Zenith Needs to Stop Remixing The El Primero

Zenith has reworked their El Primero watch yet again. Smaller case, original dial colours and greater accuracy.

But it’s getting boring frankly, much as we love the classic 1969 design and many of the various El Primero revival models that Zenith has been offering since the 2019 anniversary year.

What you need to know;

There is an exact replica, 38mm steel case variant.

The rose gold case one looks ace. Expensive though.

We love the star detail on the crown.

Here’s the word on the latest iteration;

Original by name, original by substance. Few watches have been as influential and truly iconic as the Zenith A386, which made its debut in 1969 as one of the first steel watches to be equipped with the revolutionary El Primero calibre – the world’s first automatic high-frequency integrated chronograph movement.

Over 50 years later, the El Primero remains the benchmark of precision among automatic chronograph movements, giving way to new versions and iterations in a constant evolution of technicity (is that a made-up word?? – Ed) and performance.

While Zenith has paid tribute to many of its emblematic historical references, including gold versions of the A386 in its Chronomaster Revival collection that debuted during the El Primero’s 50th anniversary, a steel re-edition as part of the permanent Zenith collection has long been something that Zenith collectors and chronograph aficionados have been eagerly awaiting.

But beyond a modern reinterpretation of this enduring staple among chronographs, Zenith has gone a step further with the Chronomaster Original, which masterfully retains the singular and enduringly relevant design of the A386 while packing the performance of the 21st century version of the El Primero boasting 1/10th of a second precision and time measurement.

So the top spec gold case model is £16,000, and the steel case/leather strap version starts at £7,100.

Verdict; A classic El Primero is a better addition to your collection than a new model. Hardly any depreciation and you’re buying the watch that kinda changed everything, not a factory reproduction. It’s like buying an electric powered E-Type Jaguar, looks perfect but underneath it’s a different 21st century toy.

Zenith suffers huge depreciation in the UK market as collectors feel they are over-priced for what they are. They have a point. A Tudor Black Bay, Omega Speedmaster or Breitling Top Time do much the same job and for about half the price. The El Primero is in Rolex Sub territory in terms of price and the fact is, it simply cannot command that kind of RRP.

What Zenith needs is a watch that sells for about three grand, looks ultra fresh and modern and wins over new customers. Maybe work with design houses like Bamford London or produce some crossover branded watches using the Dior and Louis Vuitton names from within the group?

Fact is, Zenith has painted itself into a corener with the El Primero in exactly the same way Hublot has with the Big Bang, or AP has done with the Royal Oak. There is a real danger that many Swiss brands are essentially one hit wonders. And that spells long term decline.

Bowie didn’t stay Ziggy until he got his bus pass did he?



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