Zenith really seems to have mastered the ability to surprise with their new models while still respecting their proven formula for distinctive and lust-worthy sport chronographs. While it is a bit of a stretch to call any El Primero "garden variety", the new Zenith El Primero Lightweight LE is certainly not your Dad's El Primero (better?). This new high-tech model offers a number of cutting edge enhancements all made in the name of saving weight. With a movement crafted from silicon and titanium and a case in carbon and aluminum, this is essentially the El Primero Superleggera.
This new El Primero (ref 10.2260.4052W/98.R573) has actually been upsized over the standard El Primero Striking 10th models, from 42 to 45mm. At 45 mm, the Lightweight is certainly a large watch but I doubt this will be much of a hurdle for most buyers as Zenith makes a series of other successful models at this size like the Chronomaster Bullitt, Chronomaster Grande Date, and the 45.5mm Stratos Flyback.
The 13.2mm thick case is made from carbon fiber and carries a matte checkered pattern that looks great and draws a convenient through-line to the sporty and automotive-derived styling of the Lightweight's dial. This is Zenith's first carbon case and the inner structure is crafted from ceramised aluminum, a material used for its combination of strength and lightness. The final weight is a feathery 40g, with nearly half of that heft coming from the reworked El Primero movement.
Wrapped inside the carbon and ceramised aluminum case structure we find the 4052 W El Primero Striking 10th movement, an automatic chronograph movement running at 36,000 vph with a skeleton of titanium and a heart of silicon. Offering a total weight loss of 25% over a standard El Primero movement, the 4052 W weighs just 15.45g and uses a silicon lever, escape wheel, and double chronograph wheel. Additionally, the mainplate and five bridges have been crafted from titanium instead of brass to aid in the shedding of additional weight. The result is a lightweight version of an already excellent chronograph movement that perfectly suits the spirit and goals set forth by the advanced case design.
The dial is semi-skeletonized and offers a view of a portion of the underlying movement while still featuring Zenith's signature three color Striking 10th sub dials. Offering a total measure of sixty minutes, the central seconds display offers 1/10th of a second resolution with full seconds shown on the blue sub dial. There is also a very cool date display at six showing the date via cut-out numerals with a red background. The same red is seen on the dial peripheral and the central 1/10th seconds hand with its Zenith star counterbalance. Great dial design at work here. Lots of detail and eye-catching elements without sacrificing the legibility of the time display or chronograph measure.
The Zenith El Primero Lightweight will be limited to just 100 pieces and will come fitted to a Nomex-lined rubber strap for $22,000 USD. An AP Royal Oak Offshore Chrono in Forged Carbon will cost you in excess of $30K and a Linde Werdelin SpidoLite II Tech costs around $14,000 before VAT, so compared to the competition, Zenith has priced the El Primero Lightweight rather well.
I love the combined look of the sporty matte carbon and detailed multi-faceted dial, not to mention the entirely rad purple silicon double chronograph wheel seen via the display case back. We will not be at all surprised if this limited edition is a real hit and becomes a seriously collectable El Primero. zenith-watches.com