Zenith ends their 50th-anniversary celebration of the Zenith El Primero with the Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition”: a stunning reproduction of the original A386 El Primero with a prototype dial in three tones of blue. Find out just why this could be the ideal chronograph.
2019 was, for Zenith, a very important year: it marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of the watch for which they are best known — El Primero. However, unlike so many other brands, Zenith chose to avoid producing umpteen limited-editions.
Aside from a box-set of three stunning ‘generations’ of their iconic chronograph, they released precious-metal remakes of their original ref. A386 as well as my personal favourite, the less well-known A384 Revival. This watch combined a cool grey dial with a flash of red in a recreation of their original watch as it was 50 years ago and not as some sort of vintage-themed pastiche.
Importantly, Zenith has called to an end its period of retrospection with the release of the Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition” — a standard production piece limited to sales in Le Locle and online — which acts as a final ‘Hurrah’ to the El Primero A386 which has been recently recreated. Crucially, however, it isn’t simply a recreation of an El Primero which entered production when this watch was created.
Instead, and following in the footsteps of the limited editions of 20 and 49 produced for Phillips in a black and 18k gold ‘JPS’ variant and a ‘tropical’ dial variant, this watch recreates a semi-fictional dial configuration. ‘Semi-fiction’, though, is something crucial to recognise in order to fully understand this very clever special edition.
The dial of this watch, itself very closely based upon the silver, grey and blue dial with which we are so familiar, is a product of a legendary figure in Zenith’s history: Charles Vermot. As has become legend, Vermot was the man who hid the tooling and some components of the original Zenith El Primero in 1975 when instructed to destroy them.
Perhaps this man’s personal fidelity to a movement he had helped to develop was unsurprising but, in any case, the results were seen in 1982 when these very artefacts became instrumental in the resurrection of the El Primero. Continuing on to power the Rolex Daytona, the the rest was, as one says, history.
The triple blue dial seen on this edition was found in Vermot’s stash in 2019 but, beyond that, little is known of its origins. Based upon the fact that other dials found with it were unused prototypes it is assumed to also be a prototype which never reached production. In this model, this dial is given a new lease of life though remains virtually unchanged.
Otherwise, this watch is identical to all other Zenith El Primero A386 Revival models and so, as a consequence, is a near facsimile of the original watch. Housed in a lustrous polished stainless steel case with a quintessential band of radial brushing on the upper lugs, this watch doesn’t add to the style of the original. Instead, it reminds us that to move forwards, it is perhaps wise to consider the successes of the past first.
Mechanically, this watch is the product of a very good movement which remains as competitive today as it was 50 years ago. Aside from some necessary tweaks, the El Primero 400 is the same automatic, high-beat, column-wheel chronograph as was launched in later 1969. Impressively, despite incorporating a beat rate of 36,000 vibrations per hour, the date and a chronograph, the power reserve remains a very healthy 50 hours.
On a blue alligator strap, it’s difficult to imagine a more tasteful, interesting and historic option for someone considering a higher-tier Omega Speedmaster or Rolex Daytona. The Zenith (El Primero) Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition” doesn’t come cheap at 8,900 Swiss francs but is, I think, entirely justified at that price.
Availability: CHF 8,900 from Zenith’s online store or directly from the manufacture in Le Locle
- Dimensions: 38mm x 12.6mm
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Display: Polished hands and markers / Unique triple-blue chronograph & small second subdials / Date at 4:30 with continued second track / Tachymetre & decimal counter / Red second hands / Luminous compound on all central hands
- Water Resistance: 50m / 165ft / 5 ATM
- Movement: Zenith El Primero 400: Time, date & 12-hour chronograph / Automatic & manual winding / 50-hour power reserve / Column-wheel chronograph actuation / 31 jewels / 5Hz, 36,000 vph, 10 ticks-per-second