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Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

The just-released Zenith El Primero A384 Revival on Gay Frères ladder bracelet is a true homage to the idiosyncratic design and aesthetic styles that came around in the late 1960s. This watch was initially released last year in 2019, but we are just now seeing this bracelet on the “revival” of the very first El Primero from 1969. The angled Tonneau-shape case and open design “ladder” bracelet of the A384 Revival offers the provenance of the El Primero 400 movement and modern finishing/build quality in a retro-inspired package that balances classic and quirky.

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

For some historical context, the A384 was the first El Primero movement watch alongside the A385 (same case, brown dial) and the iconic, everyone-knows-it A386 that had the box-set re-release last year for the 50th Anniversary of the El Primero. The A384 was only produced from 1969 through 1971 and there are said to be fewer than 3,000 pieces ever produced. Fortunately, the Zenith El Primero A384 Revival isn’t limited.

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

There aren’t many watch bracelet makers whom enthusiasts, let alone casual fans, would know by name, but Gay Frères is up there. It was the first bracelet supplier for Rolex in the 1930s and 1940s, supplying what can reasonably be described as the proto-Oyster bracelet (decades later in 1998, Rolex would outright purchase the firm). Frères also did work for the other big boys, creating bracelets for Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. Fun fact: Way back in 2016, the most expensive watch sold was the Patek Philippe 1518 (which sold for the pauper’s fortune of $11 million) that had a Gay Frères beads-of-rice bracelet. Frères did takes on the beads-of-rice style in the mid-20th century, most notably for Heuer.

Oh, Gay Frères was also instrumental in working with Audemars Piguet to create a steel bracelet for the Royal Oak and with Patek Philippe to create the Nautilus bracelet. Nobody was a specialist in creating steel bracelets at that time, so GF was a necessary partner.

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

At that same time, Frères did the ladder bracelet for the Zenith El Primero. It was one that really bore no likeness to the aforementioned bracelets due to its open design. The long end links and thin center links with long gaps in between each is a distinctly retro-feeling design and ultimately a design that makes a rather comfortable watch to wear. Ultimately, the ladder bracelet looks as true to the original as possible, and it succeeds because it complements the A384 so well (again).

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

The Zenith El Primero A384 Revival comes on a 37mm-wide and 12.6mm-thick case that strikes pretty ideal proportions. I’ll often subconsciously overlook watches with this case measurement, but the angular and stylized tonneau case looks pretty perfect on my 7.5 inch wrist. Between this and the TAG Heuer Carrera 160th Anniversary that was also released at LVMH Dubai Watch Week, I may be getting more and more curious about <40mm chronographs. I do wish the water resistance was higher than 50M, but there you have it.

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

The panda dial is white lacquered with black chronograph sub-dials, with a date window between 4 and  5 o’clock. The dial is basically identical to the original 1969 A384, with that red chronograph hand sans Zenith star and smaller 12-hour sub-dial. The hands and applied hour markers are done in a modern Super-LumiNova which, along with the sapphire crystal on the dial and caseback, are not true to the original. Other than these understandable changes, the A384 is identical to the original.

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

Obviously, you can’t talk about an El Primero without discussing the movement. The A384 Revival uses the El Primero 400 automatic which has been a faithful modern El Primero used by Zenith, and one that is quite similar to the original 1969 El Primero. A column-wheel chronograph, the El Primero 400 automatic is made up of 278 parts. It (obviously) runs at 36,000 vph and has a 50-hour power reserve.

Hands-On: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watch On Gay Frères Ladder Bracelet Hands-On

Zenith celebrated the 50th anniversary of the El Primero in grand fashion, releasing a series of re-editions that are a fitting tribute to the first automatic mechanical chronograph. However, this El Primero A384 Revival on “ladder” bracelet (that arrives a year after the anniversary) is one that I’d have near the top of the list of wearable everyday chronographs. It stands out by being true to the original, which is the next best thing. The Zenith El Primero A384 Revival on “ladder” bracelet will be priced at just around $8,600 USD. You can learn more at zenith-watches.com.

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  • Gokart Mozart

    Something is wrong. That is 2 bracelet watches that I like, this and the Moser.

    Thi is ice though really works with the case and you are not left with an awkward looking integrated case, and you can still swap it for a strap when you are in the mood.

    As technically novel as the new Defys may be these are the sorts of Zeniths that make you happy and you want to spend your money on.

  • Pete Yo

    nice watch, just not digging that bracelet. maybe they will have a 60’s sale and price it like when it first came out.

  • SuperStrapper

    I’ve tried the watch on with a strap and think it looks great but is just a bit smol. I have a 37mm watch, my smallest, but it comes in a cushion shaped case and has a semi-integrated bracelet (like this) and wears closer to what 39/40 is like on the wrist. I didn’t get that feeling with this watch. I would try it again with the bracelet but I’m not really a bit fan of this bracelet. Of course it will be comfortable and impeccably made, the style just isn’t in my favour. I’m also not a fan of how it meets the case, the lines are awkward and the finishes jarring.

    • Lincolnshire Poacher

      I agree about that strap meets case .. it is jarring in some way.

  • BNABOD

    Sometimes things born in the 60s need to be left in the 60s

  • Steve_Macklevore

    I like this watch a lot, especially that it’s a sub-38mm size, which is so welcome in this age of 42mm+ contraptions that seem designed to make our wrists look like children wearing Dad’s watch.

    But… although the ladder bracelet fits with the retro design, I really don’t like it – perhaps Zenith will offer a more conventional bracelet too?

  • Ugo

    it’s beautiful, but you have to grow moustache to wear it…

  • Stewart James

    I expect an ablogtowatch giveaway for this. Do it.

  • Independent_George

    I have tried this watch on, with the strap, many, many times. I was SO CLOSE to buying it, but it just felt small. Salesperson suggested it was because I was used to larger watches, and I was also trying on the Pilot Chronos (45mm) at the same, so yeah, that’s a factor. But the 38mm EPs didn’t feel as small. Maybe it was the strap, and maybe the bracelet will make it feel more substantial. In any event, I am looking forward to trying the bracelet version on many many times as well.

  • Ayreonaut

    The ugly end links and mismatched bracelet width ruins it.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Their are too many things about this watch that annoys me that I wouldn’t even consider it.

  • Richard Baptist

    I prefer the ZENITH EL PRIMERO SS VINTAGE 1969 40TH ANNIVERSARY CHRONOGRAPH LIMITED EDITION – REFERENCE 03.1969.469/01.C490 at 40mm from the thierry nataf era. Almost identical but bigger. The bracelet is great though!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e5f354ad9efc68146840939ed7dc64b16b2ed3346984f2b807ad1ed093d9e4d4.png

  • Pedro Lambareiro

    Love how they keep that end link just a little round in a nudge to the Zenith Diver Chronograph A277. Amazing. This watch is happening for 2020.

  • PR

    Sorry but that looks like an aftermarket bracelet on the watch. The lugs and end links don’t match In style, shape or texture. Poorly tacked on later type feel. I do like the dial and the look of it and the bracelet by itself looks like it will be comfy.

  • Joe

    Doxa 300Ts came on a “bicycle chain” style bracelet for a while (apparently).
    http://www.doxa300t.com/review.htm
    I agree it feel’s lacking – or that it’s some sort of “let’s market it as a 70’s style bracelet and we can save some $$ from materials costs while we’re at it”.

    I do feel that it’s a love it or hate it design.
    I happen to fall into the “love it” camp, since it’s fairly rare to see this type of bracelet.

    I know I’ve had this argument with others before but I like my watches to be GADA and so 5atm would be the only thing to hold me back…and for that reason I’d still go for a “standard” El Primero instead.

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