Although the El Primero name refers to the legendary automatic chronograph introduced in 1969, it was also used as the name of various watches, including the iconic inaugural trilogy known as the A384, the A385 and the A386. All of them have been reissued by Zenith in recent years, under the hot and attractive “Revival” collection. But in 1971, a watch appeared that obliterated the differences between the A384 and A386. Known as the A3817, it mixed the case of the first and the dial of the latter… And today, this style makes its comeback with the new Zenith Chronomaster Revival A3817.
In the 1969 trilogy, the A384 was seen as the sportier model, with its tonneau-shaped case, panda dial and stainless steel case. The A386 was, on the other hand, a more classic option with round cases in steel or gold, and of course, the iconic tricolour dial that remains one of the most recognisable elements in Zenith’s DNA. And in 1971, a watch appeared that combined both universes, the A3817. It featured the sportier steel tonneau-shaped case of the earliest steel El Primero references with the striking tricolour dial of the A386, resulting in a unique and appealing aesthetic – and it even featured one or two cool design elements. Produced in just 1,000 pieces, it remains one of the most desirable models among the early El Primero watches.
Following the Chronomaster Revival A385 and A385, and using the same technical base, Zenith releases a new edition in the Revival collection, paying a highly faithful tribute to the A3817. As such, it retains the tonneau case of the other two models, with its compact (and historically relevant) dimensions, measuring 37mm in diameter, 12.6mm in height and 47mm lug-to-lug. The case also sticks to the handsome combination of radially brushed surfaces with polished facets and sides. All the details have been rendered using historical blueprints and reverse-engineering, so the watch is basically a 1-to-1 reproduction of the original model.
What matters with the Zenith Chronomaster Revival A3817 is the dial, which seems to be identical to the A386… but isn’t. Sure, it features the classic white background and tricolour counters – in tones of grey and blue – but some elements are different here, as was the case on the 1971 model. For instance, the running seconds counter at 9 o’clock is done with blue markers, indicated by a single blue hand. The outer tachymeter scale also serves as both a pulsometer (from 12 to 3 o’clock) and a tachymeter for the rest of the track. Finally, the seconds track is done in a pyramid pattern affectionately nicknamed the “shark tooth” scale, which enhances legibility with a distinctly retro touch. The hands and markers are rhodium-plated and faceted, and later coated with beige Super-LumiNova.
Like the A385 and A384, the new Zenith Chronomaster Revival A3817 is powered by the El Primero calibre 400, the direct descendant of the 1969 movement. Visible under a sapphire caseback – a concession to modernity – this in-house engine runs at 5Hz and boasts 50 hours of power reserve. It retains its integrated automatic chronograph architecture with column wheel and horizontal clutch.
Completing the retro look and feel of the Chronomaster Revival A3817, two strap options are offered: the first is the steel “ladder” bracelet, a modern remake of the Gay Frères bracelets that became emblematic of the early El Primero watches, and a light brown calfskin leather strap with a steel pin buckle, which will develop patina over time.
The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A3817 will be exclusively available at Zenith Boutiques and the brand’s online shop from May 2021. It will be priced at CHF 7,900 on a leather strap and a CHF 8,400 on a steel bracelet. More details and orders at www.zenith-watches.com.