March 9, 2014
by James Lamdin
After the close of SIHH 2014 last month, Team ABTW stayed on in Switzerland to meet with a few other local brands exhibiting their new collections. One of the brands we met with was Zenith, the storied manufacture from Le Locle. Best known for their 1969 El Primero (one of the world’s first automatic chronographs), Zenith has been getting a lot of attention in recent years for their exceptional high-beat chronograph collection as well as their partnership with daredevil high altitude skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who recently set the record for the highest skydive ever performed.
As a manufacture, Zenith does a fantastic job of balancing a fresh modern collection with selection of historically inspired timepieces, for which they have also received accolades. As a die-hard vintage watch fan, I am particularly fond of these lines, and there are a number of beautiful pieces to love from the Captain, Heritage, and Pilot’s collections. Still, it isn’t very often that a modern piece (even one with vintage inspiration) completely takes my breath away– but that is exactly what happened last month when the new El Primero 410 Triple Calendar was presented to me at the Zenith hospitality suite in Geneva.
If you’re starting to experience Dejá Vu at the mention of the 410 name, relax. Yes, we’ve already covered this timepiece– wrote up a great piece on the El Primero 410 back in January 2014 recapping the announcement from Zenith and giving you a look at the first official images. Also, in October of 2013 we discussed another similar limited edition Zenith model to contain the 410 movement here. However, after an hour of wrist time and a month of withdrawals, I felt compelled to circle back and share with you some thoughts about what may have been my favorite new non-SIHH piece from my week in Switzerland, as well as provide you with some exclusive hands-on images. So, without further ado…
The El Primero 410 gets its name from its innards, the Calibre 410 Automatic Chronograph movement, an iconic unit that saw more than thirty years of regular production before being retired at the turn of the century. Noting the increase in popularity of some of their vintage pieces, Zenith brought has back the movement for one final hurrah, in the form of this Limited Edition piece. The Calibre 410 is a column wheel movement that beats at 5hz, has an amplitude of 36,000 VpH, and provides power to the triple calendar and chronograph functions.
Housed in a 42mm steel case, the 410 is sized 4mm larger than the original that provided its inspiration- a prototype Triple Calendar that sold for 37,500CHF at Christies in May of 2012. One of an estimated 25 produced, an unknown number of the original prototypes still exist, and Zenith felt strongly enough about its importance that they themselves submitted the winning bid. There is little doubt that careful examination of this original timepiece provided them with the details they needed to pull together this stunning homage.
From the dial standpoint, the new piece is a bit of a departure from the original, which featured a two-tone white/gray color scheme. In its place is a stunning silver sunburst patterned dial that brilliantly plays off the blue hues in the moonphase display, chronograph seconds hand, and the anti-reflective coating of the domed sapphire crystal. The placement of the subsidiary registers and calendar functions mimics the original, with a sweeping Subsidiary seconds register at 9:00, 30-Minute register at 3:00, and a 12-Hour counter with moonphase nestled in at 6:00. Day and Month sit at 10:00 and 2:00 respectively, with the date settled in between 4:00 and 5:00. Admittedly, there’s a lot going on with any calendar timepiece, which can result in a cluttered appearance, but the additional 4mm of case size lends itself well to spacing things out, and the overall execution of the dial is spot-on.