The 2010 Zenith Elite Captain Central Second (ref. 18.2020.670/01.C498) belongs to the rare breed of (relatively) affordable dressy timekeepers powered by superbly-designed in-house movements. Not as technically impressive as their “high-beat” models, it is still a good alternative to a similarly styled three-hander from ultra-luxury brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Those of you who keep an eye on the Swiss-based Manufacture, probably know, how bad was the brand’s financial situation amid the recent economic crisis.
While their eccentric ultra-luxury models priced about $500,000 each were selling like hot pancakes in the first half of the year 2008, the year 2009 was simply disastrous. Sales of LVMH’s watches and jewelry plummeted 19 percent to 764 million euros with Zenith leading the way with a 25 percent decline in sales.
By the time, Zenith had 16 main collections with around 800 models. The manufacture’s workforce counted 250 people with 25 métiers, 15 engineers, and 12 watchmakers devoted to complications. It was good when the brand’s sales were skyrocketing, but when the recession stroke, someone had
to clear the mess to consolidate the business. In the middle of the year, LVMH bid farewell to Zenith’s “worldwide President” Thierry Nataf and appointed Jean-Frederic Dufour, former production head at their another premium brand Chopard, as a new CEO.
In his efforts to save the business, Mr. Dufour was so enthusiastic that he immediately fired around 70 of his employees and reduced the total number of models from 800 to only 150 divided into four main collections: Haute Horlogerie line Academy, which includes high complications; Chronomaster and Class line, all powered by their El Primero movement; Defy, the sporty line targeting the same customers as Hublot; and the entry-level Elite series.
Starting as low as $4000, the Elite is one of their most affordable collections powered by a real manufacture-made movement, not some redecorated mass-produced job from ETA, Sellita, etc.
Their latest addition to the collection is the new Zenith Elite Captain family. The timepiece is powered by the automatic Zenith caliber Elite 670 with a central second hand and a small date functions (the movement is also capable of showing the power reserve, but the Central Second version comes without this useful complication.) The caliber has been produced since 1994 and has already proved its reputation of a highly reliable and accurate movement.
Measuring around 25.6 mm in diameter and only 3.465 mm in thickness, the movement is compact enough to enable Zenith’s engineers to create very thin cases. The Elite Captain, for example, is produced in a stainless steel body that is 40 mm in diameter and only 8 mm in height, which makes the self-winding three-hander look good even on a skinny wrist.
Judging by the company’s online catalog, the Captain Central Second is delivered in four color/strap variations: two versions come equipped with a silver sunray dial and gold-plated hour and minute hands, and two more sport black dial with stainless steel hands. Both models are available either on an alligator leather strap with stainless steel pin buckle or a metal bracelet with stainless steel triple folding buckle.
Too bad there is no version in rose gold with a chocolate brown dial and rose gold hands. That one would truly own my heart.
Plain and simple, the Elite Captain is almost an ideal dressy timekeeper for today’s cash-strapped consumer.
Zenith Elite Captain Central Second specification
Price range: $5800 (stainless steel, ref. 03.2020.670/01.c498) / $14,500 (18-karat rose gold)
Movement: Zenith Elite 670, automatic, 27 jewels, 25.6 mm in diameter, 3.465 mm in height, 144 parts, 28,800 vph, Swiss Made
Functions: Hours, minutes, central second hand, date at 6 o’clock
Power reserve: 50 hours
Case: 18-karat Rose gold or Stainless steel
Size: 40.00 mm
Case height: 8.00 mm
Dial: Silvered, Sunray pattern
Hands: Gold plated or Rhodium-plated stainless steel, faceted
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: Brown Leather, Black Leather, Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire, curved, AR-treated on both sides