Zenith celebrated an important milestone last year when the world’s first high-frequency automatic chronograph movement, the El Primero calibre, turned fifty. Following the introduction of the calibre in 1969, a trilogy of watches was released bearing the winning chronograph movement. One of these was the famous reference A384. With its tonneau-shaped case and panda dial, the A384 was a true child of its time and captured the zeitgeist of the Age of Aquarius to a tee. Today Zenith releases another revival of the A384 decked out in red, white and blue exclusively for the North American market in a limited run of 150 watches.
Two significant events took place in 1969: on 20 July Neil Armstrong took man’s first step on the surface of the Moon and, albeit on a smaller scale and entirely influenced by our bias for mechanical watches, on 10 January the watchmaking world got wind of the first fully integrated high-frequency chronograph movement. Epic events, the first marked America’s dominion in the space race, the second marked Zenith’s first place (El Primero) in the race to create an automatic chronograph movement – and a high-frequency calibre to boot!
It’s important to remember that the El Primero was a movement, not a watch. Following its debut in January 1969, a trilogy of watches (known as references A384, A386 and A386) appeared on the market that same year bearing the winning El Primero movement. The most famous of the pack is Ref. A 386, the only one with a standard round case. The other two references, A384 and A385, were more in tune with the style of the day and came in cushion-shaped cases with panda dials and red accents.
As you can imagine, the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the El Primero in 2019 resulted in a flurry of homage editions, including a highly coveted 1:1 re-edition of the A386 (part of a set) and a faithful revival of the A384, as well as the introduction of the El Primero 3600 calibre, a 21st-century take on the El Primero high-frequency movement. To ensure the accurate reproduction of the A384, each part of the original El Primero A384 from 1969 was digitised. A year later, a stealth-inspired Revival El Primero A384 Shadow hit the scene with its matte grey titanium case and matte black and grey dial.
The Chronomaster Revival Liberty flaunts a faithful reproduction of the case of the A384 of 1969. Unlike many vintage-inspired watches on today’s market, the case isn’t historically inspired; it is an accurate reproduction made in stainless steel which respects the original 37mm diameter and 12.60mm height. To ensure utmost accuracy, Zenith used the original blueprints and production plans of 1969 to recreate the angular architecture of the tonneau-shaped case. The finishes are also faithful to the original with its radial-brushed bezel and polished bevels, pushers and crown. The only features that are not historically accurate are the domed sapphire crystal (the original had an acrylic glass) and the display caseback (the original was sealed).
The red, white and blue colour scheme and the name ‘Liberty’ are clear references to America’s flag and the Statue of Liberty. Like the eye-catching panda dials of 1969, the Revival Liberty uses a gradient matte blue background to offset the two white chronograph counters and the small seconds indicator. Although the El Primero A384 Shadow dispensed with the date window, the Revival Liberty reincorporates this historically correct feature at the original 4h30 position, only this time with red numerals to echo the colour scheme. Another distinguishing feature is the central chronograph seconds hand, which has been painted in alternating white and red stripes (barley sugar cane) to stand out clearly against the white tachymetre scale. Even the hands, the applied rectangular indices and inscriptions are close to the original with cursive font used for the El Primero inscription. Completing the all-American look, the blue rubber Cordura-effect strap displays a single red stitch on each side.
El Primero Calibre 400
Powering this Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Liberty is a modern version of the El Primero calibre 400. An automatic, high-frequency, integrated column-wheel chronograph with a horizontal clutch, calibre 400 is very similar in architecture to the 1969 original. It still beats at a 5Hz frequency and still boasts a power reserve of 50 hours but has been updated for improved reliability and chronometric precision.
Availability & price
The Zenith Chronomaster Revival Liberty is limited to 150 pieces and will be available exclusively in the USA and Canada and on Zenith’s American online boutique. The retail price is USD 8,700.
More information at zenith-watches.com.