Zenith’s roll-out of their greatest hits in 2021 have provided much for those that love a vintage aesthetic. The much anticipated re-release of the lauded Zenith 38mm El Primero Chronograph had to be something that paid tribute to what defined Zenith in the 20th Century, whilst bringing innovation to an icon. This is something that was achieved with the release of the Zenith Chronomaster Original, a watch that would not look out of place in 1969, but also would not be possible without the knowledge we have accumulated as of 2021.
The A386 forms the basis of the new Chronomaster Original, reviving the original proportions and dial design of this foundational model. During the 50th anniversary celebrations of the El Primero, we saw many limited edition collaborations on this model, including models done with Phillips Watches, as well as the Revival series that saw a trilogy of precious models with ultra-extended (50 year) warranties. The new Chronomaster Original however, will form a permanent part of the Zenith line-up – one that has been much awaited since the discontinuation of the last 38mm Chronomaster.
This new model comprises 3 models, two in stainless steel, that would not look out of place in the original 1969 release, as well as a precious metal version that brings a warm and stylish edge.
These stainless steel models are either available with a reverse-panda-style dial, with black as its base and silver subdials, or a dial that is almost a spitting image of the original A386 – tricoloured subdials in light grey at 9 o’clock, dark grey at 6 o’clock and blue at 3 o’clock (the rose gold model also has this dial configuration).
Curiously, the reverse-panda dial (that has no historical precedence in the A386 line) has beige SuperLuminova, whilst the tri-colour dial features white “C1” SuperLuminova – regardless, both are very attractive options, giving those interested in stainless steel chronographs more options to choose from in this competitive environment. On the periphery of the dial on a black track we see a time division of 1/100th of an hour, once used to calculate 1/100th of an hour for time spent working – this is a holdover from the original A386 models.
The 38mm case features a domed box sapphire crystal, as well as radial brushing on the lugs that furthers the retro effect of this watch. However, it is only upon further inspection of the dial that we see a curious modern touch that was not possible back in 1969.
On the outer chapter ring on the periphery of the dial, we see a 1/10th of a second time indication, and indeed, the chronograph central hand makes one rotation around the dial once every 10 seconds. (see video below)
Like the Chronomaster Sport released earlier in the year, this movement is the El Primero 3600, providing a visual animation of the chronograph that gives great visual impact, and was something that is only achievable with the accumulation of watchmaking and manufacturing knowledge by Zenith over the decades. The 5Hz beat rate is truly quite stunning compared to other chronographs in this category – a display of its accuracy with its resolution of 1/10th of a second.
The steel variants are available on a calf leather strap with triple folding deployant clasp, or on a stainless steel bracelet with double locking clasp – one that features polished centre links, as well as a more modern design in comparison to the more recent “ladder/Gay Freres” style bracelets we have seen on the Revival models of late. The rose gold model is only available on a calf leather strap with a deployant clasp.
The Zenith Chronomaster Original, then, serves two roles in Zenith’s line-up. It is a reminder of Zenith’s past – a calibre that was, and still is rather underrated in the sports chronograph category today. It also serves as an everyday reminder of what the company is capable of in terms of watchmaking. Whilst vintage aesthetics are still hot in the watch world, it is great to see that Zenith has paid tribute to the past with key design elements of the A386, but also set a precedent for the future with this watch – we at ISOCHRONO have no doubt that the incorporation of the El Primero 3600 displays techniques that will push the brand to greater heights.
El Primero 3600
Hours, Minutes, Running Seconds, 1/10th of a Second Chronograph, Date
Stainless Steel, Rose Gold 38mm
Calf Skin Leather Strap on Double Folding Deployant Buckle, or Stainless Steel Bracelet with Double Folding Clasp