Zenith X Voutilainen X Phillips - The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI Geneva Saturday, November 5, 2022 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Zenith X Voutilainen X Phillips
    Year: 1953/2022
    Movement No: 3'951'072
    Case No: Caseback engraved "Unique Piece"
    Model Name: 135-O
    Material: Niobium
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 135-O
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Titanium pin buckle
    Dimensions: 38mm Diameter
    Signed: Case signed Zenith, Kari Voutilainen and Phillips, Bacs & Russo
    Dial signed Zenith
    Movement signed zenith and Kari Voutilainen

    Accessories: Accompanied by Zenith fitted box, guarantee, copy of Neuchatel Observatory trial results and outer packaging.

  • Catalogue Essay

    In June 2022 the Zenith X Voutilainen X Phillips 10 piece limited edition platinum Cal 135-O was presented and sold out within a matter of minutes. We are delighted to offer an 11th yet unique example but this time cased in Niobium with a lively salmon dial.

    The story of the birth of this project is first and foremost one of trust and friendship. Following the launch of two Phillips edition Zenith El Primero models in 2019, we reached out to Zenith asking if they would be interested in working together again but this time using the iconic vintage caliber 135 if any were still available.

    A few weeks later Zenith came back to us claiming that not only had they found a very small stock of Cal 135 but that these calibers were the "serial winners" having participated in the prestigious Neuchatel Observatory trials in 1950-1954, thus the O for observatory following the caliber number.

    Caliber 135 was designed with Observatory trials in mind and was designed with a 30mm diameter (the maximum dimension to enter the wristwatch category competition) and a 5mm height. 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 commercialized, The Calibre 135-O received over 230 chronometry prizes, an absolute 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.

    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. We believed that this could have only be done by one master watchmaker who not only had a huge experience in vintage movement restoration but who’s dexterity and talent was appreciated by all: Kari Voutilainen.

    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.

    11 movements were available but only 10 were cased in platinum with a black dial. It was decided from the get go that the 11th movement would be used in a unique piece to be sold for charity.

    We wanted to have a piece completely different from the limited edition models and as such it was decided to case the movement in a niobium – a metal rarely if ever used in watchmaking, with a unique sheen. The dial is salmon in color with guilloché exterior, the movement number is printed in the seconds subdial and the movement also 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 where it received the highest points.

    All proceeds of the sale will go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation , a foundation whose mission is to save lives by meeting the most critical needs in communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer.


Lot offered with No Reserve

A unique niobium wristwatch with observatory grade movement and Guillaume balance, with proceeds going to charity

38mm Diameter
Case signed Zenith, Kari Voutilainen and Phillips, Bacs & Russo
Dial signed Zenith
Movement signed zenith and Kari Voutilainen

CHF100,000 - 200,000 

Sold for CHF315,000

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East
+41 22 317 81 81

Tiffany To
Head of Sale, Geneva
+41 22 317 96 63

The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI

Geneva Auction 5 - 6 November 2022