September 14, 2021
by David Bredan
Chances are, if you love chronographs, you love Zenith‘s 1/10th-second Striking 10th complication. And if you love Zenith, then you probably love the vintage A386-inspired Chronomaster Original. Well, those two great Zenith institutions have come together in the Zenith Chronomaster Original E-Commerce Edition Striking 10th, exclusively available on the Zenith online boutique, equipped with the fresh El Primero 3600 calibre.
Although every essential component of this magic recipe has been around for a while –the Zenith El Primero 3600 calibre’s origins and fresh architecture our Bilal Khan covered here, the Striking 10th we debuted some 10 years ago, and the A386 Revival has been with us in steel for over a year — they sure go together beautifully in this latest rendition.
Sold with a coffee table book-like box that neatly conveys the three colored subdials and the way the flange ring around the edge of the dial track the blue, dark gray, light gray colors of said subdials, the Zenith Chronomaster Original E-Commerce Edition Striking 10th belongs not inside its box but on the wrist. At just 38mm-wide, it’s rather more compact in its diameter than most all other luxury chronograph wristwatches on sale today – but it has to be said that with its super-thin bezel and long, stubby lugs that poke out and away from the plane of the wrist, it wears larger than that figure would suggest.
The white lacquered dial also adds to the grandiose aesthetic, while the three overlapping subdials add a touch of vintage El Primero flair, driven home by the massive red chronograph seconds hand in the center. Speaking of which, this being a Striking 10th – certainly one of the cooler sounding complications in the sub-$50k segment – this seconds hand puts on a real show as it races around the dial — not in under 60 seconds, but in under 10 seconds. That said, this is not where the name comes from. No, the namesake feature is the fact that, due to the 36,000 VpH (5 Hertz) operating frequency of the El Primero, this feature allows for a rather legible display of 1/10th of a second increments. The flange ring around the periphery of the dial marks the full and the half-seconds, while the inner blue-gray-light-gray ring helps one more accurately read the tenths. Sure, human reaction times and other nonsense still apply — but there is a fair bit of joy that comes from the actually legible realization of this mighty impressive, all-mechanical feature.
The Zenith El Primero 3600 Automatic calibre looks rather more chunky, both from afar and in its details, than the old 400 series. The winding rotor and the arms and plates underneath it all look beefed up and they do so in a good, reassuring way — although it has to be said that the previous-generation El Primero has beautifully conveyed just how cutting-edge the original movement was for its time (the 1960s). Power reserve has been extended to 60 hours, which is impressive for a 5Hz movement; there is still a date neatly integrated at 4:30, and there is, of course, a column wheel and a horizontal clutch. The action was reassuring and clicky and solid, although I do plan on getting one of these in for a proper review to see how well it fares during extended use.
On the wrist, the Zenith Chronomaster Original E-Commerce Edition Striking 10th exemplifies most all of the reasons many of us have been looking forward to the turning of the large watch trend for many, many years now. Smaller watches tend to get looks right in their own way, with the overall proportions just working better across the various design elements. And that’s all the more true for chronographs — ab ovo cool watches that have often been ruined by bloated cases and subdials that, due to movement construction constraints, had to stay close together in the center of the dial… all in a 44+mm case. This isn’t to say that larger chronographs shouldn’t exist – they totally should. But the El Primero arguably looks its best in this original 38mm-ish size.
Presented in stainless steel, with 5ATM (50-meter equivalent) water resistance, matched to a grey calfskin leather strap with color-coordinated stitching and a steel triple folding clasp and a sapphire crystal caseback, price for the Zenith Chronomaster Original E-Commerce Edition Striking 10th is $8,400, exclusively available at the Zenith online boutique.