"The best kind of collaborations are those where passion is shared, and values are perpetuated.” Julien Tornare, CEO of storied Swiss luxury watchmaker Zenith, is speaking about the brand’s collaboration with Cohiba, the iconic Cuban cigar his company’s that is widely considered one of the finest in the world, and which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year.
To honor the occasion and the partnership, Zenith is releasing a special timepiece, the Chronomaster Open 55th Anniversary Cohiba chronograph, limited to just 55 examples, which beautifully showcases the manufacturer’s 155-year-old watchmaking expertise.
“The pursuit of excellence through precision, authenticity, and tradition are just some of the things that Zenith and Cohiba have in common,” Tornare notes. “But beyond that, it is a partnership that speaks to those who seek out precious moments to appreciate and savor the work of artisans.”
Founded in 1865, Zenith became a contemporary horological icon with the creation of the El Primero in 1969, the world’s first high-frequency automatic chronograph watch movement—used most famously by Rolex in its legendary Daytona for several years, in addition to Zenith’s own timepieces.
Along the way, Zenith watches and movements have been essential equipment for “extraordinary figures who dreamt big and strived to achieve the impossible,” from Louis Blériot, who made the very first airplane flight across the English Channel in 1909, to Paul Newman, who excelled at both racing and acting, to skydiver and daredevil Felix Baumgartner, who holds multiple world records.
Though of much more recent vintage—Cohiba was created in 1966—the brand also represents excellence and innovation in its field. At first, it was only seen outside Cuba as gifts for heads of state and visiting diplomats, but by 1982 Cohibas were available in limited quantities to the open market.
The gorgeous stainless steel Chronomaster Open 55th Anniversary Cohiba chronograph, priced at $10,000, “takes on the striking design codes” of the famous Cuban cigar brand and its iconic saffron yellow, black and white packaging, and the paper bands that wrap each of Cohiba’s entirely hand-rolled and exquisitely blended Habanos—five special editions of which come presented with each of the limited-edition timepieces.
Inside the 42 mm case of the watch the mechanics are just as striking as the aesthetics, with the latest edition of the iconic El Primero high-frequency chronograph movement partially visible through an opening on the dial that makes it possible to truly appreciate the “beating heart” of the watch.
Its El Primero 4061 Open automatic caliber beats at a frequency of 36,000 VpH and provides a power reserve of at least 50 hours. It also features a silicon escapement wheel and level, which helps improve stability, performance, and accuracy, and minimizes the effects of magnetism and severe temperature fluctuations.
A central yellow chronograph seconds hand on the dial with a star-shaped counterweight completes the look, while the watch features an exhibition caseback with the special Cohiba 55 logo printed on the interior side of the sapphire crystal. It comes presented on a classic black alligator strap with a protective rubber lining.
The new watch is the latest, and greatest, result of a six-year partnership between Zenith and Habanos, S.A., the Cuban tobacco distribution company that, in addition to Cohiba, counts the likes of Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and Partagás, among others, in its prestigious portfolio.
“Since 2016, together we have been creating beautiful watches, interpreting legendary Zenith models, and taking inspiration from Habanos’ universe, craftsmanship and knowhow,” Tornare says. We expect the many gentlemen who are Swiss wristwatch enthusiasts as well as connoisseurs of fine cigars greatly appreciate it.
This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of Maxim