London-based Bamford Watch Department, officially authorized to customize watches from brands like TAG Heuer, Zenith and Bvlgari, and Swedish industrial jewellery designer Black Badger have again teamed up for a futuristic Zenith El Primero limited edition. Following up on their limited TAG Heuer Carrera with a coffee dial (also together with Badgerworks), the focus has now shifted to the case. Both the design and materials are as unusual as it gets, using a blend of metals, acid and combined design prowess to create the Bamford Watch Department X Black Badger Zenith El Primero Superconductor.
What is a superconductor? It’s a general term for a material that can conduct electricity much faster and more efficiently than conventional metals with zero resistance. Superconductors are used when huge amounts of electricity are transferred, such as in nuclear reactors, MRI machines and particle accelerators. Why does a watch case need to be a superconductor? Well, why does the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional need to go 10,928 metres underwater? Because they can… Never underestimate the coolness factor. Of course, it’s not recommended that you hook a nuclear reactor’s jumper cables to your watch case, but the resulting aesthetics of combining such metals with a bit of acid thrown in make the complex effort worth it.
Materials such as ceramic magnesium diboride and aluminium are superconductors, along with alloys of niobium (a metal with a hardness similar to titanium). In this case, we’re dealing with a copper-niobium alloy. The copper has filaments of niobium within it that are extruded to a desired length, creating a unique honeycomb pattern with a high-tech, woodgrain array when cut across the grain at an angle. A special acid bath etches away at the copper, but leaves the niobium intact for a dramatic, high-contrast effect. The final finish is matte silver/grey with the ends of the lugs machined to the contrasting copper. Unique, to say the least. Black Badger has been using superconductor materials for several years in jewellery design.
The copper-niobium superconductor case of this specialized Zenith El Primero Chronomaster is 42mm in diameter and 12.75mm in height. The honeycomb pattern kind of resembles reptile scales and wraps around the case, leaving copper exposed at the ends of the lugs. A domed sapphire crystal, with an anti-reflective coating, slopes right into the niobium honeycomb for an all-dial effect. The slightly oversized signed crown is flanked by two pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock, and water-resistance is 100 metres. The caseback has a sapphire exhibition window showcasing the (historic) in-house, high-beat automatic.
The dial of the Bamford Watch Department X Black Badger Zenith El Primero Superconductor blacks out the traditional light silver of the Chronomaster, adding a bit of drama while simultaneously contrasting with the case’s honeycomb pattern. The tri-compax setup has the sub-dials overlapping each other with a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock and small seconds at 9 o’clock, all in gold. The more colourful aesthetic of the standard models has a monochromatic vibe here. A date window sits under the 12-hour counter with matching gold print on a black background, tastefully blending in with the dark theme. The silver hour, minute and sub-dial hands all have Super-LumiNova inserts, while the chronograph seconds hand has an openworked, Zenith star counterweight. The tachymeter is gold on the inner bezel ring and BAMFORD is printed in white under the Zenith logo.
Powering the watch is a historic movement, the El Primero 400B Automatic. This is a variant of the first-ever automatic chronograph that debuted in 1969 (part of a competitive trilogy that year), closely followed by the Chronomatic Calibre 11 and Seiko 6139. It’s also the only one still in production. The column-wheel, high-beat chronograph of 326 components has 31 jewels, beats at 36,000vph (5Hz) with a 50-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock and small seconds at 9 o’clock with a date at 6 o’clock. Seen from the exhibition caseback, the rotor is openworked with the Zenith star and adornments include Côtes de Genève and perlage.
The 21mm strap is black suede leather with gold stitching, matching the overall look well. The Bamford Watch Department X Black Badger Zenith El Primero Superconductor is limited to 20 pieces and retails for GBP 14,500 with online availability starting on August 17th. For more information and to place an order, visit Bamford Watch Department’s website.