Time For Adventure: Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II
Spring has sprung, the weather is (at the time of writing) absolutely gorgeous (or getting there), and I am itching for an adventure. Yes, I want to go on an expedition to the poles, an excursion across the seven seas, a trek to the peaks of the Himalayas, and to traverse the wide plains of Siberia or even just Wyoming.
I think that after many cold months of winter (for those that had them), or simply because the sun is shining a little more often now, people everywhere are craving an escape. I took a quick jaunt up the Pacific Coast Highway in California last month and it only increased my yearning to find lands new to my eyes and ground unfamiliar to my toes. Some place I haven’t been, somewhere my spirit can really grow while I soak in the wondrous beauty of nature (or man) around me.
I’m talking about exploration of a new world, at least one new to me, so that I will be inspired and empowered through the entire next year. What a quest that could be!
While I talk myself down from what could have been a very expensive summer, I’d like to remind you that there are folks that do exactly what I dream about, both hundreds of years ago and today, and still find new areas on the earth that nobody has probably stepped foot on before.
These restless, exploring spirits find their peace or exhilaration from discovering the new or unknown. And while those people are enthusiastic about travel for certain, there are even more people who simply want to see the Great Wall of China, or the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, or that great big ball of twine in Kansas.
Obsessions-nerd side note: the biggest ball of brown sisal twine, which boasts a circumference of almost 42 feet, resides in Cawker City, Kansas. This ball is also challenged by other balls of twine that are equally impressive and share similar stats with only technical differences.
Regardless of where your adventure might lead you, the important thing is to have one (however grandiose or close to home it might be). We can’t all discover a new continent or be the first watch blogger to contact the Sentinelese peoples of the Andaman Islands, but we can be the explorers to watch the sunrise crest that little hill to the east.
You see, adventure and exploration happen every day and everywhere; there just happen to be explorers who make a little more noise about their exploits. And for that reason we know some of them by name – like Christopher Columbus.
Without getting into the very nuanced legacy that is Columbus, it is true that he can still be acknowledged as a prominent figure in the settlement of the western hemisphere by Europeans.
As such, he is a name to be reckoned with and one that generally brings to mind images of new world exploration and sailing boldly into the unknown. That is why Zenith chose the historical explorer as the icon with which it would build extraordinary Academy timepieces with groundbreaking features and classical style.
Released this year, the Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II continues that path in a grand manner.
First and foremost, this most recent example comes with my favorite Zenith creation, the gravity control module, which first made its debut in the Zenith Zero G. It is practically a gimbaled escapement module; it is not, however, a tourbillon. It does not have a rotating balance and escapement: instead, the entire “bridge” system holding the balance rotates freely in every possible direction. But, this also does not make this a triple-axis, multi-axis, or even infinite-axis tourbillon.
No, this is actually much, much more complicated than any of those things, and its purpose is to keep the balance from doing anything at all. Other than keep consistent time, that is.
The point of a tourbillon is to average out the effects of gravity on the escapement by rotating it slowly over time. The gravity control module attempts to remove any variations in wearer position or escapement position by keeping the escapement flat and perpendicular to gravity at all times.
The reason for this is simple: if the balance stays in one position relative to gravity, you can adjust the balance for this “force” pulling on the balance and cancel out the effects.
Thus, the gravity control module has a weighted carriage that always wants to be in an upright position with the balance wheel horizontal to the ground (or, specifically, pointing toward the center of the earth).
While that sounds like a simple solution, in reality it is far from it. It is actually one of the only watch mechanisms I have yet to fully wrap my head around without being able to dissect the design and discuss with the engineers how in the heck it transmits energy into the module to power the escapement. The system is so complicated that just the carriage and the components it contains number 173. That is three and a half times more complicated than an entire Swatch Sistem51.
So while we have a slightly magical set of gears and differentials tasked with powering an escapement that cannot ever have its position predicted relative to the watch, the rest of the timepiece brings its A-game as well. It starts off with an El Primero caliber for high-frequency precision comprising a “mere” 354 parts.
Adding to that complexity is a fusée and chain system (another 585 individual components) to further ensure precise power delivery and consistent amplitude of the balance.
As a reminder, the fusée and chain mechanism’s task is to account for and counteract the non-linear torque curve of the unwinding mainspring. As the mainspring unwinds, the ratio of the two fusée barrels changes in relation to the diminishing power of the mainspring, creating a more even distribution of power throughout the power reserve. This helps the balance to maintain consistent amplitude, which is essential to steady timekeeping.
A high-frequency balance combined with torque-corrected power delivery already makes for a great movement. But putting that on top of a gimbaled escapement that removes the effects of wearer position and resultant gravitational effects is a huge deal.
Barring simply being in outer space, there is probably no better way to make a mechanical contraption for a wrist that is generally unaffected by the gravity and movement inflicted upon it.
And it’s beautiful to look at
This would be enough for me any day as well, but Zenith also happened to make the Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage II (and the preceding Academy Christophe Colomb Hurricane Grand Voyage) beautiful to look at. Three enameled gold subdials (ultimately classic) stand out above the fusée and chain mechanism and stand proud over the gravity control module.
The contrast between the dials, plates, and gravity control module makes for a very sharp dial with good legibility. It also provides plenty of moving parts to gaze at while taking a break from your latest adventure.
And that brings me to the rear of the movement and back to Christopher Columbus. Depicted with fine hand engraving in gold and micro-painting, a scene of Columbus landing in the Bahamas and meeting with indigenous peoples embellishes the movement. While painting a much rosier picture than history might tell, it still is an ambitious work of craftsmanship that will wow any viewer.
The hand-painted colors are vibrant and the delicate relief engraving is top-notch. Covering the entire rear of the movement aside from the window for the gravity control module, it adds definite flair and a true sense of “discovery.”
This piece makes a splash as the second Grand Voyage piece (the first showcases Christopher Columbus’ ships in relief) and definitely holds up to any horology nerd’s scrutiny. The gravity control module is incredawesomable, and the fusée and chain will always spark passion and nostalgia in me. The classic styling of the dial helps a lot with that as well.
Finally, the topic is inspiring as the message of discovery and adventure is universal to all cultures and, I think, to a majority of daydream believers. I know I am one of them, so while you gaze a bit longer at this incredible piece, I’m going to start thinking about where I am going to wander off to next. Maybe you can do the same!
But until then – the breakdown!
• Wowza Factor * 9.6 Seriously, a gimbaled escapement, fusée and chain, plus that engraving! Serious wowza power in this piece.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 98.8 g’s » 968.897m/s2 Right near one hundred g’s and this thing is just getting started!
• M.G.R. * 70.8 Mind bafflingly complicated, fusée and chain, based on an El Primero movement. This has movement geek written all over it!
• Added-Functionitis * Mild Technically the only added function is the power reserve so it stays pretty mild. Useful, but mild. Stick to regular strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream to manage the deceptively small swelling.
• Ouch Outline * 11.4 – Slicing Your Gums With A Tortilla Chip Anybody who has reached for the complimentary chips and salsa at a taco joint is in danger of this one. And yet, I would gladly take that bullet to get this watch on the wrist!
• Mermaid Moment * Wait, It Just Hangs There! Once you realize that the escapement is on a gimbal and completely free from controlled motion, you might as well just send out the invitations!
• Awesome Total * 939 The number of parts in this movement is sufficient for an awesome total. Heck, it is downright made for it!
For more information, please visit www. zenith-watches.com.
Case: 45 x 14.8 mm (21.8 with domed sapphire), rose gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber 8805 with chain and fusée as well as a gimbaled escapement
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve