Zenith kicked off 2019 in a superb manner celebrating the 50th anniversary of its iconic chronograph movement, the El Primero. For once, the celebration was more about the importance of the movement than the watches. The El Primero (as indicated by its name) was the first automatic chronograph to be unveiled, back in 1969. For the occasion, Zenith offered a very limited set of three watches, which included an ultra-faithful steel re-edition of the first watch to be equipped with this movement, the El Primero A386. Aware of the buzz surrounding this piece, Zenith comes to Baselworld 2019 with three new (very) limited editions of the El Primero A386 Revival… in three different gold cases.
The El Primero is extremely important for Zenith, a pillar of the brand’s identity. Part of a trilogy of automatic chronograph calibres that hit the market in 1969, it is the only one that is still produced to date. On January 10th 1969, Zenith hosted a press conference in Le Locle and announced the birth of the El Primero automatic calibre. Zenith was, therefore, the first manufacturer to publicly launch its own automatic chronograph.
Technically speaking, the 1969 El Primero was an advanced calibre. It was one of the very few movements of its era to beat at a high-frequency. This 5Hz or 36,000 vibrations per hour frequency was a relevant choice for a chronograph that intended to measure elapsed times with maximum precision. It was also equipped with a column wheel and a horizontal clutch. The story was abruptly interrupted when Zenith changed hands and the owner decided to cease production of mechanical movements. Fortunately, the technology was saved from extinction thanks to an act of disobedience when Charles Vermot decided to safeguard the tools necessary for the manufacture of El Primero. Thus, during the early 1980s, Zenith was able to resume the production of El Primero without having to redevelop tooling. The movement would soon become the backbone of the brand’s collections and is now used in an array of watches. Read our in-depth article about the El Primero here.
To mark the 50th anniversary of its iconic El Primero movement, in January 2019 Zenith introduced a superb and rare set of three watches (with a 4th to be presented), representing the past, present, and future of this calibre. Included in the set – and probably the watch that most people were interested in – was a 1:1 re-edition of the first El Primero watch, the A386 Revival, in steel, with the three iconic silver/grey/blue sub-counters and the original 38mm case size. Unfortunately, the watch cannot be bought on its own because it comes with the rest of the set, in turn, limited to 50 pieces. Yet, Baselworld 2019 offers some surprises.
Zenith has decided to ride the wave of success by presented three limited editions, 50 pieces each, sharing the exact same specifications and design as the watch above… However, these new Zenith El Primero A386 Revival aren’t done in steel or in titanium. Three watches… three golds.
As you’ve guessed, the new Zenith El Primero A386 Revival will be available in 18k white gold, 18k yellow gold, and 18k pink gold. Besides the change of material, the only modification compared to the steel model found in the 50th-anniversary set are the hands and indexes, which are plated according to the gold alloy used for the case.
This means that we still have the same 38mm case with the exact same proportions and shapes as the 1969 model, with minimal updates on the caseback, the sapphire crystal, and the crown. All the rest – dial, shape of the hands, position of the sub-counters, fonts and scales, colours of the counters – is identical to the original version… and very pleasant to the eye.
Inside the Zenith El Primero A386 Revival Limited Editions is the calibre 400, a slightly modernized version of the El Primero – still, most of the parts and the overall architecture are based on the movement introduced in 1969.
The Zenith El Primero A386 Revival Limited Editions will be limited to 50 pieces each, in white, yellow or rose gold, and with a pin buckle to match the metal of the case. As tribute timepieces to the 50th anniversary of this legendary movement, these three watches will be presented with a 50-year guarantee. These highly desirable and rare editions are expensive and will retail for CHF 19,900 each. More details at www.zenith-watches.com.