At first glance, you might see the new Zenith Caliber 135 Observatoire as a handsome dress watch. But this is no ordinary Zenith nor typical dress watch: it's a collaboration with high-watchmaking superstar Voutilainen that brings a piece of watchmaking history into the present.
Zenith's reputation for excellent mechanical watch movements goes beyond its famous El Primero. Its Caliber 135-O from the 1950s has won more observatory chronometer awards than any other watch movement in history — trials that put watchmakers' movements to the most stringent accuracy tests. That doesn't mean it's the "most accurate" movement ever, but it's widely held in high regard by collectors.
The "O" in 135-O is for "observatory," because these manually wound movements were made especially for the trials and never intended to even be put into a watch case (though sans-O caliber 135 movements did reach the market). But now, after 70 years, these legendary movements have now finally found their way into watches you can actually wear.
There aren't many of the historic movements even in existence, so Zenith had to do them justice. How did they do so? They partnered with auction house Phillips and independent watchmaking celebrity Kari Voutilainen. Since the 135-O movements' primary focus was accuracy, they were never even decorated (most movements you see in even entry-level watches have some level of decoration).
Voutilainen lent his expertise in restoring and decorating the movements, and Zenith put it all together in the handsome package you see here. The watches themselves have 38mm platinum cases, and we particularly like the refined dial details such as its faceted indices and hobnail patterned chapter ring.
Yes, these are halo products for Zenith meant to highlight its history and high-end watchmaking all at once — not to mention the cool factor of using the scarce historic movements themselves — so don't be surprised that they're going to be expensive and highly limited: only 10 examples will be made. They'll be sold by Phillips and have a price in USD of around $138,000.
So, if you're in the market for a new dress watch, this won't be the easiest to get. Halo products like this are made for serious collectors, but they can sometimes lead to more widely available production models. We'd love to see a similar elevated dress watch in Zenith's permanent collection, perhaps in steel with movements based on the 135-O, and its backstory would make it all the more attractive — even if they didn't include the original movements or Voutilainen hand-finishing.