Each project offers something different and the ninth is no exception. The Harry Winston Project Z watches do not have this name purely for marketing reasons. In each case, the objective is to present a new type of cool sports watch. Project Z9 is totally different from its predecessors but still abides by the same principles. First of all, and this is where the models get their name from, a Z must have a case in Zalium. This alloy is unique to Harry Winston and consists of aluminium and zirconium. The former is light but tender, the latter is rare and hard. Together, they make large cases (44.2mm for the Z9) lightweight. But they also offer resistance to shocks and abrasion that is perfect for watches to be worn in any conditions, as well as a dull grey colour that is distinct from steel, white gold or titanium.
The second unavoidable characteristic is that a Project Z should possess certain aesthetic attributes. The crown is engraved with the three arches that symbolise the main entrance of the brand’s store on Fifth Avenue. It must also have an operating indicator – a kind of small seconds whose hand is nicknamed shuriken, after the famous ninja throwing star. The brand’s logo must be found in an emerald-shaped inset at 12 o’clock. The strap is invariably made of rubber, because of the watch’s sporty nature. The bezel is smooth, brushed and angled. The lugs are pronounced, extending the lines of the case, which makes them very comfortable. They are highlighted by a polished edge across their brushed surface.
The third principle is that a Project Z must be a watch with a middle-level complication. After an alarm, a second time zone and various retrograde functions, the Project Z9 comes with one of the great classics of mechanical watchmaking: a chronograph. But not just any old chronograph: provided by Blancpain, a sister company within the Swatch Group, it is a brand-new self-winding calibre with two special features. It is a flyback chronograph, which means that there is no need to stop it before resetting it. One push on the button at 4 o’clock is enough to restart the chronograph. But it is the frequency that sets this movement apart. It beats at 36,000 vibrations per hour, a speed that only a handful of movements – and even fewer chronographs – can achieve. In order to ensure this high-frequency oscillation over time, the watchmakers naturally chose a silicon balance spring.
Beyond these common traits, no Project Z resembles any of the others. The strength of the principle behind this collection is to leave room for manoeuvre. The design of the Z9 is therefore completely new. It uses a grille effect with the back of the movement and the date ring with its skeletonised numerals visible at the bottom, with the current date clearly visible against at white background in an aperture at 6 o’clock. On the second level, a black grille acts as a bearing structure for the upper levels of the skeleton dial. In a single piece, this includes the hour markers and the chronograph counters, whose centre of gravity appears to have moved towards the outer edge of the dial because they are not round. These two half medallions display the elapsed time in two halves and two different colours, the colour of the scale matching the rhodium-grey or electric blue of the hand. So the elapsed time is read by colour. The final principle: a Project Z is always a limited edition. Only 300 Z9 models will therefore be produced.