For a while now, Zenith has been a sponsor of the Spindrift Racing team – a group involved in catamaran sailboat racing. Here is one of their latest El Primero watches to celebrate that partnership, and it is actually pretty cool. Boat racing is a popular activity that luxury watch brands like to attach themselves to because a disproportionately large number of wealthy people follow the sport. That is probably because people follow sports they can relate to, and mostly those people who own or sail boats are going to be interested in sailboat racing. As such, I’ve tried to understand where Spindrift Racing competes and in what types of events… and I am pretty lost, given my unfamiliarity with what seems like obscure European port cities. At least I know something about watches.

The newest set of Sprindrift Racing watches are an interesting lot, and consist of two Zenith El Primero Stratos Sprindrift Racing timepieces. Each offers a unique combination of the Stratos-style case and the open-dial associated with some other Zenith watches. This is the all-black ref. 75.2060.4061/21.R573 “phantom model” in a DLC-coated steel case. The other version of the Zenith El Primero Stratos Spindrift Racing is the ref. 86.2060.4061/21.R573 which has a two-tone titanium and 18k rose gold case.

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For an all-black watch, the legibility is pretty good on this timepiece because of the various shades of black and gray on the dial, as well as the different textures and finishing. That means that Zenith was able to pull off a phantom look, without a timepiece that is difficult to read. Of course, there is some color in the open part of the dial where you can see elements of the in-house made Zenith El Primero movement.

Jean-Claude Biver – the person who heads the watch division at LVMH – joked that you could probably rename the Zenith brand to “El Primero” given how important the in-house produced El Primero movements are to the brand’s overall persona and marketing strategy. While there have been a few 2014 models released with Swiss Sellita movements rather than in-house made El Primero or Elite movements, what I hear is that such practices will stop. Being a producer of their own movement is really important to Zenith, and they will maximize that element of their brand as much as possible.

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Speaking of movements, the Zenith El Primero Stratos Sprindrift Racing watch contains the manufacture El Primero caliber 4061 automatic chronograph movement. What makes an El Primero an El Primero is its 5Hz (36,000 bph) operating frequency. This is above most other mechanical watches that operate at 4Hz (or less). The chronograph has a column-wheel transmission, while the movement has about 50 hours of power reserve.

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In the interest of performance, the 4061 has a lever and escapement in silicon. These elements can be viewed through the open window on the dial of the watch whose shape is meant to look like three stacked circles. In addition to seeing the regulator, the window has has a three-pronged running seconds hand. The rest of the dial has more traditional subdials for the chronograph hour and minute counters.

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This open window on the dial is rather unlike most of the other Stratos watches, though it can be found on some other Zenith models. The rest of the case is pure (black) Stratos with the rotating diver’s-style bezel and 100 meters of water resistance. If you are interested in sport watches with some skeletonization of the dial, then this version of the Zenith El Primero Stratos is going to hard to pass by.

At 45mm wide on the wrist, the Stratos has never been a small watch, but it does wear handsomely. I would normally say that I prefer watches of this ilk on a bracelet, but that isn’t actually true here. I personally don’t like the bracelet that Zenith supplies with many of their Stratos models. It looks nice enough but pulls hair and does not offer enough micro adjustment. Thus, that leaves the Stratos to live comfortably on a range of straps such as this black rubber and fabric strap that works well with the overall aesthetic.

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Zenith El Primero movements are rarely a poor choice and it is nice to see that Zenith offers a healthy variety of them. It is easy to suggest that all well-rounded watch collections include at least one El-Primero based timepieces. For the Stratos Spindrift model in this black DLC-coated case the theme is modern and sporty. You even have a carbon fiber dial. Zenith has experimented in the past with an all carbon fiber case in the El Primero Lightweight Limited Edition Skeletonized watch.

Overall, this is a rather cool and unique Zenith model even if you don’t at all care about the brand’s relationship with Spindrift Racing or sailing. Prices for the Zenith El Primero Stratos Spindrift Racing watch in DLC steel is $9,100 and in titanium and 18k rose gold it is $22,600. zenithwatches.com

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