Zenith and NFL Star Aaron Rodgers Launch New Chronomaster Sport Limited Edition

Zenith and NFL Star Aaron Rodgers Launch New Chronomaster Sport Limited Edition

On October 30, Zenith unveiled one of its most significant watch launches of 2023, the Zenith Chronomaster Aaron Rodgers Edition, limited to only 250 pieces and notably designed in close collaboration with its namesake, four-time National Football League MVP and current New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Zenith CEO Julien Tornare and Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers, who won a Super Bowl with his former team, the Green Bay Packers, in 2011, came onboard as a Zenith ambassador in 2021, the same year that Zenith launched the popular Chronomaster Sport series. Both initiatives were part of a long-ranging strategy by Zenith CEO Julien Tornare, who took over in 2017, to redefine and refocus the brand for the 21st Century on the strength of its slogan, “Time to Reach Your Star.” Since then, Tornare has aggressively expanded the portfolio of the 158-year-old, LVMH-owned watchmaker while simultaneously streamlining that portfolio to its core pillars. In 2022, for example, Zenith unveiled the revamped Chronomaster Open models, along with the Defy Skyline series, while 2023 saw the release of the Defy Revival and Defy Skyline Skeleton as well as a totally redesigned Pilot collection. The Chronomaster Sport took center stage again on October 30th in New York City, where Tornare and Rodgers (above) teamed up to unveil the Special Edition at a gala event at the LVMH Tower in midtown. 

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition

The watch itself is likely to catch the eye of Jets fans, Packers fans, and watch enthusiasts alike, with its green-dominant color scheme. It’s the first Chronomaster Sport model to use green ceramic for its graduated bezel, and its deep green dial is distinctive from those of previous Chronomaster Sports in its use of applied, luminous-coated Arabic numerals, rather than rectangular indexes, at the hour positions. The latter element was a design contribution by Rodgers, who wanted hour numerals that resemble the numbers on an NFL player’s jersey. The color scheme of the three subdials has also been reworked to harmonize more ideally with the emerald color of the main dial, with shades of anthracite, light gray, and silver replacing the light gray-anthracite-blue configuration of its predecessors. The 41mm stainless steel watch is mounted on a three-link bracelet and its sapphire display caseback, offering a glimpse of the El Primero Caliber 3600 inside, is etched with Rodgers’ own “AR” logo. Rodgers refers to some of these details as “easter eggs” for his fans and acknowledged, with a smile, the connection between the watch’s eye-catching colorway and his current team: “We looked at a lot of different greens but as it turned out, the one that got chosen just happened to be very close to my new uniform colors.” 

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition dial CU

Aside from its aesthetic attributes, the model offers all the cutting-edge timekeeping innovation that sets the Chronomaster Sport apart from other chronograph watches, and which makes it about as ideal a wristwatch as you could wear for timing precise athletic events, like one of its namesake’s two-minute scoring drills. The high-frequency El Primero caliber inside the watch, which incorporates a classic column-wheel architecture for the built-in stopwatch function and carries a 60-hour power reserve, drives a central seconds hand that makes a complete rotation around the three-register dial in a lightning-fast 10 seconds rather than the usual 60 seconds. This enables the wearer to read elapsed times to 1/10-second, using the hand and the ultra-legible scale on the ceramic bezel, which is graduated to 1/10-second increments, a first in the watch industry. I attended the launch event as a representative of the Teddy Baldassarre team and was granted media access to both Rodgers and Tornare, who answered a range of questions about the watch, the collaboration, and the evolving identity of the Zenith brand.

Zenith NYC Launch Event - Julien Tornare & Aaron Rodgers

MB: Aaron, when Zenith first approached you about designing a watch, what were your initial thoughts and ideas, and how many of those made it into the finished piece?

AR: The great thing was, there was a lot of collaboration. There were so many iterations to pick, from the bezel color to numbers versus no numbers, to dial color, to what to do with the subdials, to what to put on the back. Zenith’s team just let me have a lot of fun, showing me demos. I would say, “Yes, yes, no, no, maybe, until finally I was like, “How do I choose between the four of these? All of them are amazing.”

JT: My product team loved the process a lot; they loved his involvement. When you do a watch with an ambassador like this, many of them just say, “Make the watch and we’ll talk afterward,” but Aaron was really on it. In the end it was more work [than usual], because we have debates and exchanges, but at the end of the day it is about passion, and that is what watchmakers love. Aaron was involved in every detail.


Aaron Rodgers & Julien Tornare at Zenith manufacture

MB: Julien, this new Chronomaster edition is the culmination of a partnership that goes back to early 2021. What made Aaron Rodgers the right partner for helping you to define this modern era for the Zenith brand?

JT: Aaron Rodgers is the perfect representation of “Time To Reach Your Star,” our brand philosophy. His journey is inspiring and keeps inspiring others, and this is what we like. He is also truly passionate about watches, and we are so happy to have him as part of our Zenith Family.

Aaron Rodgers at Zenith Watch Manufacture

MB: Aaron, how did your visit to the Zenith manufacture in Switzerland impact what you contributed to the watch?

AR: I didn’t know much about the whole watchmaking process, so it was great to finally see it. There’s a pavilion in one of the workshops [above] where you can practice with all the elements and figure out how to put them together, which was cool. The other thing that was interesting was the history of it. I’m a history buff, I studied history in college, and people who know Zenith know that there was the one man, Charles Vermot, who was really important to the brand being what it is today. He would go over at nighttime and hide some of the machinery in a closet; his wife thought he was cheating on her or that something was going on. I just love stories where people take risks, show some courage, act on their intuition, do something that can change the world, including the world of watchmaking. The reason we’re all here today is that one man did something that maybe he wasn’t supposed to do. [To dive deeper into Vermot’s clandestine mission and how it impacted the long-term survival of Zenith, check out my in-depth feature on the history of the Zenith El Primero.] 

Zenith Chronomaster collection

MB: Julien, with this new limited edition, the Chronomaster collection [above] continues to expand, now spread out across several families, from the Original, to the vintage-influenced Revival, to the more recently launched Sport and Open families. What in your words makes the Chronomaster such an essential model for Zenith?

JT: As I see it, the Chronomaster is really the line that most defines Zenith. Even though it didn’t have that name at first, it was the model in which we first debuted the El Primero in 1969 and 1970, so it’s probably the most important product line in terms of the DNA of the brand and where we come from. When we launched  the Chronomaster Sport in 2021 it became a best seller for us almost overnight, and remains one today. When we started working with Aaron, we very quickly came to the conclusion that this would be the watch to focus on for our special edition: it’s our most iconic watch and of course, there is a strong “Sport” connection.

Zenith Pilot Automatic Black Ceramic

MB: Aaron has also been sighted wearing one of the new Pilot models [above] at Jets training camp. Julien, can you talk a bit about the redesign of the Pilot and how it brings the models more in line with today's Zenith collection?

JT: Zenith and the Pilot models go way back in history. In fact, in 1888, Zenith filed a trademark for the French term “Pilote,” followed by the English version “Pilot” in 1904. In the years that followed, Zenith would become one of the preeminent makers of specialized watches and dashboard instruments for pilots. This is why it was so important for the brand to adapt this historical timepiece in a very accurate way, respecting the past whilst targeting our modern consumer. In fact, the new Pilot collection foregoes the vintage aesthetic for something that draws inspiration from the entire span of aviation – past and present. It represents durability, legibility and intuitiveness, respecting the codes of Pilot watches. The watch today is revisited in a more contemporary context with understated nods to the world of aviation. 

Zenith Defy Collection

MB: To touch on the Defy line [above] briefly, that collection seems to represent two main themes: a pursuit of greater accuracy and pushing the envelope with bold designs. Julien, which of the newest Defy models accomplish both goals most successfully, in your view?

JT: That’s correct! Defy also represents innovation and high frequency. Two models that do this well are the Defy Skyline and Defy Extreme. With the Defy Skyline Ceramic Skeleton, for instance, we finally have an El Primero movement integrated into a watch with the running seconds, along with the use of ceramic material for the first time in a Defy Skyline model; and target the modern city person. On the other hand, with the Defy Extreme, we have our highest-frequency movement, with an incredible precision to 1/100th of a second. The Defy Extreme Carl Cox that we recently launched [below] is a good example, because it also has an interesting combination of materials and nods to Carl’s universe in a very subtle yet impactful way.

Zenith Defy Extreme Carl Cox

MB: Zenith refers to the new Chronomaster as the "first watch" designed by Aaron Rodgers. Is the intention to work together on other collaborations, perhaps even in other product families?

JT: We are honored to collaborate on the first limited edition of Chronomaster Sport with Aaron Rodgers, he truly represents the Time To Reach Your Star brand philosophy and shows us how you must persevere even when life throws challenges at you. We are currently still living on the positive echoes from our event in New York a few days ago*, and we are enjoying seeing the success in sales of this limited edition. Who knows what will come next?

Aaron Rodgers wearing Zenith ChronomasterMB: Aaron, the most interesting thing you learned about watchmaking after your watchmaking tour; Julien, the most interesting thing you learned about American football since working with Aaron.

JT: For me, it was about how this sport is so much about the team. You can have a lot of great individuals, but it’s all about the team and how the team is functioning together. That’s not something I had really noticed much in the past. The second thing is about the crowd. It’s an incredible atmosphere. In Green Bay I remember getting out of the stadium and unfortunately the team lost [to the Jets!] and I saw supporters of Green Bay being teased by fans of the Jets in a way that — in soccer — would immediately lead to a fight. Here, though, they smiled and hung out together, so I thought the atmosphere was totally different. 

AR: Oh, man… I thought I knew some stuff about watches, but I didn’t know anything before I went to the manufacture. I guess what surprised me most was the level of specialization. I didn’t realize how many different people in an operation like that are working on one specific thing — just two pieces or one specific part, putting it together a certain way, then sending it on to the next person. In my mind, I was thinking it was basically one guy putting all of the parts together, but no, there’s a machine that does one thing, then it goes to another worker who does another thing, and so on. There are just so many different masters specializing in one specific discipline. It’s like a football team, where everyone has a job, a role to play. They all have to do their job to perfection in order to have a great product at the end.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition 

*This interview compiles questions asked live at the New York launch event and follow-up questions submitted to Julien Tornare via email after the event.The Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers Edition (above) is available for purchase in our online store.

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