When talking about Zenith, people have to pass over the common cliché of the El Primero. Of course, this movement and the watches that encase this remarkable piece of mechanical engine are extremely important for the brand and for watchmaking history. However, Zenith should also be considered as innovative, high-end watchmakers that were able to create awarded chronometer movements (the 135) and impressive, complicated watches, like these two fusée-chain Favre-Jacot, here and here. So what if we could mix the super-fast chronograph with the haute-horlogerie features… here is the result, the Zenith El Primero Tourbillon in Titanium.
[bctt tweet=”Even if mainly known for the #ElPrimero, @ZenithWatches also knows how to create haute-horlogerie watches”]
The funny thing with this article is that we started to tell you that Zenith shouldn’t be regarded only for being the creator of the El Primero but also for their ability to manufacture impressive complications… and we’re on our way to talk about a El Primero watch. In fact, not the classical El Primero, neither a more complicated edition with complete calendar, like the 410, or the more elegant El Primero Chronograph Classic. Instead we’re about to look at a watch that blends the best of two worlds, chronographs and haute-horlogerie: the Zenith El Primero Tourbillon in Titanium. Yes, it’s a El Primero watch. Yes, it looks like a El Primero watch. Yes, the base movement is a El Primero. But it has more: a 36,000vph (5Hz) one-minute tourbillon.
Earlier this year, Zenith introduced a new line in the El Primero collection, the Sport, a larger, bolder, more architectural edition. It’s time now to see its complicated edition launched. This Zenith El Primero Tourbillon in Titanium features the new case design, with rather sculptural lugs that are hallowed. The case, made of grade 5 titanium is fully brushed, except certain parts that are polished to enliven the design and emphasizes on certain shapes. A polished bevel runs from a lug to another and the bezel detaches from the rest, due to this shiny finish. The sporty feel is also visible through the newly designed pushers, which are now large rectangle instead of classical round ones. Finally, the diameter is larger, at 45mm – a watch that is masculine but not overly sized, due to short and curved lugs.
Compared to the more classical editions, the dial is also more rugged, more brutal with these large applied indexes and hands filled with black luminous paint. The entire dial plays with shades of grey and feels quite monochromatic. The sub-counters are deeply recessed into the dial and feature large rings around. Overall, the dial of the Zenith El Primero Tourbillon in Titanium has an interesting depth and structure, which make it lively (something not expected considering the grey colours). The layout is rather classical, with hours, minutes and chronograph seconds on the central axis and 2 sub-counters, a 12-hour counter at 6 and a 30-minute counter at 3 – note that these counters are slightly overlapping, a common feature of most El Primero powered watches. One thing differs though: no small second sub-counter at 9 but instead a translucent opening at 11, that let appear the tourbillon, surrounded by the date and with a small second in its centre.
This specific regulating organ is the main difference between this edition and a normal El Primero watch. It is kind of special because of its frequency, 5Hz or 36,000vph. Most of the tourbillons run at 21,600vph (3Hz) or 28,800vph (4Hz). But as the El Primero was known for being one of the very few high-beat chronographs, Zenith couldn’t create a tourbillon edition without keeping this high-frequency feature. The tourbillon runs fast but still rotates on its own once per minute. The cage is beautifully finished with straight graining on the flat surfaces and polished bevelled angles. The date around is also a specific feature. It is displayed by a small ring that rotates and can be read via a pointer on the inner flange of the watch.
The rest of the movement is identical to a normal El Primero, including the chronograph mechanism that is still actuated by a column-wheel. One regret concerning the execution: not that the finish isn’t good but it remains very close from a traditional El Primero. We’d love to see Zenith play a bit more with hand-executions, like bridges chamfered and polished. It unfortunately remains a bit too industrial. However, this allows to keep a watch relatively well priced, considering the package you’ll get.
The Zenith El Primero Tourbillon in Titanium is part of a collection of 3 new watches sharing this same movement: two classical editions – one with a steel case and black dial and one with pink gold case and white dial – and this sporty edition in titanium, with the bolder shaped case. This edition in titanium is priced at $71,000. www.zenith-watches.com.