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Baselworld 2019: Zenith

by Peter Chong on January 25, 2019
Watches
Overview
Brand

Zenith El Primero

Complication / Type of Watch

Three watch box set

The legendary El Primero high-frequency chronograph celebrates half a century this year and in tribute to its legendary destiny, Zenith is offering aficionados an anniversary boxed set containing three chronographs with emblematic tricolour counters. A reissue faithful to the first El Primero model of 1969; a Chronomaster El Primero with optimized movement; and a Defy El Primero 21 to 1/1 00th of a second.


The history of this high-frequency star chronograph, born in 1969, continues today and tomorrow, with the iconic Chronomaster El Primero and the futuristic Defy. The anniversary set contains three El Primero models and is presented in a box with four slots for watches. Three occupied by this set and a still-empty fourth cushion sits ready to welcome the next achievement of Zenith in the universe of very high frequency: 1/1 000th of a second!

Watch 1: Reissue El Primero

Zenith had never yet offered a reissue faithful to the original model until this anniversary boxed set, in a 50-piece limited edition. In the first compartment a perfect reiteration of the 1969 El Primero chronograph. The 38 mm steel case, curved glass with magnifying effect, tricolour counters, tachymeter scale, font, the shapes of the hands and hour-markers, as well as the leather strap: all the original codes are resolutely present. Likewise, the shape of the lugs and mushroom pushers are exactly reproduced on this pure “revival” watch. To give a new lease on life to the spirit and the original attributes of its illustrious predecessor, Zenith’s engineers and designers carried out a reverse engineering process: an authentic copy of the brand’s museum was entirely laser-scanned to restore each component.

The only liberties that have been taken are the while the original had a solid back, the new watch reveals the movement through a sapphire glass back and that the crown logo has been updated. As for the engine’, it’s the current version of the El Primero column-wheel chronograph movement, beating at a rate of 36,000 vibrations per hour and delivering 1/1 0th of a second precision as well as a 50-hour power reserve. Like the original, it displays the hours, minutes and small seconds, chronograph, tachymeter and date functions, the latter appearing between 4 and 5 0’clock.

Watch 2: El Primero Chronomaster 2.0

A direct descendant of El Primero, the Zenith Chronomaster is its most emblematic contemporary embodiment and is the second watch. It is equipped with a new generation El Primero engine and a new black ceramic bezel. Renamed El Primero 3600, its movement is updated. This high-frequency calibre, beating at 36,000 vibrations per hour, achieves the feat of accurately measuring one tenth of a second and offering direct readings on the dial and bezel. The chronograph hand makes one dial turn in 10 seconds, indicating at each jump the tenth of a second on a scale graduated from 1 to 100. With this 2.0 version, the original construction of the El Primero chronograph, consisting of a column wheel and a lever operated lateral clutch, is visually highlighted and redesigned to enhance its reliability and precision. The most obvious results are the integration of a stop-seconds device for time-setting and a power reserve increased to 60 hours. The new Chronomaster has a sportier and more modern look than its contemporaries, featuring a 42 mm steel case topped by a graduated black ceramic bezel, a star-shaped oscillating weight and a rubber strap with contrasting stitching.

The future: Watch 3: Defy El Primero 21

The last element of this trilogy is the Defy El Primero 21 chronograph. The Defy El Primero is the ultra-modern embodiment of the legendary El Primero. Beating inside its imposing 44 mm titanium case is a revolutionary mechanical movement. Oscillating at a frequency of 360,000 vibrations per hour (50 Hz), ten times higher than its predecessor, it measures and displays one hundredth of a second on a scale from 1 to 100. Its exclusive dynamic signature – the lightning-quick hand making a full turn of the dial in one second – reflects the exceptional precision and performance of this engine stemming from modern engineering with two independent “gearboxes” on board: one for the time and the other for the chronograph. Its skeleton dial features three solid counters in the original colours – the common denominator of this “tribute” edition – and its contemporary lines, formed by a large fluted crown, flat pushpieces and short lugs, merge seamlessly onto the wrist by means of a black rubber strap covered with black alligator leather.

A future that holds exceptional achievements in store, as suggested by the fourth cushion of the case, deliberately left empty to accommodate Zenith’s next feats in the field of extreme high frequency.

Each issued in a 50-piece limited edition, the three El Primero anniversary watches, as well as the empty cushion designed to accommodate a future 1/1 000 h of a second chronograph, are presented in a boxed set with subtle nuances of grey, leather touches, contemporary woodwork. The satin-brushed grey lid with built-in touch screen opens to reveal a reproduction of a miniature watchmaker’s workbench, complete with a watch mechanism on a rest, adjustable lighting system, magnifying glass and screwdriver. The screw-locked lower part of the box contains a drawer in which the three El Primero chronographs are nestled. In a nod to the past, the box contains an actual die of the chronograph’s coupling-wheel bridge (one of the emblematic components of the El Primero movement). This die is an invitation to purchasers to come and visit the Manufacture in Le Locle and to hand-stamp two coupling wheel bridges. One will leave with the purchaser in his box, and the other, engraved with his name, will be placed as historical testimony on the entrance wall of the famous attic chosen by Charles Vermot, the Zenith watchmaker who – in the midst of the quartz crisis in the early 1 970s – saved the elements essential to the production of the El Primero calibre from destruction by secretly keeping them in that same attic and thus enabled its renaissance in 1 984.

EL PRIMERO A386 REVIVAL Technical Details

Reference: 03.A386. 400/69.C81 5

KEY POINTS

Original Revival of the 1 969 Reference A386:

The first ever El Primero Model

Original 1 969 case with 38 mm diameter

Automatic El Primero column-wheel chronograph

MOVEMENT

El Primero 400, Automatic

Calibre: 1 3 • (Diameter: 30 mm)

Movement thickness: 6.6.mm

Components: 278

Jewels: 31

Frequency: 36,000 VpH (5 Hz)

Power-reserve: min. 50 hours

Finishes: Oscillating weight with Cötes de Genöve . motif

FUNCTIONS

Hours and minutes in the centre Small seconds at 9 0’clock Chronograph:

–                 Central chronograph hand

–                 1 2-hour counter at 6 0’clock – 3D-minute counter at 3 0’clock

Tachymetric scale

Date indication at 4:30

CASE, DIAL & HANDS

Diameter: 38 mm

Diameter opening: 33.05 mm hickness: 1 2.60 mm

Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides

Case-back: Transparent sapphire crystal

Material: Stainless stee

Water-resistance: 1 0 ATM

Dial: White-lacquered dial with three different-coloured counters

Hour-markers: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Super-LumiNova SLN C3 Hands: White, faceted and coated with Super-LumiNova SLN C3

STRAP & BUCKLE

Black alligator leather strap with protective rubber lining

Stainless steel pin buckle

CHRONOMASTER 2 EL PRIMERO Technical Details

Reference: 03.3001 .3600/69.C81 6

KEY POINTS

Entirely redesigned movement to pay tribute to the 50th

Anniversary of the legendary El Primero movement

Automatic El Primero column-wheel chronograph able to measure and display the 1/1 0th of a second 1/1 0th of a second indication on the ceramic bezel

Increased power reserve of 60 hours

Stop second mechanism Certified Chronometer

MOVEMENT

El Primero 3600, Automatic

Calibre: 3 1/4 x A x (Diameter: 30 mm)

Frequency: 36,000 VpH (5 Hz)

Power-reserve: approx. 60 hours

Finishes: New star-shaped oscillating weight with satined finishings

FUNCTIONS

Hours and minutes in the centre Small seconds at 9 0’clock

1/1 0th of a second Chronograph:

    Central chronograph hand that makes one turn in 10 seconds

    3D-minute counter at 6 0’clock

    60-second counter at 3 0’clock

Date indication at 6 0’clock

CASE, DIAL & HANDS

Diameter: 42 mm

Diameter opening: 37.1 mm hickness: 1 2.75 mm

Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides

Case-back: Transparent sapphire crystal

Material: Stainless stee

Water-resistance: 1 0 ATM

Dial: Silver-toned sunray-patterned dial three different-coloured

Hour-markers: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Super-LumiNova SLN Cl Hands: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Super-LumiNova SLN Cl

STRAP & BUCKLE

Black rubber with red stitchings

Steel double folding clasp

DEFY EL PRIMERO 21 Technical Details

Reference: 95.901 2.9004/69.R582

KEY POINTS

1/1 00th of a second Chronograph movement

Exclusive dynamic signature of one rotation per second

1 escapement for the Watch (36,000 VpH – 5 Hz)

1 escapement for the Chronograph (360,000 VpH – 50Hz)

Certified Chronometer

MOVEMENT

El Primero 9004, Automatic

Calibre: 1 41/2′ • (Diameter: 32 mm)

Movement thickness: 7.9 mm

Components: 293

Jewels: 53

Frequency: 36,000 VpH (5 Hz)

Power-reserve: min. 50 hours

Finishes: Special oscillating weight with satined finishings

FUNCTIONS

Hours and minutes in the centre Small seconds at 9 0’clock

1/1 00th of a second Chronograph.

–  Central chronograph hand

–  3D-minute counter at 3 0’clock

–  60-second counter at 6 0’clock

–  Chronograph power-reserve indication at 1 2 0’clock

CASE, DIAL & HANDS

Diameter: 44 mm

Diameter opening: 35.5 mm hickness: 14.50 mm

Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides

Case-back: Transparent sapphire crystal

Material: Brushed titanium

Water-resistance: 1 0 ATM

Dial: Openworked with three different-coloured counters

Hour-markers: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Super-LumiNova SLN Cl Hands: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Super-LumiNova SLN Cl

STRAP & BUCKLE

Black Rubber with black alligator leather coating

Titanium double folding clasp

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