ZENITH X Voutilainen X Phillips Niobium Cal 135-O, Unique Piece

Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo and ZENITH presents the latest watch from a long-standing collaboration, ahead of The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI.

Presented in June 2022, the ZENITH X Voutilainen X Phillips 10-piece limited edition platinum Cal 135-O was sold out within minutes. Phillips will now offer an 11th yet unique example, cased in Niobium with a striking salmon guilloché dial.

The watch will be included in the highlights tour to Hong Kong, Singapore and London. The auction preview will then open in Geneva on 2 November before the live auction on 5 and 6 November at the Hôtel La Réserve.

ZENITH X Voutilainen X Phillips Niobium Cal 135-O, Unique Piece

Following the launch of two Phillips edition ZENITH El Primero models in 2019, the auction house and watch manufacture turned their attention to working with the iconic vintage calibre 135, one of the most renowned ZENITH movements from the golden age of observatory chronometry competitions. ZENITH went a step further by offering a handful of the Calibre 135 “O” variant, which were made solely to take part in chronometry competitions.

The movements used in this collaborative come from a very small stock of Cal 135-O from the “serial winning” years, having participated in the prestigious Neuchatel Observatory trials in 1950-1954 and winning the top awards.

Calibre 135 was designed with Observatory trials in mind and with a 5mm height and a 30mm diameter – the maximum dimension to enter the wristwatch category competition. Its design was based on the idea of having an extremely large 14mm balance wheel to enhance precision and rate stability, and a large barrel to deliver consistent power to the regulator.

The Calibre 135 was produced from 1949 to 1962 in two distinct versions: a commercial variant, and an “O” iteration made solely for observatory chronometry competitions. Never commercialised, the Calibre 135-O received over 230 chronometry prizes, a record in the history of watchmaking.

These movements, with Guillaume balance, were prepared for the competitions and fine-tuned yearlong by the ZENITH “chronométriers” Charles Fleck and René Gygax. Each of them was awarded prizes in the first category range.

ZENITH X Voutilainen X Phillips Niobium Cal 135-O, Unique Piece

Observatory movements are competition grade movements and were not made to be cased and sold, as such their overall finish was utilitarian and not aesthetic. Furthermore, the movements having been dormant for over 65 years needed to be disassembled, each component tested, tolerances checked, oiled and reassembled. It was decided that Kari Voutilainen was the master watchmaker best placed to make this dream a reality.

Between June 2020 and June 2022, Voutilainen and his team painstakingly took apart every movement, refurbished them, and made them completely fit to be cased in a wristwatch, adding the signature “Voutilainen” finish along the way. Eleven movements were available but only ten were cased in platinum with a black dial. It was decided from the very beginning that the 11th movement would be used in a unique piece to be sold for charity.

The case is made of niobium. The dial is salmon in colour with guilloché exterior, the movement number is printed in the seconds subdial, and the movement has a pink gold finish (as opposed to the gilt finish of the limited-edition models). The movement used within dates from 1953 and ran in the Neuchatel Observatory trials the same year when it received the highest points.

All proceeds of the sale of the unique niobium watch will go to the Susan G. Komen® Breast Cancer Foundation.

Technical details

Model: ZENITH CALIBRE 135 UNIQUE PIECE
Reference: 13.1350.135/35.C100

Movement
Calibre 135, Manual
Frequency :18,000 VpH (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: approx. 40 hours
Functions: Hours and minutes in the centre. Small seconds at 6 o’clock
Finishes: Meticulous traditional hand-finishing and decoration on the movement

Case
Material: Niobium
Water resistance: 3 ATM
Case diameter: 38 mm

Dial
Sterling silver dial with salmon matte finishing. Applied indexes and dot markers
Hour markers: Ruthenium-plated and faceted German silver
Hands: Ruthenium-plated and faceted Gold hands

Bracelet
Black calfskin leather with titanium pin Buckle Thickness: 10.35 mm Lug to lug: 46.50 mm Lug width: 19 mm

Estimate
CHF 100,000-200,000

Auction details

The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI
Session I: 5 November 2022, 2pm
Session II: 6 November 2022, 2pm
Location: Hôtel La Réserve, Bellevue, Geneva