Ever since I first saw the Zenith Chronomaster Sport in 2021 with its, let’s be honest, unashamed similarities to the steel Rolex Daytona 116500, I wanted to get one in for a wrist-time review. Why? To see how it fared as a Zenith chronograph, to learn how it measured up as a steel Rolex Daytona alternative, and to contemplate just how I — and perhaps you — felt about Zenith going down this, ahem, tribute route with its luxury sports chronograph watch. A lot to unpack, so let’s dive right in.

Let me know in the comments below what you think about what I’m about to say. I think Zenith is among a handful of luxury watchmakers with as good a reputation as it gets. Zenith isn’t trendy to hate — as is its sister brand, Hublot — and it isn’t miles high up its own rear alley like, say, Audemars Piguet has been in recent years. It hasn’t lost focus on developing proper-new watches like Jaeger-LeCoultre, and it hasn’t upset millions of people around the world with endless waiting lists as has Rolex. Of the major, historically important, fully developed, proper brands, Zenith has been easy to like since its infamous Nataf-era ended (look that up at your own risk). It is an established manufacture with a rich history, diverse presence, and 50 strong reasons to love its El Primero — I liked this video (below) back in the day and find it impressive to date.

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That said, you can imagine my surprise — and have perhaps shared it — when this brand, full of originality, debuted the Chronomaster Sport with a ceramic bezel, steel case, 100m water resistance, three-piece link bracelet, and an all too familiar-looking clasp with the clear intention to cater as a feasible alternative to those in dire need of a shot of Daytona goodness. I won’t tell you what to think of these similarities — no one should — but I can tell what I think of them now, that the watch has been with me for some time, next to a steel Rolex Daytona “Panda.” Ahh, the Rolex Daytona “Panda.” Never before bred in captivity… until now, apparently.

Accidental resemblances can occur, and it is also true that we humans are programmed on a cellular level to seek patterns and similarities and thus sometimes fantasize about seeing them in places in which they are not. But the Chronomaster Sport, once in hand, looks and feels as close to a Daytona, as any major, historic watchmaker could ever afford to get without immediately being reduced to the status of an homage producer. I, for one, don’t think that any one brand should exclusively own any one design, especially not for half a century or more, and the Daytona has been around since 1963. I like to have different takes and approaches to the same recipe, and it is on us, the customers, to decide whether something is too close for comfort, or is exactly what we have been waiting for.

Case in point, isn’t it strange how since the Daytona’s popularity sky-rocketed, and its waiting list extended into oblivion, major brands such as Longines (L3.835.4.72.6), TAG Heuer (Carrera 160 Years), Grand Seiko (Tentagraph), Seiko (SSC813), and others have all suddenly realized that they, too, should make a sports chronograph with a marked ceramic bezel, three-piece link bracelet? Even Cartier joined the pack with what Ariel and I jokingly called the Daytona de Cartier the first time we saw it despite its metal bezel and strong Pasha DNA. All this is to say that Zenith isn’t alone in its desire to lure folks away from the Daytona waitlist, and it makes perfect commercial sense to do so. If people are buying SUVs, even the most stubborn companies, the likes of Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, and Lamborghini will start mixing up their own take on the best-selling recipe. I keep calling it a “recipe” because the ingredients are largely the same, and the extent to which respective brands adhere to it is what varies. And, as it is with food, the original is not always the best, or most popular.

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Why The Zenith Chronomaster Sport Is A Great Rolex Daytona Alternative

First and foremost: It is, arguably, a lot like the Daytona. So, if all you ever wanted was to enjoy what some find to be the perfect presentation of a sports chronograph, but couldn’t stomach paying double retail (and then some) or fighting for the privilege of “being offered” (to buy!) one at retail, the Zenith Chronomaster Sport will propel you right to the edge of the Daytona universe. The Daytona recipe works and the Chronomaster Sport has managed to appropriate almost all of its strong points.

At a claimed 41mm wide, the Zenith is slightly but noticeably wider. Likewise, at 13.8mm thick, it feels a bit thicker than the Daytona, although you do get a date display, a chunkier and much more elaborate self-winding rotor, and a spectacular movement architecture to make up for the slightly inferior grace and comfort compared to the Daytona’s thinner case. Note that the Daytona pictured here has an aftermarket see-through caseback that is a bit thicker than the factory-fitted steel back. Although the watch head is heavier and wobblier on the Zenith, the weight and balance of the Chronomaster fall close to its benchmark, which is good news, as the Daytona is as comfortable and as balanced on the wrist (over long-term wear) as steel bracelet-equipped chronograph watches get these days.

Importantly, the Chronomaster Sport has a much more exciting movement than the Daytona. The El Primero 3600 is one of those rare movements that obliterates its competition in some important aspects. The caseback reveals a movement so elaborate it looks almost like an openworked caliber and less so a regular chronograph. The chronograph mechanism’s layer is built onto the base movement on the caseback’s side (yes, it is an integrated movement, but still, that is where all the wheels, arms, and heart cams are on display). Aesthetically, the El Primero 3600 is so complex and neat that the 4130 next to it will make you feel you got short-changed big time by Rolex.

“…which, if you ask me, is utter nonsense and is a questionably legal, and unquestionably anti-consumer act.”

Once we look past appearances, it must be said that the Rolex 4130 is a brilliant piece of watchmaking for its compactness, solidity, reliability, accuracy, extensive power reserve, and virtually silent operation (even with a see-through caseback). Sadly, Rolex hides one of its finest achievements behind a solid steel caseback (a see-through back debuted on and is reserved exclusively for the exorbitantly priced platinum variant of the recently updated Daytona), while Zenith shows its El Primero 3600 movement off with a sapphire crystal caseback straight from the factory. You do see an aftermarket see-through caseback installed on the Daytona featured in this article… Nothing short of a heinous act in the eyes of Rolex, for which the company flat-out voids the warranty and maintains the right to refuse servicing the watch — which, if you ask me, is utter nonsense and is a questionably legal, and unquestionably anti-consumer act.

On the dial side, the Zenith Chronomaster Sport’s movement continues to impress and all it takes is a closer look at the graduation of the ceramic bezel to figure out why. As blatantly copied as the overall impression and monoblock ceramic bezel are, the latter features not a “UNITS PER HOUR” tachymetric scale but one that reads “1/10th OF A SECOND” with a 0-10 scale and 1/10th markers in between. This hints at the remarkable functionality made possible by the increased operated frequency of the El Primero — 25% higher than the 28,800 semi-oscillation count in the Daytona. The 5Hz frequency of the El Primero allows for a tenth-of-a-second timing accuracy, which it has technically had since 1969 but has only made it properly legible and usable much later than that with the first Zenith Striking Tenth in 2010.

The Chronomaster Sport relies on the same trick as the Striking Tenth watch of 2010: By using an accelerated central chronograph seconds hand that tracks the dial under not 60 but just 10 seconds. This has naturally enlarged the scale on which its indications can be read, making this accurate timing measurement easier to use. Since one cannot be expected to track the number of rounds this fast hand makes, the 3 o’clock subdial is used as a 60-second totalizer, while the one at 6 o’clock is a 60-minute counter. This means that the Chronomaster Sport is a 1-hour chronograph, ditching the 12-hour totalizer of more regular El Primero watches and the Daytona. This, frankly, is a small price to pay unless you were timing multi-hour trips with to-the-second accuracy regularly. In return, you get to enjoy this long and thin central hand (with a Zenith star counterweight) rush over the beautifully made dial in a fashion you won’t see from anybody else but Zenith. It’s a stunning sight that also implies the mechanical bonanza within.

The screw-down pushers, a much-debated feature on the Daytona (potentially by those who have not lived with it to know that they take exactly one second to unscrew with ease) have not been carried over to the Chronomaster Sport. Likewise, the crown guards and screw-down crown are also missing. Still present however is a 100-meter water resistance rating, which is a welcome feature, even if a watch without screw-down pushers and crown is not something everyone feels comfortable wearing in the water. I, for one, appreciate the go-anywhere nature of the Daytona, but I can also see why the pushers, at least aesthetically, are compromised in the eyes of some when compared to the more classically styled pump pushers of the Zenith. The crown of the latter is a bit more slippery and challenging to operate, but it’s domed design looks more refined and less industrial compared to the one on the Rolex, which does look a bit rough and ungainly.

Last on the long list of things why the Zenith Chronomaster Sport watch is a great Rolex Daytona alternative, the dial on the Chronomaster Sport is beautifully designed and executed. This effect is enhanced by a properly anti-reflective-coated sapphire crystal. Upon close (very close) inspection, the sapphire crystal of the Zenith is ever-so-slightly domed, which neatly complements the curved case profile and downturned lug design, while the front of the Daytona is perfectly flat. Both are raised slightly but noticeably above the uppermost edge of their virtually scratchproof ceramic bezels. The vintage-inspired overlapping subdials of the Chronomaster Sport are a developed taste, as are the “hollow” ones of the Daytona. Funnily enough, the Chronomaster Sport is large enough not to necessitate this overlap, but it is this element, as well as their historic tri-color execution, that adds the face of the watch a welcome differentiation from the Daytona. The crispness of the white lacquer, the size, reflectivity, and evenness of the applied hour markers, and the depth of the dial, subdial, and date aperture, all scream quality on the Chronomaster Sport. Sadly, the same cannot be said about every other element of this venerable alternative.

Where The Zenith Chronomaster Sport Falls Short

Long story short, it is the bracelet and especially the clasp, where the Zenith Chronomaster Sport underdelivers. It does so not just in comparison to the Rolex Oysterlock, but also in contrast to what one would reasonably expect from a watch at this price point. Clearly, you do get a very expensive and unique movement, a crisp dial, and a nice case for your money, and these are all enough to save the bracelet and the clasp from being total dealbreakers — but they sure do their best to be just that.

The clasp is so bad, that I think Zenith should offer an upgraded version free of charge to owners of the Chronomaster Sport when the watch is submitted for its first regular service. It is a piece of admittedly thick, stamped metal, that operates with a nail-ripping action after the small security clasp has been first undone (which, by contrast, has far too much free play to begin with). The inner lock of the Rolex Oysterlock clasp swivels, meaning that you are lifting a small metallic lip that has a welded beak holding onto a curved prong that is fixed to the first blade of the folding clasp. Basically, you are lifting a swiveling part on the Rolex, as opposed to tearing a friction-fit part using the end of your fingernail on the Zenith. I’m not too fussy about these things, generally, but the clasp on the Chronomaster Sport is Seiko 5-level bad, including its squeaky noises and rattle.

To add insult to literal injury, the design of the clasp has been lifted like for like from the Rolex Daytona’s Oysterlock clasp, with two brushed strips flanking a raised and polished center section. Even the smaller locking piece that you lift first has the exact same indentations and shapes. Despite similar appearances, though, the Chronomaster Sport’s clasp lacks a tool-free adjustment system, which is odd, given that the Easylink comfort extension system has been featured on numerous non-Rolex watches (the first that springs to mind is this Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Navy SEALs I owned and reviewed many years ago). In other words, the Zenith clasp has imported the looks, but not the quality or utility of its muse.

I asked the Zenith team at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2024 about the clasp and its issues and they said that they are actively working on a design. The issue, according to them, is largely related to the patents that cover more complex folding clasp mechanisms that they need to engineer their way around. The bracelet is a notably better attempt, with thicker, beefier, squared-off links. These create a somewhat more unique style compared to the Oyster bracelet, even though its style stays decidedly close to what we find on the Rolex Daytona — and thousands of other watches, of course. Zenith impresses with polished bevels running along the outer edges of the links, while the Daytona’s Oyster bracelet operates with right angles that have been filed off with an extremely thin, polished veneer to take away the edge of freshly machined steel. It’s the least Rolex could do, really.

Sadly, for some reason the Zenith bracelet has twin screws and a tube holding the individual links, making bracelet resizing a virtually impossible exercise at home — worse still, the factory-fresh tubes and screws have been held together by some sort of glue so stubborn it took a trained watchmaker and a heat gun some half an hour to remove just four links to size the bracelet. Whatever happened to the short-lived trend of brands developing quick-release spring bars and not only those but links that could be removed without tools? We are comfortably beyond the $10,000 barrier and watchmakers — all of them — should be making the ownership and wearing experience for all these luxury products as comfortable, impressive, and amazing, as is humanly possible. And then some.


Had the Rolex Daytona Panda not existed, the Zenith Chronomaster Sport would simply be a very handsome watch with impressive functionality and wearability — with the aforementioned caveats. But the Daytona look is etched deep into the public consciousness, and the deliberate similarities are rather clear. The question is what one makes of them. Zenith, as we said in the intro, is a remarkably likable brand for a variety of solid reasons, and it has a large selection of impressive watches that are very much their own thing. One could even say that it is understandable that the brand joined many other venerable watchmakers in their effort to offer a Daytona alternative. That said, in some details, it might have drifted a bit too close to its inspiration — not just with the overall impression, but especially the bracelet and clasp — and the more alike two things are the easier they are to compare. Have no doubt, the Rolex Daytona is far from perfect — read our detailed review of it here.

As such, from these two comparable chronograph watches, the Chronomaster Sport offers an arguably superior movement at an unquestionably more competitive price. Whether it is a clever package assembled to cater to eager customers or a historic brand’s brief lack of judgment is your call to make. The Zenith Chronomaster Sport is priced at $11,000 USD, and it is reference 03.3100.3600/69.M3100 as reviewed here. Pictured here is the now discontinued Daytona 116500LN — its successor, the Rolex Daytona 126500LN is priced at $15,100 but is valued at around twice that on the grey market where you can actually get one and that should impact how good a value the Chronomaster Sport is in comparison. You can learn more at the brand’s website.

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