The first Zenith watch that had my heart was the Rainbow Flyback. Yes, it had a "pretty" name, but this killer chrono was made specially for the French Ministry of Defense, and was an amazing watch from the 1990s. By the way, what is it exactly about French military forces that makes them constantly new watches? Those guys are basically one big group of watch lovers.
I've always wanted to see the return of the Rainbow. Zenith played with El Primero chronographs over the years that got close, but nothing really was a true follow-up. With the Stratos we now have an official Rainbow heir. There may be a specific "Rainbow" model on the horizon, but it will be wearing these clothes. So it then brings be great pleasure to present you with the new El Primero Stratos Flyback watch - a winner in my top 11 Basel 2011 watches list.
There are two very similar versions of this watch, and I will cover them separately. There is the El Primero Stratos Flyback, and then there is the El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th. These look very similar, and are in the same case. Though the Striking 10th version takes last's years El Primero Striking 10th watch and puts it in the Stratos case. For now we are going to focus on the Stratos Flyback - which you can easily tell by the red labeled "Stratos" on the dial. The other version instead says "1/10 of a second" in the same place.
I will go ahead and say that if you forced me to choose just one watch to wear in 2011, it might be the Stratos. This watch is sexy as hell, has a timeless look, and is a perfect balance between sport and sophisticated. The detailing is also fantastic, and I love all the textures and clarity. This is the new Zenith at their finest. The watch begins with the in-house made Zenith El Primero caliber 405B automatic movement. It operates at 36,000 bph (5 hertz) with a power reserve of about 50 hours. It has a 12 hour column wheel chronograph with a flyback complication, the time, and the date. The layout is fantastic, and I love the new style of overlapping subdials. The automatic movement is visible through a sapphire display back.
The Stratos case is 45.5mm wide and sits perfectly on the wrist. Polish on the steel case is amazing, and there is also a model coated with Alchron in black. Alchron is a special alloy coating that is very hard and corrosion resistant. Thankfully, even with the black cased version, the contrast polishing on the case is visible - no killed look via all matte surfaces. There is also a two-tone model in Alchron black and pink gold. There are a few straps available, such as leather (that looks like a high-tech fabric - this is a cool one), alligator, and a metal bracelet. Last, there will be a special limited edition model of 500 piece to celebrate Zenith's relationship with Johan Nilson - this will be as one of the Alchron models.
As is common (and expected) in sport watches these days, the bezel insert is ceramic. Note how the rotating bezel slopes inwards a bit. The dial is extremely good looking and legible. Everything is the right size and the hands are easy to see on the dark dial. Hour markers are applied and covered in lume. There is also a polished inner flange ring with the a partial minute scale printed on it - such a tasteful touch. The sapphire crystal is AR coated on both sides for optimal dial clarity. It is a gorgeous thing and I simply do not get tired when looking at the dial. Zenith did a fantastic job with the design.
The Zenith Stratos is going to be on a lot of people's wish list for years to come. This isn't a cheap watch, but the prices seems fair. They are: Stratos Flyback in Steel + alligator is at $6,700, Stratos Flyback in Steel + Metal bracelet is at $7,600, Stratos Flyback in Black Alchron is at $7,200 on alligator (not limited), Stratos Flyback Black Alchron Limited edition Johan Nilson (500 pieces) is $7,800, Stratos Flyback Black Alchron case + Rose gold at $13,800 on alligator, and the Stratos Flyback in mostly Rose Gold case + Black Alchron at $18,400 on alligator. You get an in-house made El Primero movement, a high-quality case, and a beautiful design that will still look good decades from now. Truly one of 2011's top models.