New: Zenith Chronomaster Original – a successor to the A386

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Zenith presents the long awaited successor to the A386 with the new Chronomaster Original in a 21st century rendition of the iconic El Primero.

Press Release information with commentary in italics


The Revival A386 was a considerable success for Zenith when it was launched to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the El Primero. The series was offered in 3 solid gold options – white gold, yellow gold and pink gold, in a limited edition of 50 pieces each.

The Revival A386 had a design DNA which is very close to the original – a 38mm case, with a box shaped crystal, and the El Primero 400 movement – the very same as in the original. The El Primero was a high beat automatic chronograph, and was introduced in 1969, and one of the claimants to the title of the first automatic chronograph, along the Seiko 6309, and the Breitling/Heuer/Buren Caliber 01. Both the design aesthetics as well as the use of the original caliber 400 movement contributed as to its instant success, as did the extremely limited edition series of only 50 pieces in each case material and the 50 year warranty.

The Revival A386 shown here in yellow gold.

So it is with interest we see now that the new Chronomaster Original follows the same aesthetics as the A386 and the OG El Primero of 1969. The same case dimensions are adopted, a rather svelte one for 2021, at only 38mm in diameter. The raised box like crystal is also a nod to the one used in the late 1960s.

The new Chronomaster Original looks almost like the original, and the Revival A386. The bracelet is probably the biggest aesthetic update. The movement is also new, but not visible in this photograph.

This interest grew when the movement specified for the Chronomaster Original is the new caliber 3600 instead of the charming but anachronistic caliber 400. The new movement has fewer parts (314 compared to 326), though it features additional features – hacking seconds, quick set date and a longer power reserve of 60 hours (up from 50)

But what is more interesting is that the caliber 3600 uses a somewhat unusual implementation of the chronograph. In a regular chronograph, the chronograph seconds hand is connected to the main train’s fourth wheel (which directly drives the continuous seconds hand).

Comparison of the caliber 400 vs the caliber 3600.

This connection is activated by the starting the pusher, which uses a lever controlled by the column wheel to move a coupling wheel which is directly attached to the fourth wheel, and carry the same teeth arrangement to engage with the chronograph seconds wheel. This causes the chronograph seconds hand to start. In the caliber 3600, the driving wheel is not the train’s fourth wheel, but rather the fifth wheel. This is usually not a good idea as the power available to each successive wheel decreases as one goes from the mainspring to the escape wheel. But Zenith shows its technical abilities in making chronograph by making this work using a low inertia silicon escape wheel with special teeth profile. Thus the caliber 3600’s 1/10th second hand is directly driven by each step of the escape wheel, 10 times every second. An interesting and remarkable engineering feat.

We are looking forward to examining the Chronomaster Original, and will report back with our hands-on review and photographs.

Zenith Chronomaster Original

Retail prices of the new Chronomaster Original. In steel with bracelet SGD 13,100, in steel with strap SGD 12,400 and in gold SGD 27,800. All inclusive of GST.

Original by name, original by substance. Few watches have been as influential and truly iconic as the Zenith A386, which made its debut in 1969 as one of the first steel watches to be equipped with the revolutionary El Primero calibre – the world’s first automatic high-frequency integrated chronograph movement. Over 50 years later, the El Primero remains the benchmark of precision among automatic chronograph movements, giving way to new versions and iterations in a constant evolution of technicity and performance.

While Zenith has paid tribute to many of its emblematic historical references, including gold versions of the A386 in its Chronomaster Revival collection that debuted during the El Primero’s 50th anniversary, a steel re-edition as part of the permanent Zenith collection has long been something that Zenith collectors and chronograph aficionados have been eagerly awaiting. But beyond a modern reinterpretation of this enduring staple among chronographs, Zenith has gone a step further with the Chronomaster Original, which masterfully retains the singular and enduringly relevant design of the A386 while packing the performance of the 21st century version of the El Primero boasting 1/10th of a second precision and time measurement.

Upon a first glance, the Chronomaster Original and the A386 it’s based on appear nearly identical. The 38mm round bezel-less steel case with a raised and domed crystal, the pump-style chronograph pushers, the faceted lugs and the mix of radial brushed and polished surfaces throughout are indistinguishable between the past and present models. The steel bracelet has been reimagined, foregoing the open “ladder” design of the 1960s for solid links that are sumptuously chamfered and decorated in the same fashion as the case.

Undoubtedly, the most visually distinctive design element of the A386 is its dial. Its unique aesthetic language includes the emblematic tri-colour chronograph registers in shades of grey and blue, the trapezoid date window at 04:30 and the red chronograph second hand. All these intrinsic parts have been passed down to the Chronomaster Original, with a few subtle updates to match the boost in performance. The black inner scale surrounding the dial of the A386, once used to calculate time spent working using a 1/100th of an hour time division system, finds a new purpose in the Chronomaster Original, with its 1/10th of a second chronograph hand making a rotation around the dial in 10 seconds, totalling 100 measurable time units. Substituting the tachymeter scale on the outer circumference on the dial, a 1/10th of a second chronograph scale takes its place, allowing for the measurement and reading of elapsed time in precise fractions of a second. And for instantaneous, precise reading of the 10th of a second, the paddle-shaped seconds hand of the original A386 has been replaced with a straight, red-lacquered hand. The logo has also been updated to the more contemporary script Zenith uses today.

The result of 50 years of gradual improvement and a true mastery of the automatic high-frequency chronograph movement, the Chronomaster Original is equipped with the latest version of the El Primero calibre, dubbed the El Primero 3600. With its high frequency of 5 Hz (36’000 VpH), the movement is able to precisely offer a true 1/10th of second indication. Its autonomy has also been rendered more efficient, with an extended power reserve of 60 hours.

The El Primero 3600 used in the new Chronomaster Original, was first seen on the Chronomaster Sport as shown.

Visible through the sapphire display back, the new architecture features a sleeker and more open design, revealing a blue column wheel and open rotor marked with the five-pointed star Zenith.
Apart from the signature steel with tri-colour dial configuration, the Chronomaster Original is available in two other versions: A steel case with a “reverse panda” black dial with silver chronograph registers, and an 18k rose gold version with the tri-colour dial.

They say true icons never fade away. The Chronomaster Original not only upholds the legacy of the A386, one of the most important chronograph wristwatches ever made, but sets a new standard of exemplary performance through the Zenith Manufacture’s everlasting pursuit of precision. The collection is available now at Zenith Boutiques, e-commerce and authorized retailers around the world.


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