October 16, 2016
by Zen Love
The latest in Zenith‘s ongoing series celebrating the still ongoing “World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” is the Zenith El Primero Skeleton Tribute To The Rolling Stones watch. The downright iconic Zenith El Primero watch has come in countless iterations over the years, but this time the watch will probably be the second thing you notice, after that bright red, in-your-face tongue and lips logo on the dial.
This is not the first time the Rolling Stones’ tongue and lips logo have featured prominently on a Zenith dial, a bold design decision to be sure. It graced the dial of an Academy Cristophe Colomb watch (hands-on) and the subdial of an earlier El Primero Rolling Stones watch. On this new Zenith El Primero Skeleton Tribute To The Rolling Stones watch, however, the tongue and lips motif resides on a rotating disc for the running seconds subdial – as if it is slowly licking the inside of the glass… Slurp!
You’re welcome for that. It’s just lucky that this author wasn’t raised much on The Rolling Stones, so you will be subjected to relatively few tongue-in-cheek (so to speak) song and lyric references. Perhaps the audience can help fill in some of those missed opportunities. I was going to work something in about Paint it Black for the ceramic… but then I thought better of it. Yes, all black ceramic, as it is a hot material in the watch industry right now, with improved technology offering more options, control, and ease of production.
Ceramic is the future for bezels, but in discussing the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Ocean Commitment II watch in blue ceramic, I was just recently saying how I am not yet totally convinced of its suitability as a case material because of its tendency to chip with hard impacts. It is, however, light, scratch-resistant, and offers more variety in textures and colors, with colors that don’t fade over time.
The Zenith El Primero Skeleton Tribute To The Rolling Stones watch appears to be all matte black ceramic – which is better than polished, I supposed, but mixing in brushed ceramic surfaces that mimic metal gives the nicest look, in my opinion. The case is a very rock-n-roll 45mm wide and 14.05mm thick, water resistant to 50m. The hands, you will notice, are a little different than on most other El Primero watches, and they are said to evoke the neck of a Fender Telecaster 1950s electric guitar – that’s actually kind of a nice touch that shows a more thoughtful and integrated design – and the hands and indices are filled with black lume. I also like the way the date is highlighted in red at 6 o’clock. The watch comes on a black calfskin leather strap adorned with “hotprints” befitting the overall theme.
The dial is skeletonized enough for some visual interest while retaining decent legibility, but a more extensive view of the movement will be visible through the sapphire crystal caseback, with its column wheel and expectedly nice finishing (unfortunately, we don’t have a caseback image now). Flipping the watch over provides you no relief from the tongue, though, as you will find the logo swaying to and fro on the rotor. This is the El Primero 400B movement (also found in the recent Zenith El Primero Range Rover watch) with 50 hours of power reserve, and as we all know, keeping time at the upbeat tempo of 5Hz (36,000bph).
To me, there is very little that is rock ‘n’ roll about a luxury watch, but this is basically like a co-branding exercise, where the idea is for people to enjoy two of their passions at once. That is very often hard to get right, but Zenith keeps making these, so they must be selling. It’s been said before, but the people who were at an impressionable age when the Rolling Stones were at their prime now perhaps have some success and savings, and they never stopped loving the music of their youth. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Personally, I’m more of a Beatles guy (if you must view the world in binary terms), and though there’s a watch for that, it’s no El Primero.
I can’t help but feel that a spinning seconds disc made to look like a vinyl LP instead of the lips would have been easier to digest, if less edgy. Could even put a power reserve indicator on top to imitate the needle, maybe. Anyway, I am not Zenith’s target consumer for this watch, but it will be just perfect for some people. Zenith will only have to find 250 Rolling Stones super fans or memorabilia hoarders to move this limited-edition Zenith El Primero Skeleton Tribute To The Rolling Stones watch (reference 49.2521.400/98.C755), at a price of US$11,100. zenith-watches.com