Powered by a version of the unrivaled El Primero chronograph movement, the new Zenith Academy Minute Repeater (refs. 27.17.0003.940 and 27.00.2218.713) limited edition automatic watch looks irresistibly exquisite. Even the huge opening at three o’clock that makes visible the small gongs of the repeater mechanism doesn’t really spoil the classic design of the timekeeper.
Zenith’s designers managed to save the watch with the help of a simple 30-minute chronograph complication. While not terribly necessary here in terms of sheer functionality, the complication nicely balances the dial giving the open-worked gongs aperture a visual fulcrum, so to speak.
The small seconds display, which is conveniently placed at 9 hours, finishes the picture.
Of course, purists may say that a minute repeater function should be reserved for the “real” dress watches that have no more than three hands and whose dials are not ruined with any kinds of apertures or any excessive decoration. However, from where I sit, the watch nicely blends in into Zenith’s current Academy collection bringing in some visual cues from their more ahem affordable El Primero line, which is known for its bold use of semi-skeletonization techniques.
According to the company’s press release, the watch is animated with their in-house Zenith El Primero 4043 automatic caliber. Featuring a heavy 22-carat gold oscillating weight and decorated with Cotes de Geneva pattern, the movement beats at an impressive speed of 36,000 vibrations per hour and produces that signature “buzz” sound that many Zenith owners love so much.
Like competing solutions from other brands, the module rings hours, quarter-hours and minutes and uses a special code to do that.
There is a low-pitched gong that strikes hours from 1 to 12 and a high-pitched one that strikes from 1 to 3 quarter-hours together with the first and from 1 to 14 minutes on its own. Sounds complicated, but, once you get used to it, poses no problem. Also, these days, the minute repeater feature has little to do with “accessibility” being a complication for its own sake.
Despite the introduction of the minute repeater function, the mechanism didn’t grow in size much, so Zenith managed to keep the size of its 18-carat rose gold body within reasonable 45 millimeters in diameter and just over 16 millimeters high. The horns of the piece are not terribly long either, so the timekeeper must comfortably fit just about any wrist.
As usual with this class of watches, the only serious problem of the watch will be its price and an extremely low supply, since the total production run of the Zenith Academy Minute Repeater will be limited to just 25 pieces, which is still sort of optimistic taking into account the timekeeper’s suggested price of $172,000.
Photos: Zenith Watches
Zenith Academy Minute Repeater Limited Edition (refs. 27.17.0003.940 and 27.00.2218.713) automatic watch specification
Price: $172,000 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Zenith caliber El Primero 4043, in-house, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 46
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 50 hours
Movement decoration: 22-carat rose gold weight, circular graining, Cotes de Geneva motif
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, 30-minute chronograph, minute repeater
Case material: Rose gold, 18-carat
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 45.00 mm
Case height: 16.50 mm
Lug width: No data
Numerals: Roman, rose gold, applied
Hour markers: None
Hands: Rose gold
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Black alligator leather strap with protective rubber lining and 18-carat rose gold triple folding clasp (ref. 27.00.2218.713) // Brown alligator leather with 18-carat gold triple folding clasp (ref. 27.17.0003.940)
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Case back: Sapphire