With legacy pieces like the A386 and modern touchstones like the Rainbow Flyback, Zenith and their El Primero chronograph movement have become a striking force within the world of luxury sport chronographs. Not one to let a good movement miss a chance to shine, Zenith announced the decidedly dressy Zenith El Primero Chonograph Classic at Baselworld earlier this year. Tux-ready in either steel or rose gold, the El Primero Classic is aesthetically minimal, stunningly beautiful, and a perfect illustration of a Zenith chronograph turned classic.
Despite the Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic’s dressy and vintage-inspired vibe, its 42mm case size is resolutely modern. While 42mm is well within my preferred sizing for watches, the Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic feels like much of Zenith’s lineup – large enough for its form. I don’t link it’s over sized or too large and, even with a thickness of 11.8mm, the Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic wears well and looks great on wrist. With a domed and anti-reflective sapphire upfront and a sapphire display case back, there isn’t a bad angle on this buttoned-down Zenith. Thanks to the included rubber-lined black alligator strap, the Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic is versatile enough for everyday wear, especially in steel.
The lightly brushed silver-toned dial and blue steel sub dial hands are shared by both versions, while the main hands and markers are case metal-coordinated. Legibility is excellent and the detailing and case finishing is what we would expect from Zenith, with a pleasing mix of polished and brushed elements. The sub dial at nine presents a running seconds display while the sub dial at three counts the chronograph minutes. There is no date function, and its omission is nothing short of genius thinking by Zenith – you can’t do “less is more” and “one more thing” at the same time.
Rapidly ticking away inside that minimal exterior is a new high-frequency automatic movement, the Zenith calibre 4096. Replete with a column wheel, the 4096 beats at 5Hz (36,000 vph), offers a power reserve of 50 hours, and employs some 31 jewels. The El Primero has become Zenith’s calling card and rightfully so, as it was one of the first (if not the first) automatic chronograph movements on the market.
The Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic is one of my favorite pieces from Zenith in a long time. It’s beautifully proportioned, feels great on wrist and rocks a desirable chronograph movement. In gold or steel, the Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic is a remarkably pretty watch that is sized for modern wrists and offers a quietly confident charm. The gold version is limited to 150 units at a list price of $21,600 USD, while the steel version will command an $8,900 price tag but won’t be limited in production. zenith-watches.com