September 29, 2016
by Ariel Adams
Today, luxury automobile maker Land Rover and Swiss watch maker Zenith officially announce a new relationship with the debut of the Zenith El Primero Range Rover Special Edition watch collection. One watch with two different strap options attempts to merge the worlds of both companies, and the result actually feels pretty good. Car and watch brand relationships have a spotty past, but in recent times they have been getting better – at least in terms of the resulting products.
Hublot (both Zenith and Hublot are part of the LVMH group) has had a lot of success with its official watchmaking relationship with Ferrari, and I’ve also enjoyed collaborations such as Breitling with Bentley, Ball with BMW, and Bremont with Jaguar. Land Rover and Jaguar are part of the same group, so now both of their car brands are involved with high-end watchmakers.
Rather than focusing on the entire Land Rover brand, this debut product from Zenith is specifically focused on the Range Rover collection of luxury SUV vehicles. Range Rover models are the most high-end that Land Rover produces, and were originally introduced in 1970, just one year after the famed El Primero movement housed in these timepieces. That year, 1969, saw the introduction of the first automatic self-winding mechanical chronograph movements. Three companies came out with automatic chronograph movements that year including Seiko, Heuer, and Zenith with the El Primero which, with modern updates and improvements, remains a very well-respected and desirable mechanical movement today.
Zenith and Land Rover don’t waste our time by waxing poetic too much on why they are partnering. They don’t need to. The good looking and high-performance El Primero movement is one of the world’s best luxury sport watches, and the Land Rover Range Rover, both beautiful (in my opinion) and capable, is one of the world’s most popular luxury SUVs. The resulting watch is relatively humble, restrained, and handsome. Most importantly, it does look like something that would be aesthetically fitting on your wrist while driving around in a Range Rover both on- and off-road.
In Los Angeles, where I live, Range Rovers are quite plentiful. It actually seems like a very large percentage of the cars Land Rover makes end up here. I was lucky enough to be with Land Rover when they debuted the current generation Range Rover back in 2013. I sort of fell in love with vehicles back then given my appreciation of their design and how they drive. I also know that Land Rovers of today are far more reliable than they used to be. With that said, they certainly aren’t cheap, and the people who can afford them are typically also the type of people who can shell out just under $10,000 for a cool timepiece.
There is no rule that says people who drive Range Rover cars will want a Range Rover watch. In fact, some might argue that matching the two is a bit too much accessory pairing. With that said, it is a way of showing your appreciation for Range Rover when not driving one, or if you just like what the brand stands for in general. Zenith made the decision to include the Range Rover name on the dial right under the Zenith one. It doesn’t stand out too much, but it is there. You’ll see a bit more dual branding on the back. I would say the incorporation of both names is subtle – which is praise for Zenith, as some of their recent dual-branded watches (with various enthusiast organizations around the world) has been a bit much for most people’s tastes.
At 42mm wide in a “ceramised” (I’m thinking black ceramic-coated – which is what this actually is) matte-finished aluminum case, the Zenith El Primero Range Rover Special Edition watch should be quite light on the wrist. Zenith remarks that the use of aluminum for the case material is a nod to the chassis material of the Range Rover. Aluminum is rare to find in high-end watch cases because, while it is light, it is usually fragile. Thus, I am interested to see how this ceramised aluminum case feels in person – if successful, it could make the watch appealing to people who don’t even care about the Range Rover relationship.
The dial is all dark tones and subtle with vertically brushed finishing and minimalist design touches. It really does feel in many ways how a modern Zenith El Primero Chronograph should. The available straps are meant to remind one of the leather seat interiors of Range Rover cars. The straps are lined with rubber (comfortable) and on the outside are ivory or blue colored perforated calfskin leather matched to a DLC-coated black titanium folding deployant.
Inside the Zenith El Primero Range Rover Special Edition watch is the in-house-made Zenith El Primero caliber 400B automatic movement. It operates at a quick 5Hz (36,000 bph) for extra accuracy over time and has a power reserve of 50 hours. You can see the movement through the sapphire crystal caseback window.
Water resistant to 100 meters, useful, and sporty, you should be able to take this Zenith El Primero Range Rover watch anywhere you would want to take your Range Rover car – and that means into the wild or to some fancy society event. Again, Zenith and Land Rover don’t try to dress up this relationship too much – which is something I appreciate. It is a marketing relationship, but done in a natural way with a cool product that I think enough Range Rover and Zenith fans will appreciate. I look forward to checking out the reference 24.2040.400.27.R796 and 24.2040.400.27.R797 Zenith El Primero Range Rover Special Edition (which, translated, means that they aren’t limited per se, but not necessarily fully part of the watch brand’s permanent collection) hands-on soon. Price is US$7,700. zenith-watches.com