Zenith’s Latest El Primero A385 Revival is a Fume Dial Beauty

Latest incarnation of the Zenith El Primero retro editions is a serious piece of homage, and just released by Zenith for the new year. Here’s the press info;

A legend is born again: Zenith is bringing back one of the earliest and most emblematic El Primero-equipped chronographs from the earliest days of the revolutionary calibre in the form of a Chronomaster Revival model.

The A385 made headlines back in 1970, when it took part in Zenith’s “Operation Sky”. This extreme test consisted of strapping the watch to an Air France Boeing 707’s landing gear on a flight from Paris to New York to test its resistance to external aggressions such as drastic temperature fluctuations, wind force and changing air pressure. Upon landing, the watch was still functioning perfectly. This daring feat was a testament to the confidence those who had tirelessly worked on the El Primero calibre held, as well as tangible proof that a mechanical movement was superior to the nascent quartz movements of the time, which couldn’t have stood the temperature differences endured by the watch during the flight.

After over 50 years, the time has come for the A385 to make its return in the form of a Chronomaster Revival model. Far more than just a vintage-inspired creation, the Chronomaster Revival A385 is an actual reproduction of the original model from 1969 in an exercise of “reverse engineering” by the Manufacture. Using the original blueprints and production plans, each part of the A385’s 37mm tonneau-shaped stainless steel case, including the pump-style pushers, is faithful to the original 1969 model. The only differences, are the domed sapphire crystal instead of an acrylic glass and the display back instead of the closed solid steel case back, offering an unobstructed view of the El Primero 400 chronograph movement.

Verdict: At £7500 or so for the bracelet version, and about £7000 for the leather strap version, this is an expensive trip down memory lane. OK, you’ll never find a mint condition tropical fume dial El Primero now, 50 years later, with box n papers. But will a 37mm case sized watch really stand out on the wrist as a great statement for that hefty price tag?

Maybe the better option is to go old school and buy a genuine 1969-71 model? We found an original El Primero A385 with the brown fume dial – no box or papers – for £4600 on Chron24, plus a 1970 brown fume dial model from a German dealer at £7300. The channces are that the true originals will hold their value – or increase – when compared to the modern day revival.

Although you lose accurate timekeeping, and have no factory guarantee, you may just end up with a watch that makes a few grand over the next 5-10 years. Having said that your cash is probably safer in a nice Rolex Sub for the next decade. Oh and buy a safe. And a large dog.

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