Zenith began celebrating El Primero’s fiftieth anniversary in 2019 with a series of Revival models. These have included the El Primero A386, A384 and A385 Revival models, among others, up to the most recent Chronomaster Revival Safari. With all these releases, the Le Locle-based watchmaker has kept the Revival series dial and case designs largely true to their historic proportions and, often, their original hues.

But as Zenith admits, none of these Revival models filled a void within its collections for a ongoing, steel-cased Chronomaster El Primero A386 model. Remember that the first A386 Revival from 2019 was cased in gold. And while the hot steel-cased  Chronomaster Sport Zenith debuted early in 2021 has seemingly met the demand for a new, sportier Chronomaster El Primero chronograph, customers in search of a steel-cased, dressier El Primero A386 have been waiting since 2019. 

The new 38mm Zenith Chronomaster Original, here with a steel case and bracelet.

Zenith this week launches the Chronomaster Original to fill that void. The five watches in the new collection (four are steel-cased, one is cased in gold) retain the most identifiable aspects of the much-loved El Primero A386 from 1969, including a 38mm round and bezel-free steel case with a domed crystal, pump-style chronograph pushers, faceted lugs, and brushed and polished surfaces.

Zenith however updates several key elements of the now familiar Chronomaster Revival profile.  First, Zenith replaces the retro 1960s ladder bracelet found on the recent Revival models with a new, richly-finished solid-link bracelet.

Practical scale

More notably however Zenith updates the tachymeter scale, replacing the original 1/100th-of-an-hour calculation scale with a 1/10-of-a-second chronograph scale. This allows instantaneous reading of a 10th of a second using the chronograph seconds hand.

Within the case Zenith fits the primary reason for this change of tachymetric scale : the latest version of the El Primero caliber, dubbed the El Primero 3600. Also found powering the new Zenith Chronomaster Sport (and originally seen in an earlier, very limited Chronomaster 2), the caliber of course retains the El Primero’s signature high frequency of 5 Hz (36,000 VpH).

Thus, with a central chronograph seconds hand that rotates once around the dial in exactly ten seconds,  the movement offers a true 1/10th-of-second indication in conjunction with the new scale. And now that the scale frames the dials of both the Chronomaster Sport and this new Chronomaster Original design,  Zenith now offers two ongoing collections with this most practical utililization of its high-speed El Primero caliber.

In addition to its new application, the new El Primero 3600 features a newly blued column wheel and “new architecture” that Zenith says is more efficient than earlier El Primeros. The new efficiency also influences the caliber’s power reserve, which is now rated to sixty hours.

The new El Primero 3600 caliber offers a 1/10th-of-second-display from the 36,000-VpH escapement as well as an extended power reserve of 60 hours.

Zenith is offering the new Chronomaster Original in three models. One model, sold on a steel bracelet or a blue calfskin strap, features the well-known Chronomaster tri-color dial configuration. Another model features a so-called ‘reverse panda’ black dial with silver chronograph registers and is sold on a steel bracelet or a beige calfskin strap. Intrestingly, these two models use a rhodium-plated central seconds hand rather than the red central seconds hand found on the tri-color dial versions. The third model is cased in gold and features the tri-color dial design. The logo on each new model has been updated to the Zenith’s more contemporary script.

Both steel-bracelet models are priced at $9,000 while both strap models are priced at $8,400. The third model ($19,100), cased in rose gold with a silvered dial and tri-color subdials, is offered on a brown calfskin strap.

  

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