Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

If you want a modern Zenith El Primero watch that combines the heritage of the famed "hi beat" mechanical chronograph and modern materials in a classic looking package then these new for 2017 El Primero watches will be right up your alley. Black and white "panda dial" watches are enduringly beloved by us watch nerds, especially when brands don't ruin them with too much extra color. What are these pretty looking new Zenith watches called? Unfortunately the names are rather derivative being the "Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH." Because, you know, that narrows them down to every single El Primero watch ever made. Or you can refer to them by their "watch latin" reference names of 24.2041.400/21.R576 and 24.2041.400/01.R576.

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

At 42mm wide the cases of the El Primero 36,000 VPH watches pictured here are ideally-sized, in my opinion. The cases are remarkably light being aluminum, but are  coated in ceramic. Zenith calls them "ceramicised aluminum," which is important because aluminum scratches easily and ceramic coatings do not. Don't worry, you aren't the first one to read that term and at a glance think we are talking about circumcised metal cases.

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

The matte black color is sporty and the 42mm case is just 12.75mm thick with 100 meters of water resistance in traditional El Primero style. Note the "box style" sapphire crystal which gives the watch a vintage look. I know I am harping on it at this point, but I really wish these watches had a more distinctive name... I'm thinking about just calling these models the El Primero Black & White, and the El Primero White & Black. You can decide which is which.

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

The standard El Primero dial style is marked by a mostly monochromatic color tone with the lightest hint of red in two of the chronograph hands. The timeless, classic look of black & white "panda dials," make sporty chronograph watches like the El Primero 36,000 look their best. It also has the versatility to be suitable with a lot of attire options. That's really the beauty of black and white... that it goes with pretty much everything. More so, rather than three distinct high-contrast subdials, you have three overlapping subdials which makes it look like you have an uplifting homage to Mickey Mouse on your wrist at all times. Zenith, the most El Primero place on earth!

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Inside the Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH is the in-house made Zenith caliber 400B automatic column-wheel movement. You can see the movement through the rear of the case's sapphire crystal exhibition window. The movement operates at 5Hz (36,000 bph), which Zenith prefers to say is 36,000 vibrations per hour ("vph"). The date window is located 6 o'clock - and is among the more attractive date window on dial integrations on a sport watch you'll find out there.

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Attached to the matte black ceramicised aluminum case is a perforated black rubber strap. While it is comfortable on the wrist, I am not a big fan of how it looks. There are seemingly many interesting replacements that could work well on a watch like this. I'm thinking a shiny alligator strap with silver (to match the dial's light colors) stitching. Note that strap runs pretty large as well, so if you like this watch and have wrists my size, you'll need to get a shorter strap, anyway.

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH Black & White Watches For 2017 Hands-On

My personal favorite of the two is the Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH with the black dial and silvery white subdials that is the reference 24.2041.400/01.R576. Though that and the silver white with black subdial reference 24.2041.400/21.R576 is cool, as well. Price for each is $8,600. zenith-watches.com

What do you think?
  • Thumbs up (6)
  • I want it! (4)
  • Classy (2)
  • Interesting (1)
  • I love it! (0)
  • I like this watch a lot (looks great) but honestly seems like a copy of the Speedmaster. I’d really like to see some of these companies do something bold and new and not just a repeat of what has already been done over and over. But with that being said, it’s a good looking watch.

    • Beefalope

      Huh?

      This watch looks absolutely nothing like the Speedmaster. Just because of the black/white mix? Everyone does that.

    • Guadzilla

      I assume you think the Navitimer panda and the AP panda also look like copies of the Speedmaster?

  • George Yang

    This looks nice.

  • BiLL

    The minutes subdial is the most important and should not be overlapped. It should be the one doing the overlapping.

    • Berndt Norten

      When Amanda Beard does the overlapping… that’s when you’ve reached the zenith

      • BiLL

        I never understood why people went nuts over her, to be honest.

        • Berndt Norten

          It’s the eyes. The eyes have it.

          • BiLL

            OK, I can see that.

  • Gerald Menta

    Why do the chrono registers need to overlap? They could make them a little smaller, with shorter hands, to avoid this. And to allow elapsed minutes to be read in detail. As it is, this is a chrono “just for looks” – you can’t read elapsed time with precision. Pity.

    • Beefalope

      Most chronos are just for looks. They’re not tool watches anymore. This is part of Zenith’s own design language.

      • Gerald Menta

        Too bad for Zenith. Great reason to prefer a Speedmaster or Daytona or any properly functioning chrono 🙂

        • Kurt Klimisch

          I have both a Speedmaster and a Zenith and both work great. The Zenith works just fine. It just takes a couple of times using it and your good – I have never had a problem. Plus it is a much prettier, better finished watch than the Speedmaster.

      • chesirecat77

        You could say the same for watches then. They’re not needed and for convenience cheapo quartz from Aldi tells the time too.
        So let’s put this argument aside.

        What is painful for me is some enineer devised a great CHRONOGRAPH movement once, busy hands and machines make parts and asseble them, finish them etc. And then a design decision comes and from an office and degrades the above mentioned effort.

    • vitalsigns

      Agree. Overlapping subdials = on my never-buy list.

  • Cosmetic opinions are in the eye of the beholder I guess.

  • TrevorXM

    Okay, timing this thing here…stop…now let’s see how long was that? Was that 16 minutes? 17 minutes? 18 minutes? I can’t tell. This is frustrating and doesn’t have to be this way.

    Okay, I’m going to set my $8600 watch with the internet atomic clock…okay, pulling out the crown…this thing won’t hack! It’s like half a minute off with the correct time and I can’t fix it. This is frustrating and I don’t have to settle for this in other watches.

    There. I did two easy thought experiments. My desire for this otherwise very nice watch is gone. $8600 of imaginary money saved.

    • egznyc

      Hmm … maybe that’s how they managed to keep the thickness down to a reasonable 12.75mm.

    • chesirecat77

      With little effort you can set the seconds with turning the hands back. That is the characteristic of the movement and I can live with that and don’t see it as a problem – same as with the Speedmaster.

      While the layout design of the counters is a problem in my opinion that need not have happened, and the originals didn’t have the same problem because designers back then knew what they were doing. They did things – solved problems – with well founded reasons. Now it seems design decisions are made by some empty fancy.

      • Windawsinnit

        Turning the hands back to stop the beat is one of the best ways to f the movement up. From experience.

  • egznyc

    Nice looking until you realize how annoying those overlapping subdials are, and other than the applied indices there seems to be no depth to the dials. The only thing that makes this cool is the 5Hz thing, but then again (Grand) Seiko – among others – does that too.

  • commentator bob

    I love the overlapping registers when the El Primero uses the original three-color layout, but when the registers are all the same color it makes sense to keep them separate, as has been done.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7cf748ea339c6dbf0103b84d2cc785232b5c6fe9a316f7d6a8f443af57001c84.jpg

  • HectorAsuipe

    Rubber strap?
    Otherwise, a nice iteration of the EP.

  • SuperStrapper

    Love it. Both of them. The overlapping subdials are classic to EP watches, and while not for everyone I enjoy it myself. The readout is compromised, but not defeated. I can still tell what mark it’s hiring, just have to look at it harder.

    • chesirecat77

      Overlapping compromise for greater legibility can be done the right way or the wrong way. See the vintage originals for the right way.

      • SuperStrapper

        Why, when I can at this modern ‘right way’?

        • chesirecat77

          You are certainly free to like the modern versions. Tastes are intimate. But the modern way is wrong (if we pretend that watches are not just fashion pieces – but if they are than we don’t need elprimeros etc. Quartz and glued on hands on counters would suffice to give us an image of a bygone era).

          • SuperStrapper

            Wrong in your opinion. Dont pretend to be an authority.

          • chesirecat77

            No, I follow a logic and I am a designer, so I know how things should run in the design process. If someone would provide me with an alternative logic I could at least debate with if not agree to than OK we could at least agree to disagree. As it is I can say the design is wrong but everyone is free to like it as much as they want to. I mean I love my car even though there are design and engineering crimes in it.

            But all of the reasoning with these Zeniths goes as:

            A) we today either don’t need a chronograph and that it is just for looks (the effort that went into and still goes in that movement is thus wasted),

            or

            B) that with some personal effort (lol – because good design strives to make you work harder to use something) you can make out the minutes just fine.

          • SuperStrapper

            A designer????

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7f1cda8ab27cdbf5b12b7ec3288d7b23f0029f85644c506160e05d31535afcbb.jpg

            You should contact Zenith. They obviously have no idea what they’re doing and are in desperate need of your expertise.

          • chesirecat77

            I don’t think I “pulled rank”. I think I tried to explain with reason why I think as I do. I have not gotten a good argument in return, just rationalising why something is OK

            Meanwhile I seem to not be too wrong:
            http://www.zenith-watches.com/en_en/chronomaster-el-primero-38-00-1.html

            Zenith made changes to their 38mm and 42mm models. And others seem to be corrected in their new iterations too.

          • SuperStrapper

            You’ve given your subjective opinion and internet expert credentials and have decided it’s an impenetrable argument. Get the fuck over yourself, today please.

            “Hrrr drrr Zenif change da dezin bekuz I’m rite n nao dey no how bad dey messed up”

            Check this out: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/82f52fc58db3e82e803eada74d512230585a9898cd8676c1d70539edcb09e9a7.jpg

            And

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9ae223ba27794a089e969447103be266ce782e83b5e7adf6bff5f4a580cb131e.jpg

            Now I know you’re thinking to yourself “superstrapper, why would you post the same watch twice? Do you really think you can trick me?” But I promise that those are 2 DIFFERENT el primero references. Look close and youll see one has overlapping sundial and one doesn’t. So it may be hard to fathom, but Zenith has in fact updated the look of the el primero previously. I’m no expert, but I think more than once.

          • chesirecat77

            I don’t understand what you want to tell me.
            I don’ like any of the watches you link to but yes, as far as the chrono counters go both designs follow the function of a chronograph better than those that overlap in such a way the markers can’t be printed.

          • SuperStrapper

            ? I dont want you to tell me anything. You inexplicably popped up like a mushroom on a comment from half a year ago to tell me, in a smarmy and roundabout way, that I was wrong for liking the watch. 2 hours later here we are.

          • chesirecat77

            OK sorry.

          • chesirecat77

            “You’ve given your subjective opinion and internet expert credentials and have decided it’s an impenetrable argument. Get the fuck over yourself, today please.”

            Did I? I said I’m open to arguments and I have summed up the only arguments that I have seen so far and gave my comment to them.

            “Hrrr drrr Zenif change da dezin bekuz I’m rite n nao dey no how bad dey messed up”

            Well since the ONLY thing Zenith changed in this particular model is the size of the counters and the way they overlap – I think I’m not too far off to speculate they have realised (after what – 2 or 3 years since the model release) this is something to correct in this otherwise very very nice watch.

          • SuperStrapper

            And I think theu simply made a design update, not because they felt the last iteration was a mistake, but because el primero designs have been under constant evolution as long as they’ve been made.

            I can do this all night if you really want.

          • chesirecat77

            Meanwhile Zenith seems to agree with me. They have changed designs for the 36000 vph watches: http://www.zenith-watches.com/en_en/collections/#el-primero

            Look at the photos for 2017 models of the 36 000 VpH lines – 38 and 42mm. The 1969 white dial in preview is new, but when you click on it it is still the old version, but other 36000 vph models are updated and corrected.

            Someone at Zenith must have realised the major f**kup (it was obvious though) and they invested money into correcting it.

          • SuperStrapper

            I literally laughed out loud at this.

          • chesirecat77

            Very concisely articulated but would you nevertheless care to elaborate?

          • SuperStrapper

            I believe you are this pompous and full of yourself in real life, and I find it hilarious. Further elaboration required?

        • chesirecat77

          Look – overlapping counters in originals in 69 was not a empty fancy of some ‘idiot designer’. In the originals they wanted to make the counters as big as possible for added readability (!!). The counters thus overlapped the chrono hour counter, but the markers on it were still visible. It was a compromise but not a pai9nful one and it was done with thought. So the reason for overlapping counters was GREATER LIGIBILITY of the chronograph! Also the hands were made without a counterweight so the back bit couldn’t cover counters. Kudos, people think when they do their work.

          Fast forward to ’00s and we have someone making a design decision for a reissue without even trying to “get” the original. They mimicked it and made a mistake from a ‘good design practice’perspective for whatever reason – maybe someone thought it would just “look better” if the lower counter was above and didn’t think what this does for practicality, because – again – they didn’t bother to “get” the original. Also hands in the bad modern versions have a bit past the centrtal mounting point which also in certain positions covers the chrono counters. Another point where the designers from the ’60s got it, and contemporary did not.

          It is all the more painful because we have a good design from the past and a modern recreation that disregards it, shows little understanding of good chronograph design.

  • IVA the LT

    I actually like the overlapping sub dials on most Primero models, but the one quirk that always keeps me from buying one is the lack of hacking seconds. I had a cheap Bulova that didn’t hack and it was utterly annoying.

    But I guess I’m in the minority as it’s been like that for decades lol.

    • Kurt Klimisch

      I guess no Patek’s for you either.

      • IVA the LT

        Damn…never thought about that lol.

        If/when I’m able to obtain a Patek, I’ll have to make that concession. Maybe I’ll get used to it and finally pull the trigger on that El Primero!

        • Kurt Klimisch

          I have a 2 watch rotation, hopefully soon to be 3 watches. I wear a watch for 3-4 days at a time. By the time I rotate my other watch it has run out. With the Zenith, I just start winding it about 5 seconds before seconds hand matches up to correct time – works great. Kind of pseudo-hacking if you will.

  • Flávio Maia

    The cronograph is useless with the hour counter ovelaping the minutes.

    • Kurt Klimisch

      I have a Zenith Striking 10th. It’s really no problem to tell the minutes. Once you see it a couple of times.

      • Flávio Maia

        I have the 1969 and can’t use it as a chronograph. But I still like it

      • chesirecat77

        But it doesn’t make it ‘good design’. Good design does not pull a gimmick while making the functionality worse. verlapping counters in this modern versions is just an empty gimmick. In the original from 1969 counters overlapped because designers wanted to make them bigger and easyer to read – they overlapped the less important hour counter (the markers were still visible though) and that was a design compromise that worked.
        Why are the minute markers on 30-minute counter completely obfuscated here? I mean what line of thought in the design bureau produced this decision?!
        Also if you “don’t need to see the second markers” on the running seconds counter that the hour counter covers – why bother printing the other second markers at all? Do the quarter minute markers. Yeas, I know – you get the unbalanced problem … Yes, well, back to the drawing board and rethink.

        But, luckily, if you see some of the newer models on the Zenith page someone from the brand acknowledged the problem. All the newer models of the 36000vph have corrected counters. Glad there are sensible people in charge there. I just hope someone from TAG Heuer sees the problem with Autavia. Shame to be reduces to a mere fashion piece.

  • DanW94

    I like the panda dials. I’m just glad to see it’s not another open heart iteration. Those don’t it for me.

  • Ron-W

    Autavia 2017, Speedmaster Tuesday, AP Royal Oak, and now Zenith. Is Panda the new Black ? Everyone following last years Rolex crusher Daytona ceramic bezel panda. I like them all but the Autavia is the best buy imho, automatic, readable, good size and historic.

    • chesirecat77

      Yes, but Autavia has a nonsensical 30 minute scala with first marker on the 2,5 minute spot.

  • ZBT71

    “…rather than three distinct high-contrast subdials, you have three overlapping subdials.”

    Why? It is an instrument to tell time and elapsed time, make it easy tell both or don’t make it.

  • Kurt Klimisch

    I love the overlapping subdials. The minutes subregister jumps from minute to minute so “decoding” the minute value is no problem. Once you have used the watch for a day or two it is not an issue. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3141e01c015da7eae532a1a1a1dd5f745514eea05fe47bed93e94b98599ff30b.jpg