maybe that is the real reason why Zenith decided to limit the production to a mere 100 units.
Zenith Vintage 55 (ref. 18.1955.689/21.C492) specification
Movement: Caliber 689 Elite, automatic, 31 jewels, 28,800 bph, 22-karat gold rotor
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
Power reserve: 50 hours
Case: 18-kt rose gold
Size: 40.00 mm
Dial: Chocolate brown
Hands: 18-kt rose gold
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Chocolate brown leather
Crystal: Sapphire, AR-coated