January 6, 2021
While the popularity of vintage sports watch reissues shows no signs of waning in 2021, not all reissue designs are created equal. Many reissues are more reimaginings than true revivals of vintage pieces, updating design elements and changing proportions to suit more modern sensibilities. Zenith, however, has taken the opposite route in creating its newest release. Made with the same blueprints and production plans as the 1969 original, this revival of the classic El Primero A385 is more or less exactly the same timepiece that could have been found in a Zenith boutique over 50 years ago. Originally slated for a 2020 release, the new Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 is a stunningly faithful rebirth for one of Zenith’s most charismatic ‘60s references.
One of the first impressions many wearers will have with the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 is its size. At 37mm in diameter, the stainless steel tonneau case is an exact match for the 1969 original, with no concessions to modern sizing trends. This is a case that will likely wear old-school compact on the wrist, but the angular shape and mix of brushed and polished surfaces should give the case its own brand of visual presence. The overall shape is brutally simple at first, with a flat profile and sharply angled wide lugs, but further inspection brings charisma and charm through Zenith’s attention to detail. The chamfered edges, narrow rounded bezel, and radial brushed top surface all combine to create a deceptively intricate whole. The only changes from the 1969 original here are the domed sapphire crystal and display caseback. For better or worse, the water resistance is also a ‘60s throwback as well, with a depth rating of only 50 meters.
The dial of the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 makes a few more minor changes to the original 1969 formula than the case, made more in service of capturing the feel of vintage rather than direct recreation. The dial surface itself is a faithful interpretation of the original A385’s standout feature. The first El Primero A385 had the distinction of being the first fumé dial watch back in 1969, and that smoky brown gradient is rendered here in a grainy procession that seems to capture every color of coffee from café latte at the center to straight dark roast at the edge of the dial. The simple white of the subdials cuts through the warmth of these tones with cleanly neutral contrast, while the distinctive red central chronograph seconds hand injects the mix with a touch of more vibrant color. While the date window at 4:30 may be an element of contention for some enthusiasts, this too is carried over from the original, even including the distinctive notched segment of the tachymeter track to accommodate the cutout. Where the new El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 diverges from the original is in its use of lume. Rather than the clean white lume of the original, the new model fills its striped baton hands and beveled rectangular indices with faux-patina beige Super-LumiNova. While this looks in initial images to complement the brown tones of the dial, this is likely to be a divisive choice among purists.
Like its forebear, the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 uses a version of the brand’s seminal in-house El Primero automatic chronograph movement. The El Primero 400 used here is the modern descendant of the 1969 original, boasting a 50-hour power reserve in addition to the signature 36,000 bph beat rate and column-wheel chronograph actuation.
Zenith finishes the El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 with a pair of strap options. The first is a camel brown calf leather strap that looks in initial images to echo the warm tones of the dial. This strap also features a rubber inner lining for added protection and durability. For those that prefer a bracelet, Zenith continues its dedication to accuracy with a modern revival of the original Gay Frères ladder bracelet that has become intrinsically tied to the El Primero line over the decades. This unique take on the three-link bracelet is immediately recognizable and looks in initial images to add an extra layer of character to an already charismatic design.
By keeping nearly everything about the 1969 original intact, the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 manages to set itself apart as a truly classic design in a sea of vintage-inspired chronograph releases. While the watch is available now with the leather strap through Zenith boutiques, authorized dealers, and online, the ladder bracelet will be available in February 2021. MSRP for the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Revival A385 starts at $7,700. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.