The Zenith El Primero is a legendary watch for several reasons. First, it was one of the first (if not the first) automatic chronographs ever. Then it was a huge technical achievement as it was a high-beat movement. Last, the first editions (especially the reference A386) were absolutely gorgeous to look at. The Zenith El Primero Striking 10th is the modern interpretation of this now iconic watch, using several of the classical codes with modern features. And we’re proud to show it to you with stunning photos from our friend Jacques-Olivier, professional photographer of Passion-Horlogère.
The El Primero is the emblematic collection of Zenith. Recently, we showed you 2 editions, one that is a pure modern interpretation of the iconic movement, the Zenith El Primero Lightweight, and another that is a re-issue of a vintage edition, the 410 Triple Calendar and Moon Phase. In the middle of these two sits a watch that both re-issues the vintage codes and that introduces a modern technical feature, the Striking 10th.
Why two faces for this Zenith El Primero Striking 10th? First, you’ll notice the dial and its 3-tone layout: light grey, anthracite and dark blue are used for the sub-counters, just like the very first El Primero presented in 1969, the A386. These 3 sub-dials are overlapping each other and you’ll also find the darker minute track around the dial – 2 elements of the historical edition. The case is also using a very similar design, with faceted lugs and straight case-bands. An update concerning the size of the watch however, as the case is now 42mm instead of 38mm. Still, the Zenith El Primero Striking 10th has a reasonable diameter and if this one is too large for you, a 38mm edition (non Striking 10th) is available.
Then comes the El Primero Calibre with its modern approach, especially in this edition. The movement is of course one of the main point of interest in the Zenith El Primero Striking 10th. What to say about the El Primero? In a word, it is simply one of the best and most iconic movements in the whole production. First, it has a real historical legitimacy. Back in 1969, it was part of the ‘automatic chronograph triad‘, alongside the Heuer Calibre 11 and the Seiko 6139. Lots of stories have been around to know which was the first to be introduced. And the answer isn’t clear, even now. So let’s argue that the El Primero was in the list of the first Automatic Chronograph. Then, it powered one of the most legendary chronograph, the Rolex Daytona, during a few years (from 1987 to 2000) in a reworked version. Finally, it has something special compared to the two others, it’s precision due to a high beat rate. The El Primero ticks at 5hz (36.000 bph or ten times a second) and then is able to measure the 10th of a second.
And that’s this last feature that Zenith chose to improve and emphasize with the El Primero Striking 10th. While the majority of the chronographs (including standard editions of the Zenith El Primero) are using a 1-minute central hand to measure elapsed times, the Striking 10th comes with a foudroyante hand that turns around the dial in only 10 seconds, allowing first a very precise calculation of times and then a really stunning show when the chronograph is activated.
This watch had also written a part of the El Primero’s legend, as it was worn (in a more solid edition, with a rotating bezel) by Felix Baumgartner when setting the world record for skydiving an estimated 39 kilometers. The Zenith El Primero Striking 10th was a limited edition of 1969 pieces and was available for 8.200 Eur.