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Editorial - In Search Of New Worlds

Editorial In Search Of New Worlds

In the quest for discovery, one must always balance risk with reward…

On this day, 528 years ago, Christopher Columbus made landfall, after being asea for 10 weeks. He was looking for Asia, ended up in the Bahamas, and was later celebrated for discovering America. The thing is, the quest for discovery, for unexplored lands, can often take you to unexpected places. 

Companies that focus on innovation know this. Moving into uncharted territory is, by nature, hazardous, and should not be undertaken without the right experience, the right tools or the right people, but it’s not always easy to get all those things. When the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina set out from Palos, Spain with Columbus as their captain, they had on board navigation aids no more sophisticated than a quadrant, an astrolabe, and an hourglass.

Columbus and his crew relied primarily on dead reckoning, which involves making a bunch of calculations based on departure and (desired) arrival locations, and then praying very hard. Marine chronometers were unheard of in 1492, and the first successful timekeeper of this sort, John Harrison’s H4, was only built in 1759. Despite their decades of nautical experience and tenacity of spirit, the only thing standing between the Columbus voyage and death was enormous amounts of good luck.  

In Search Of New Worlds

Ulysse Nardin Classico Santa Maria Limited Edition © Ulysse Nardin

Over the years, various watch brands have evoked the historic voyage of Christopher Columbus in different ways. In the early 2000s, Ulysse Nardin released a trilogy of timepieces dedicated to Columbus: the Marine Calendar Chronograph, the Marine Diver and the Marine Chronometer. A few years later, they released the Classico Limited Edition Santa Maria, depicting the flagship of Columbus on a dial of cloisonné grand feu enamel.

 

In Search Of New Worlds

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d'Art Tribute To The Great Explorers Christopher Columbus © Vacheron Constantin

 

Vacheron Constantin also commemorated Christopher Columbus in their Great Explorers métiers d’art series, with a dial decorated with the map of his journey executed in miniature enamel painting.

 

In Search Of New Worlds

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage © Zenith

 

By far the most extensive horological tribute to Christopher Columbus comes from Zenith, with their Christophe Colomb timepieces that have as their central focal point a gimballed escapement that micro-mechanically replicates the instrument stabilisers that were built around instruments of marine navigation. The Christophe Colomb watches were masterpieces of horology, equipped with a fusée and chain mechanism to aid chronometry, and were frequently highly decorated with scenes illustrating the different milestones of the explorations of Columbus and his crew.

It’s appropriate that the collection and movement that Zenith is most famous for is called El Primero, meaning “the first”. Coming first in anything only happens under exceptional and fortuitous circumstances; even more so when it comes to quests of discovery. You set out into the unknown, facing a multitude of risks and dangers, with the livelihoods (and, sometimes, lives) of your entire crew in your hands. No one in their right mind would attempt this, except for the promise of what lies at the end of your journey — the promise of a new world.

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