Hands-on photography by Jacob Witkin

It’s widely accepted in enthusiast circles that Zenith is one of the most faithful, thoughtful, and successful brands in the industry when it comes to vintage reissues. Classic Zenith models are reproduced so accurately by the modern brand that in many cases they use the same blueprints as their predecessors, and this fanatical attention to detail has generated a dedicated cult following around the brand’s historic releases. Until now, however, these efforts have been broadly centered around Zenith’s three-hand sports watches and the El Primero chronograph line in particular. For many years, the El Primero nameplate included a broad range of complications beyond just chronographs, with the most desirable of these being the El Primero triple calendars. Zenith returns to the El Primero triple calendar as part of its LVMH Watch Week 2024 novelties, drawing inspiration from an unreleased 1970 triple calendar prototype built on the classic A386 El Primero platform. Like the brand’s other recent vintage-inspired releases, the new Zenith Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar is a captivatingly accurate rendition of classic Zenith concepts, with a suite of luxe complications that add a more refined edge to the ‘70s-sporty El Primero silhouette.

Despite the new complications, the Zenith Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar’s 38mm-wide stainless steel case is nearly identical to the existing A386 El Primero case design. The A386’s athletic tapered lugs, piston pushers, and elegantly narrow polished bezel are all present and accounted for here, along with the sunburst brushed upper case surfaces and narrow tapering chamfers. Where this case differs from its standard chronograph siblings, of course, is its thickness. There’s significantly more visual heft in the Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar’s profile than its stablemates, but Zenith handles this added bulk with a surprisingly effective old-school design solution. Rather than creating taller case sides to handle the added thickness of the triple calendar and moonphase complications, Zenith leaves the polished vertical sides virtualy unchanged, and moves the extra depth to a thick “deep dish” caseback. This may not be the most elegant solution when viewing the watch on its own, but on the wrist the effect is transformative. This deep protrusion below the level of the lugs allows the majority of this new bulk to nestle in between the bones of the wrist. In practice, this allows the watch to carry an on-wrist profile that’s far closer to the standard A386 chronograph than one would expect. Other than this moderate bump in on-wrist height, the case’s only other concessions to its new complications are a pair of inset correctors along the 9 o’clock case side. It’s a difficult thing to make a flush corrector an attractive element, and while these are hidden from most viewing angles on the wrist, they admittedly do disrupt the lines of the case. Like its standard chronograph cousins, the Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar comes equipped with a sapphire display caseback, and manages only a disappointing 50 meters of water resistance.

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Zenith integrates the new elements of the Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar’s dial in impressively subtle ways, keeping the overall three-register chronograph outline intact at a glance. Our hands-on sample came equipped with the classic opaline silver and black “panda” colorway, sporting distinctive contrasting concentric decimal and 1/10-second outer scales. Most of the classic A386 visual hallmarks are retained here, including the controversial 4:30 cutout date window, the black-tipped baton handset, and the beveled applied indices. However, there are several major tweaks to the base design without venturing into the new complications. The most obvious of these are the subdials – rather than the unusual, instantly recognizable overlapping tricolor registers found on many A386 models, Zenith opts for a far more conventional setup here with three classic recessed black azurage subdials. While it may sap some of the unique character from the platform, it’s a handsomely executed and necessary change in order to accommodate the Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar’s unique complications. The day and month displays are nestled right above these subdials at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, respectively, with an impressively thoughtful presentation. Rather than plain rectangular cutouts, both of these elements are framed with stepped windows featuring subtle oval curvature along the shorter sides. This gentle curve helps these displays to seamlessly blend into their largely curvilinear surroundings, while adding an almost architectural touch to the general layout. The most impressive complication, however, is the 6 o’clock moonphase display. Fitted entirely within the chronograph minutes subdial, this classically styled moonphase features a polished moon disk and stars in rose gold to match the dial hardware, set against a rich, almost mottled indigo blue backdrop. When paired with the monochrome color palette of the rest of the watch, this display adds a handsomely understated focal point of color, while also lending the design a more upscale, classical bent.

Zenith uses its in-house El Primero 3610 automatic triple calendar moonphase chronograph movement for the Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar. Like its less complicated stablemates, the El Primero 3610 uses a unique, high-performance take on the chronograph complication, utilizing the El Primero’s famous high frequency to power a central chronograph hand that makes a full circuit every 10 seconds for more precise split-second readings. Beyond this and the new complications, the El Primero 3610 is still a solidly modern performer, with a sizeable 60 hour power reserve at a 36,000 bph beat rate. The movement’s finishing is arguably where it shines brightest, though. With skeleton bridges sporting a mix of arabesque and directionally brushed surfaces, contrasting matte-blasted baseplates, and blued screws (along with a matching blued column wheel) for added color, it’s a visually captivating and complex layout. The star-shaped cutout rotor caps this presentation off attractively, introducing yet more arabesque brushing and polished anglage to the mix. Our hands-on example of the Zenith Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar was paired with the brand’s three-link oyster-style bracelet in stainless steel. It’s a classic versatile look with its mirror-polished center links and squared-off outer links, but given the uniquely Zenith-esque feel of the rest of the design it would be interesting to see this paired with a bracelet that reflects the brand’s own character more.

Few brands in the modern watch industry can match Zenith for accuracy and execution when it comes to vintage reissues, and the brand looks to be holding firm to this reputation at LVMH Watch Week 2024. With classic early ‘70s El Primero charm and a host of beautifully executed complications, the new Zenith Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar offers one of the most luxe, charismatic vintage-inspired Zenith offerings in recent years, adding truly high-end functionality to the platform without abandoning the original model’s spirit. The Zenith Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for this watch as tested stands at 13,900 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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