When Zenith CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour created the program of ambassadors called “Legends” in 2009, it was unclear what the program would entail. Today, the public is clear on who these legends are: Extraordinary people setting goals that others do not even dare dream of.
One of these pioneers is Swedish environmentalist explorer Johan Ernst Nilson, who began a treacherous journey called Pole2Pole without the aid of machinery from the North Pole to the South Pole in April 2011. He started out on skis, pulling a sled across the North Pole; other forms of transport included a dogsled, bicycle and kite-sled over ice.
Nilson faced extreme climates on his odyssey, far below zero in the Arctic and Antarctic regions to more than 50°C in the Mexican desert and cloying humidity in the Mexican jungle. On December 14, 2011, he celebrated the centennial of pioneering explorer Roald Amundsen’s conquest of the South Pole on ice before finally reaching his goal on February 17, 2012. The two explorers have more than just their Scandinavian heritage in common; they both wore Zenith watches on their historical journeys.
During his Pole2Pole expedition, Nilson wore the limited-edition El Primero Stratos Flyback, a watch he has literally put through every test for robustness and reliability imaginable. This chronograph, limited to 500 pieces, is housed in a 45.5mm blackened alloy case outfitted with a nearly scratchproof black ceramic rotating bezel. The black dial, whose markers and hands are inlaid with Super-LumiNova to ensure legibility even under the harshest of conditions, is protected by a domed version of the second-hardest substance known to man: Sapphire crystal, which only diamond can injure.
This tough watch, available on a metal bracelet or a fabric or rubber strap, is powered by Zenith’s own automatic El Primero movement, a legend in itself. The durable flyback chronograph is completed by a telemetric scale, which Nilson could use for measuring distances. Finally, the date window at 6 o’clock certainly helped remind him of the passage of time over the course of his perilous journey, from which he returned with cracked ribs, frostbitten toes and other maladies that required an immediate hospital stay. Secured by a black triple folding clasp, this bold watch, a tribute to Nilson, retails for $8,900.