For the 50th anniversary of Zenith’s iconic El Primero high-frequency chronograph movement, the brand unveiled a special-edition tribute set of watches.
It was back in 1969 that Zenith unveiled a revolutionary watch to the world: the El Primero high-frequency chronograph. The caliber represented the first-ever automatic chronograph that beat at a rate of 36,000 vibrations per hour. It featured an integrated column-wheel construction and a central rotor mounted on ball bearings. Brimming with 50 hours of power reserve, the El Primero was the most accurate chronograph in the world when it came to measuring short times to 1/10th of a second. The movement fast became an icon in watchmaking history and has been fitted in some of the best watches in the world.
The El Primero has evolved over the decades, and many timepieces housing the El Primero have been unveiled. This year, to honor the 50th anniversary of the original caliber, Zenith unveils a boxed set of three very special remake watches destined to be collector’s material. Each boxed set includes three watches, as well as an empty space with a cushion in it – ready for the next Zenith El Primero very high-frequency movement, accurate to 1/1,000th of a second.
According to Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith, this is the first time the brand has offered an identical reissue, and each of the three watches in the set is exact replicas. “The first is a perfect remake of the 1969 Zenith El Primero chronograph, while the second is a Chronomaster El Primero with optimized movement, and the third is a Defy El Primero 21, accurate to the nearest 1/100th of a second. The box also features a [fourth] cushion, deliberately empty, which is destined to welcome Zenith’s next feats in the field of extremely high frequency.
The three chronographs featured in the new limited-edition anniversary set each feature the three-color counters that are legendary in the line. With visual codes established half a century ago, the El Primero uses a range of contrasting colors to enhance readability: seconds are in light grey, minutes are in blue and hours are indicated using anthracite hues. These colors soon became as iconic as the El Primero.
The watches inside the Anniversary box set include a 38-mm stainless-steel reiteration of the 1969 El Primero chronograph. To accomplish this feat, Zenith’s engineers created a laser-scanned copy of the museum original in order to ensure a perfect resemblance.
The El Primero A386 Revival watch is fitted with a curved crystal with magnifying effect, tricolor counters and a tachymeter scale. It features lugs and pushers that are absolutely true to the original. The only difference in this reissue is that the original had a steel case back, whereas the current watch has a sapphire case back for viewing the movement. Additionally, it is equipped with the current El Primero chronograph movement, which is precise to 1/10th of a second.
The second watch in the set is the Chronomaster 2.0 El Primero, equipped with a new El Primero movement and a black ceramic bezel. The second’s hand on this watch makes one dial turn every 10 seconds to indicate the jump in 10-second integrals from 1 to 100. This watch is a 42-mm stainless-steel piece that offers 60 hours of power reserve.
The third model in the set is the 44-mm titanium Defy El Primero 21 chronograph with an El Primero movement beating at 360,000 vibrations per hour (50 Hz). The watch measures and displays one-hundredths of a second on a scale from 1 to 100. As mentioned, there is a fourth space open in the box for the next generation El Primero movement.
The anniversary box set is created in a limited edition of just 50 pieces. Each presentation box is grey in tone on the outside and opens to reveal a miniature watchmaker’s desk with adjustable lights, a magnifying glass, and a screwdriver.