Monochrome Watches
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The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385

The third watch of the 1969 El Primero trilogy joins the Revival club.

| By Brice Goulard | 5 min read |
Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385

The El Primero, Zenith’s historical and undoubtedly iconic movement, needs little introduction. Launched in 1969, it was amongst the very first automatic chronograph movements introduced by the watch industry, and with original specifications, having a column wheel, a horizontal clutch and, mostly, a high frequency of 5Hz. But that’s about the engine. There were watches too, in fact, a trilogy of models coded A384, A385 and A386. And while two of them have already been reissued in Zenith’s Revival collection (the A384 and A386), one was missing. Problem solved, with the launch of the Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385.

Zenith El Primero 1969 trilogy A384 A385 A386 watches
A copy of an old Zenith catalogue, showing the 1969 “El Primero trilogy”

1969 is probably, together with 1865 (the year the brand was created), the most important year in Zenith’s history. It is also an important year for the watchmaking industry as a whole since three game-changing movements were introduced, all being amongst the first automatic chronographs ever created. 1969 was the year that the Zenith El Primero, the world’s first automatic high-frequency chronograph, was unveiled to the world. The movement, which is still in production thanks to an incredibly human story – fully explained here – made its debut in three stainless steel models. While the A386, with its more traditional case and tri-colour dial, is the most famous of the lot, there was also the A384 with its tonneau-shaped case and panda dial – which is now available from Zenith’s Revival collection – and another, even more original watch, the A385.

Zenith El Primero A385
A vintage Zenith El Primero A385 – Photo by Hodinkee Shop

The A385 was noticeably different due to its dial. Indeed, the case is the same as the A384, but the colours used for the dial were impressively modern. According to Zenith, it was “the first smoked dial ever to be made in the watch industry” (something we’d like to verify). This is the main difference between this one and the sportier and more classic panda-style A384.

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Fun fact about the A385. In 1970, it took part in Zenith’s “Operation Sky.” This extreme test consisted of strapping the watch to an Air France Boeing 707’s landing gear on a flight from Paris to New York to test its resistance to external aggressions such as drastic temperature fluctuations, wind force and changing air pressure. Upon landing, the watch was still functioning perfectly.

The 2021 Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385

More than 50 years after its introduction, this model is back with the new Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385. The recipe is simple and familiar; it is the same one used by the brand for the A386 and A384 Revival models. In short, we’re talking about an extremely faithful reproduction that has only been updated regarding materials and with minor mechanical upgrades. This is one of the advantages of using the same movement for the reproduction and the original watch… measurements can easily be respected.

Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385

Just like the original, the case has a 37mm diameter. If the case looks familiar, it’s totally normal since the A384 and A385 used to share shapes and measurements, and so do the modern Revival watches. This new Revival A385 shares its case with the A384 watch. The top of the case retains the typically late-1960s radial brushed surface and sharp polished facets on the sides and on top of the lugs. The tonneau shape has also been respected and is entirely faithful to the original watch, with the exact same dimensions. The main update concerns the crystal, which is now made in sapphire in place of Plexiglas.

The reproduction doesn’t stop here and, of course, the dial has been faithfully recreated, including its funky smoked brown gradient colour with a strong vignette effect that blackens towards the edges while the centre is very bright. The sub-counters are silvery-white and the dial is framed by a tachymeter scale. In the same vein, the hands and applied markers are rhodium-plated, faceted and polished, with beige Super-LumiNova reminiscent of patinated tritium material. Just like the vintage A385, the central seconds hand stands out with its bright red colour. Finally, a date is found at 4.30 in a bevelled window… but the 1969 model featured it too!

The El Primero Calibre 400, here without its central rotor

Another update concerns the back of the watch, which now has a display sapphire, offering a view of the legendary El Primero calibre 400. This movement, with its tri-counter display and no additional complication other than the date, is the closest you can get to the original 1969 movement – it shares most of its components and the architecture is basically the same. This automatic column-wheel chronograph retains its 5Hz frequency (36,000 vibrations/hour) and now has a 50h power reserve.

The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385 is available either on a light brown calf leather strap with protective rubber lining and a stainless steel pin buckle or, to make it look even more faithful, a ladder stainless steel bracelet with a folding clasp that is a modern remake of the Gay Frères bracelets that came on early El Primero watches.

Availability & Price

The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385 is available at Zenith Boutiques and online shop, as well as at authorized retailers around the world. It is priced at EUR 7,800 or CHF 7,900 on a leather strap and EUR 8,300 or CHF 8,400 on a ladder bracelet.

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2 responses

  1. Chronographs are not my cup of tea, but its beautifully engineered and the dial is stunning. Makes the Patek 5711 look a bit silly when you compare value for money

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