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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.

  

Zenith’s newest Revival, the Chronomaster Revival Safari, reinterprets the historical Zenith A384 chronograph from 1969, but instead of the original’s 37mm steel case we now have a micro-blasted 37mm titanium case.

The new Zenith Chronomaster Revival Safari

The watch’s deep matte green dial with contrasting black registers and tachymeter scale is new, while the beige SuperLumiNova on the applied baton markers and hands is distinctly vintage.

The rubber strap takes on the same khaki-green tone as the dial, and is fixed to a matte micro-blasted titanium pin buckle. Price: $9,000.

Specifications: Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Safari”

(Reference: 97.T384.400.57.C856, a boutiques & e-commerce edition.)

Movement: El Primero 400 automatic chronograph with column-wheel, frequency of 36,000 Vph (5 Hz), a power reserve of 50 hours. Functions: Hours and minutes in the center, small seconds at nine o’clock. Chronograph: central chronograph hand, 12-hour counter at six o’clock, 30-minute counter at three o’clock. Date indication at 4:30.

Case: 37mm micro-blasted titanium, 50 meters of water resistance

Dial: Khaki green with black counters, tachometer scale, hour-markers and hands are rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with beige SuperLumiNova.

Bracelet: Khaki green “cordura effect” strap and white stitching. Micro blasted titanium pin buckle.

Price: $9,000.

 

 

Zenith reinforces its Defy to create Defy Extreme, a new three-model collection that boasts an arsenal of components aimed at protecting the watch’s unusual dual-escapement El Primero 9004 movement from shock and moisture.

The new Defy Extreme extends the ongoing theme of the Defy El Primero 21 collection, a series of skeletonized, often colorful, high-speed (36,000 vph) timekeepers paired with an extra-fast (360,000 vph) chronographs, cased together in highly technical ceramic, titanium, carbon or steel dress.

Three Zenith Defy Extreme models are available. All are cased in sandblasted titanium with blue, black or rose-gold colored plates and matching accents.

With the new collection, Zenith has a true high-impact sport option for Defy fans wary that the existing Defy 21’s two escapements and its contemporary open work design leaves it vulnerable to physical stress and extreme elements.

Essentially, Zenith has toughened Defy’s specifications, starting with the case.

Defy Extreme’s 46mm case size is larger than the 44mm case Zenith uses within the existing Defy El Primero 21 collection. Zenith has reinforced the new case by adding extended pusher protection and a screw-down crown that, when combined with a thicker clear sapphire caseback, doubles the water resistance from the existing Defy rating of 100 meters to 200 meters for the new collection.

The new case is also rife with new angles, edges and lines. Even between the two crystals you’ll find elements that, as Zenith puts it, exude “robustness.”

Most notably, Zenith has a placed a twelve-sided ring just underneath the bezel and on the twelve-sided caseback.  The architectural ring nicely frames the dial while also adding another layer of shock protection to the movement. It serves to remind the wearer that Zenith has built an extra level of security into the Defy Extreme.

Three models

Zenith is making three Defy Extreme models, all cased in micro-blasted titanium. Two matte-finished titanium models (both $18,000) differ with a blue or black-colored mainplate and pusher protectors with matching rotor finishes, while the third model ($22,000) glows with rose gold bezel ring and pusher protectors on the titanium case and rose-gold-hued main plate and accents.

Zenith is supplying each watch with three different straps with quick strap-change mechanisms: A micro-blasted or polished and satin-brushed titanium bracelet, a rubber strap with a folding buckle matching the case and, in a first for Zenith, a Velcro strap that can be easily adjusted.

The El Primero 9004 movement inside the Defy Extreme is equipped with two regulating organs and escapements, one beating at 5Hz for timekeeping, and the other at 50Hz for the chronograph .

 

As its first 2021 debut, Zenith launches Chronomaster Sport, an evolution of the bedrock Chronomaster, the Le Locle watchmaker’s most direct link to its historic El Primero automatic chronograph, which debuted in 1969.

The new Zenith Chronomaster Sport.

Already sporty in its historical guise, the new 41mm steel Zenith Chronomaster Sport more directly –and boldly – displays its split-second timing abilities with the added utility of a wide black ceramic bezel etched with 1/10-of-a-second measurement marks.

The new bezel enhances the visibility of the timing function, linked to the El Primero’s 36,000 vph frequency, beyond even the clean black ceramic bezels found on the existing Zenith Chronomaster 2 limited edition references. As far as we’re aware, the new Chronomaster Sport is the only production sport watch that offers a 1/10-of-a-second timing scale linked to its central chronograph hand. When activated, the hand rotates once around the dial in ten seconds.

 

To underscore the robust nature of the new Chronomaster Sport, Zenith here uses the El Primero 3600, the movement Zenith debuted in that earlier Chronomaster 2. The caliber, with a newly blued column wheel and “new architecture,” is more efficient than earlier El Primeros, according to Zenith, and offers a higher power reserve, now rated to sixty hours. Zenith has affixed a new skeletonized rotor to the movement, visible through a clear sapphire caseback.

The new El Primero 3600 caliber offers a 1/10th of second display from the 5 Hz (36,000 VpH) escapement, as well as an extended power reserve of 60 hours.

The new dial

In addition to adding a wide ceramic bezel with 1/10-of-a-second scale to the front side of the new Chronomaster Sport, Zenith has also enhanced the collection’s dial and bracelet to differentiate it from previous Chronomaster offerings.

Both dial options, matte white and black, appear to contrast more starkly with the three subdials. The steel case, with familiar pump-style pushers, now links to an integrated steel bracelet similar to those conceived by Gay Frères, which has historically supplied many of Zenith’s metal bracelets. Zenith also offers a sharp-looking blue or black rubber strap option with a steel deployant buckle.

As noted, Zenith is offering the Chronomaster Sport with either a white dial or black dial in two references.  Whether the black or matte white dial, both with signature El Primero tri-color chronograph registers are blue, anthracite and light grey, each graduated to sixty.

Price: $10,000 (steel bracelet) and $9,500 (strap)

Specifications: Zenith Chronomaster Sport

Movement: Zenith El Primero 3600 automatic, frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz), power-reserve of 60 hours.  Functions: Hours and minutes in the center. Small seconds at 9 o’clock, 1/10th of a second Chronograph. Central chronograph hand that makes one turn in 10 seconds, 60-minute counter at 6 o’clock, 60-second counter at 3 o’clock.

Case: 41 mm stainless steel with black ceramic bezel, water-resistance to 100 meters.

Dial: White or black matte dial with three different applied colored counters, hour-markers and hands are rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with SuperLumiNova

Bracelet: Steel, blue or black rubber bracelet. Double folding clasp with security mechanism. 

Price: $10,000 (steel bracelet) and $9,500 (strap)

 

Zenith reaches back to 1969 once again with its latest Revival debut, the Chronomaster Revival A385, a near-exact 37mm reproduction of the original El Primero chronograph from 1969.

The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385.

As one of very first automatic chronographs, and the very first operating at a high frequency of 36,000 vph, Zenith’s A385 debuted alongside the Zenith A384 and A386. The A385 was notable for its smoked brown gradient pattern, which Zenith revives on this new release.

To accurately echo the original, Zenith says it conducted a “reverse engineering” of the 1969 watch to create the new model. As a result, each part of the A385’s 37mm tonneau-shaped stainless-steel case (even its pump-style pushers) mimics the original. The only differences here are the domed sapphire crystal, which replaces an acrylic version, and a clear sapphire back that replaces instead the original’s closed solid steel caseback.

Marketing materials for the 1969-1970 Zenith El Primeo launches.

The clear back offers a view of the newer El Primero caliber, Zenith’s 400 chronograph movement with column-wheel, that powers the watch.

Smoking Dial

But it’s the dial here that draws eyes, and Zenith has nailed the attractive brown gradient dial, which notably features a vignette effect that blackens towards the edges. This colorful slight of hand appears to deepen the dial, mimicking the light-bending effect of a domed crystal, but without the dome.

To further deepen the nostalgia, Zenith adds the same red chronograph central second hand and silvery-white chronograph counters found on the original model.

Zenith offers the Chronomaster Revival A385 in two options. One is equipped with a steel “ladder” bracelet, a modern remake of the Gay Frères bracelets Zenith utilized on those original models. The second option is a light brown calf leather strap that will develop a patina over time.The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385 is available at Zenith Boutiques and online shop, as well as at authorized retailers. 

Price: $7,900 (leather strap) and 8,400 CHF (approximately $9,500) for steel bracelet model.

 

Specifications: Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385

Reference: 03.A384.400/385.M385 (steel bracelet), Reference: 03.A384.400/385.C855 (calf leather strap)

Case: 37mm steel with sapphire back, 50 meters water resistance.

Movement: El Primero 400 automatic column-wheel chronograph with 36,000 Vph (5 Hz), power-reserve of 50 hours.

Functions: Hours and minutes in the center, small seconds at 9 o’clock. Chronograph: Central chronograph hand, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock. Tachometric scale. Date indication at 4:30.

Dial: Smoked brown gradient dial with white-colored counters. Rhodium-plated, faceted hour markers and hands, coated with beige Super-LumiNova.

Bracelet: “Ladder” bracelet with stainless steel double folding clasp, or light brown calf leather strap with protective rubber lining and a stainless-steel pin buckle.

Price: $7,900 (leather strap) and 8,400 CHF (approximately $9,500) for steel bracelet model.

 

After Zenith successfully launched its website and e-commerce platform in Europe in May, the Le Locle watchmaker this week unwraps its online sales platform for the United States.

To start its online sales with a bang, Zenith creates a special limited edition (of 250) U.S. edition of its black ceramic Defy 21 El Primero. In addition to the dark 44mm ceramic case, the watch’s U.S. edition features new color visible through its open dial. The new model exposes the 1/100th-of-a-second El Primero chronograph movement with a special ‘electric blue’ color.

There’s more. Zenith is also including three matching straps with the watch. One strap is black alligator with a rubber backing and blue stitching, the second is made of black rubber with a “cordura” effect and blue stitching and the third is textured blue rubber.

The Zenith Defy 21 El Primero Black Ceramic watch is priced at $13,600.

 

Specifications: DEFY EL PRIMERO 21 BOUTIQUE EDITION (Limited Edition of 250)

Reference: 49.9001.9004/78.R916

Movement: Zenith El Primero 9004 automatic, 1/100th of a second chronograph movement, one rotation per second, one escapement for the Watch (36,000 VpH) and one escapement for the Chronograph (360,000 VpH ), TIME LAB-Chronometer certified, black movement finish, power reserve min. 50 hours, Blue mainplate on movement plus blue oscillating weight with satin finish

Functions: 1/100th of a second chronograph functions, chronograph power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock, hours and minutes in center, small seconds at 9 o’clock, central chronograph hand that makes one turn each second,  30-minute counter at 3 o’clock,  60-second counter at 6 o’clock

Case: 44 mm by 14.5mm black ceramic, domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides, transparent sapphire crystal case back, water resistant to 100 meters.

Dial: Black open worked with two different-colored counters. Hour markers: Ruthenium-plated, faceted and coated with black SuperLuminova, hands are ruthenium-plated, faceted and coated with black SuperLuminova

STRAPS: Three included: Black Rubber Strap with “cordura” effect, black alligator with a rubber backing and blue stitching, and textured blue rubber

Fresh from releasing two Chronomaster Revival pieces in recent months, Zenith this week returns to its forward-focused Defy collection with the Defy 21 Ultraviolet, a 44mm dual-escapement chronograph with eye-catching purple bridges, rotor and strap.

For this model, the color will now vie for attention with the Defy 21’s mesmerizing one-rotation-per-second central chronograph hand.

When activated, sending the seconds hand spinning around the dial, the regally hued watch times events using Zenith’s 1/100th-of-a-second El Primero 21 chronograph caliber, beating at an ultra-high 50Hz (360,000 vph).

The watch of course continues to retain the time of day, thanks to its three-hand indicators, powered by the more traditional El Primero caliber, with the watch’s second escapement vibrating at 36,000 vph.

Zenith has colored the bridges violet on watch’s El Primero 9004 automatic movement.

Mostly open dial

As with most of the earlier Defy El Primero 21 models, the dial here is mostly open, clearing a direct view to many of the violet-colored, angular-cut bridges within. But unlike most of the earlier, heavily skeletonized designs, the new Defy 21 Ultraviolet’s solid chronograph subdials most directly recall the Defy 21 El Primero 21 Carl Cox released earlier this year.

Echoing that model’s specialized subdial designs, this new example features three grey chronograph registers and a grey flange ring. Other than the Carl Cox edition, the only similar example with solid chronograph registers was seen last year within the Defy 21 El Primero 50th Anniversary edition and was only available as part of a box set of three watches.

Sandblasted case

All the purple-treated bridges inside this Defy 21 Ultraviolet stand out particularly well against the matte sandblasted grey titanium case.

Equally compelling – at least to consumers who appreciate the novelty of a violet-tinted watch – is the woven textile-like purple insert of the watch’s accompanying black rubber strap.

I’ve always appreciated how difficult it can be for historically rich Swiss watch companies to embrace more modern  design, and with this newest watch Zenith presents an eye-catching, contemporary variation for its already impressive Defy 21 technology.  While the new Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet is primarily an exercise in color and finishing, the choice of color here is not for the meek, and it makes the result particularly successful. Price: $13,100.

Specifications: Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet (Reference: 97.9001.9004/80.R922)

Key points: Unique violet 1/100th of a second chronograph movement with seconds hand rotation once per second. One escapement for the watch (36,000 Vph – 5 Hz) and one escapement for the chronograph (360,000 Vph – 50 Hz). Linear power reserve indicator. TIME LAB Chronometer certified.

Movement: El Primero 9004 automatic with ultraviolet finishings, with 50-hours of power reserve.

Functions: 1/100th of a second chronograph functions. Chronograph power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock. Hours and minutes in the center. Small seconds at 9 o’clock, Central chronograph hand, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, 60-second counter at 6 o’clock

Case: 44mm micro-blasted titanium with 100 meters water resistance,

Dial: Special open dial with grey closed chronograph registers, rhodium-plated, faceted markers coated with SuperLumiNova. Hands are rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Super-LumiNova

Bracelet: Violet fabric-effect strap with micro-blasted titanium double folding clasp

Price: $13,100.

Zenith unveils the Chronomaster Revival Shadow, another winning retro model designed as a result of Zenith’s deep dive into its own El Primero history.

The newest watch updates the look and feel of a black-cased El Primero watch Zenith made as a prototype in the early 1970s. Dubbed the Shadow, the update utilizes an original A384 case shape and 37mm size, the same case Zenith revisited for last year’s Chronomaster Revival El Primero A384.

Zenith has re-created the stealthy look using micro-blasted titanium rather than the darkened steel Zenith discovered on the early “Shadow” model.

Not surprisingly, unlike the prototype from 1970 powered by a manual-winding chronograph movement, the Chronomaster Revival Shadow features Zenith’s date-free El Primero (4061), visible through the display back.

As Zenith explains “only a handful of this spectral prototype was made, but the model was never officially produced or commercialized. Many watchmakers and longtime employees of Zenith had heard of and even seen one of the rare prototypes, even though official records about this piece are extremely scarce.”

The Le Locle-based watchmaker spent much of 2019 documenting its El Primero history as it celebrated the pioneering, high-beat chronograph movement’s fiftieth anniversary by issuing a series of celebratory watches, many of which were made to echo the case and dial designs of early Zenith watches fitted with the El Primero movements.

The new Zenith Chronomaster Revival Shadow pairs grey subdials with a matching tachymeter scale, and both contrast nicely with matte black dial.  Perhaps to emphasize its stealthy name, the watch’s hands and applied markers are filled with white SuperLuminova that emits a green glow. The watch’s strap is textured black rubber with white stitching. Price: $8,200

Specifications: Zenith Chronomaster Revival ‘Shadow”

Reference: 97.T384.4061/21.C822

 

Movement: El Primero 4061 Automatic with column-wheel chronograph, 36,000 VpH frequency with 50-hour power reserve, visible from clear caseback.

Functions: Hours and minutes in the center, small seconds at nine o’clock. Chronograph: central chronograph hand, 12-hour counter at six o’clock, 30-minute counter at three o’clock. Tachymetric scale.

Case: 37-mm micro-blasted titanium using original A384 case shape, water resistant to 50 meters

Dial: Black dial with grey counters and tachymeter scale, hand and markers rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with SuperLumiNovaSLN C1

Bracelet & Buckle: Black “cordura effect” strap and white stitching. Microblasted titanium pin buckle.