Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage

by Olivier Müller
Over $30,000, Zenith

For a couple of years now, Zenith uses one specific piece to showcase its watchmaking skills : the Academy Christophe Colomb. The piece has already been presented in different versions, and Zenith today put the emphasis on its finishing. The result is called « Hurricane Grand Voyage » and might stand as the ultimate version of this amazing odyssey in the world of haute horlogerie.

In a nutshell, the Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage embarks three technical developments. The first one is very assimilated to Zenith : a heart beating at 36’000 vibrations per hour, referring to the cornerstone of the brand, the famous El Primero caliber from 1969. Same frequency but, of course, different technology.

The second development is a fusée and chain transmission mechanism. Zenith is not the owner nor inventor of this process designed to maintain a constant torque along the energy chain of the movement. Still, it’s a remarkable artwork. There aren’t so many manufactures able to do some : A. Lange & Söhne, Romain Gauthier, Breguet, to name a few.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage

The third one is a patented gravity control system. That’s the most interesting development in so far as it can mainly be found in this piece.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage: Defying gravity

While fusée and chain transmission eliminates variations in isochronism (the equal duration of the oscillations), the Hurricane Grand Voyage also cancels the influence of gravity.

Working on the principle that keeping the regulating organ in a horizontal position engenders the best possible balance-wheel amplitude and thus results in optimal timekeeping precision, Zenith created a module enabling the “heart” of the movement and the escapement to remain constantly in this position.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage

This gravity control system is also a tribute to history, since it is inspired by the marine chronometers that Zenith used to produce, borrowing from these instruments the principle of gimbal suspension introduced in the 16th century on marine compasses so that they would stay horizontal despite the pitching and rolling of the boat.

The gravity control system with its self-regulating gyroscopic mechanism serves to maintain the regulating organ in a permanently horizontal position whatever the angle of the wrist and thereby represents the ultimate evolution of the marine chronometer. Zenith is the only watch manufacturer to master this system – duly rewarded in the “Best Complicated Watch” category at the 2011 Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix – that it invented after five years of intense development.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage - Caseback

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage – Caseback

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage: Appealing apparel

On the dial side, Zenith opted for an open architecture to see its three original mechanisms in action: the barrel with its fusée and chain transmission (at 10.30 and 1.30), gyroscopic gravity control system, and the high-frequency regulating organ at 6 o’clock. The three gold subdials (hours/minutes at 12 o’clock, small seconds at 9 o’clock, power reserve at 4 o’clock) are guilloché, enamelled in white and fitted with blued steel hands and screws.

Zenith Craftmanship

Zenith Craftmanship

The back of the features a lively evocation of the famous navigator’s many adventures. This miniature painting was created using a system of gold appliques fixed directly on the movement. In the foreground is engraved a portrait of Christopher Columbus along with a sextant. The background bears a reproduction of the Santa Maria, the flagship with which Columbus sailed on his first voyage in 1492. The tiny manually cut-out and micro-engraved décor depicts the vessel in abundantly rich detail, particularly in terms of the ropes and rigging. The various sails, crafted in enamel on a cloisonné base using an engraved champlevé technique, are adorned with the famous red cross. Behind the sailboat, the going-train bridge has been chosen to represent the ocean with a background engraved with tiny waves and then coated with a layer of translucent lacquer. In the background, the barrel bridge opens up the horizon with a micro-painted décor depicting a sky divided into day and night.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage:  Technical Data

  • 1st Christophe Colomb Module with Fusée and Chain Transmission,
  • Constant-Force Fusée and Chain Transmission Connected to the Barrel,
  • Hand-Crafter Gold Elements screwed to the movement: Micro-Engraving,
  • Micro-Painting and enamelling on the a Cloisonné base using an engraved Champlevé Technque,
  • 10- Piece Limited Edition (Ref: 18.2211.8805/36.C713)


  • El Primero 8805, hand-wound
  • A unique gyroscopic mechanism that maintains the regulating organ in a perfectly horizontal position
  • Calibre: 16 ½’’’ (diameter: 37 mm)
  • Thickness: 5.85 mm
  • Parts: 354
  • Gyroscopic carriage composed of 173 parts
  • Chain made of 585 parts
  • Jewels: 53
  • Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz)
  • Over 50-hour power reserve


  • Off-centred hours and minutes at 12 o’clock
  • “Gravity Control” self-regulating module at 6 o’clock
  • Small seconds at 9 o’clock
  • Power-reserve indication at 3 o’clock
  • Fusée and chain transmission beneath the hours/minutes dial

Case, dial and hands:

  • 18-carat rose gold
  • Diameter: 45 mm
  • Thickness: 14.80 mm/21.80 mm (with domed sapphire crystal)
  • Cambered sapphire crystal glareproofed on both sides, domes protecting the Christophe Colomb module
  • Water resistance 3 ATM
  • Dial: 3 enamelled gold dials
  • Hour-markers: black lacquered
  • Hands: blued steel

More resources about the Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage on WatchProSite.
And on the Official Zenith Website.

    Author Bio

    Articles by Olivier Müller


    Olivier Müller is a professional journalist specialising in horology. He divides his time between Geneva and Paris, covering horology-related topics for a dozen or so magazines and specialist websites in Europe. He is also a regular speaker at various events. In 2008, Olivier Müller set up Delos Communications to manage the writing side of his business, spanning five European countries. Delos Communications also provides consultancy services for horological communication, helping brands as they define and implement their strategy in terms of positioning, messages and audience. In addition to the world’s two largest watchmaking groups, Delos Communications’ clients include a broad range of emerging independent brands, as well as public-sector bodies keen to promote their local watchmaking heritage. Five people work for the agency, including a journalist, a photographer, a community manager and a translator, all with expertise in the world of watchmaking.