Tag Archives: primero

Are Factory Restorations The Next Big Thing?

We only ask the question because not every watch brand enjoys the market dominance of Rolex, or even Breitling, Cartier or AP. They can afford to ignore the pre-owned vintage market, disregarding it as being too much trouble servicing and restoring antique timepieces. Better to sell customers a new one instead.

Those lesser Swiss brands, like Zenith could well be onto something when they hunt down rare models from their back catalogue and restore, factory fresh once again. There is a loyalty to be won over here, a devoted collector market that will invest in genuine factory resto watches, bit like a Jaguar E-Type recreation.

Here’s the word from Zenith;

After making its debut at Zenith Boutiques in Ginza, Shanghai, the ZENITH ICONS thematic capsule collections of historically significant vintage watches sourced, restored and certified by the Manufacture in Le Locle are finally coming to Zenith’s online boutiques in Europe, Japan and USA. And for its digital introduction, Zenith is offering an exceptionally pristine example of its most coveted early El Primero models in gold, the G381.

First unveiled earlier this week at VIVATECH 2021 in Paris, where Zenith joined LVMH and other group Maisons at what is considered Europe’s biggest startup and tech event at showcasing their latest innovations, the G381 symbolizes the Zenith Manufacture’s approach towards achieving a circular economy.

THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY IS A GOOD THING

Among speakers from the best tech brands and innovative startups, Zenith CEO Julien Tornare talked about how the Manufacture has the unique capacity to restore older products and keep them operating in perpetuity, in line with the core theme of this year’s VIVATECH expo, sustainability. Using past and present resources, components and know-how, watches from the past are given a second, certified life through ZENITH ICONS. Its latest addition, available for the first time exclusively on the Zenith online boutique, is perhaps its most exceptional yet.

An important reference in El Primero lore, the G381 was among the very first gold models designed to house the El Primero in 1969 and is considered the gold counterpart of the iconic A386. It had the same round case, decimal and tachymeter scales, and of course the earliest iteration of the seminal El Primero automatic high-frequency chronograph movement. A highly successful model for Zenith at the same time, it was reproduced in multiple small batches from 1969 to 1972. In total, only 1’000 pieces were ever made.

A GRAIL WATCH FOR A LIFETIME IS A GREEN WATCH

NWC mag can see that using the circular economy tactic goes soem way to head off the climate change zealots at the pass. There are elements in society now who seek to destroy capitalism itself and one of th ways they aim to accomplish this Marxist utopia is to use the `product miles’ argument against luxury goods manufacturers and brand names.

So by restoring watches from the past, brands can argue that new materials are being saved, throwaway `fast fashion’ culture is being rejected, and high quality jobs are being preserved for skilled artisans. It’s a win-win when it comes to combatting the ludicrous foot-stamping of Greta and her chums, so we say, good work Zenith.

Zenith Give The El Primero The Camo Green Treatment

Come on, this is getting boring now Swiss brands. Yep, Zenith has joined the green watch trend with a an olive green El Primero, called the Safari. It doesn’t ding our bell,  it feels a bit washed out, too understated with that matt grey case finish.

Fact is, we love the original El Primero design way too much, this just looks flat – dare we say, a bit cheap?

Anyway here’s the word from Zenith;

When the designers at Zenith asked themselves what an El Primero from 1969 inspired by the great outdoors would look like, they imagined something entirely different from what the Manufacture had produced in over 50 years since the famed calibre’s introduction; something that evoked the vivid colours and textures found on wild terrains with the same utility and ergonomics as its most prized chronographs. The result is the Chronomaster Revival Safari, a lush reinterpretation of a signature vintage chronograph icon.

The geometry and overall proportions of this fresh and modern chronograph are identical to those of the historical A384, but the look and feel of the case couldn’t be more different. Instead of the traditionally finished stainless steel in a mix of satin-brushed and polished surfaces, the Safari is crafted in titanium that’s lighter yet harder than steel. The entire case including the star-emblazoned crown and pump-style pushers are fashioned in an intriguingly muted finish that’s entirely microblasted to bring out the dark nuances of titanium by absorbing light rather than reflecting it.

Exhibiting tones ranging from deep olive-green to cooler spruce tones, the dial of the Chronomaster Revival Safari is a deep matte green with contrasting black registers and tachymeter scale, with a touch of vintage inspiration with its warm beige-coloured SuperLumiNova on the applied baton markers and hands. The white on green date wheel is perfectly camouflaged with the rest of the dial; legible when you need it but never distracting. The rubber and cordura-effect strap takes on the same khaki-green tone as the dial, and is fixed to a matte microblasted titanium pin buckle.

Powering this retro-inspired but resolutely modern and edgy chronograph is the El Primero automatic high-frequency chronograph calibre, visible through the display back. In production since 1969 and gradually evolved throughout the years, this is the closest iteration to the original version of the seminal chronograph movement.

The Chronomaster Revival Safari is ready to go where no El Primero has gone before, and is available from Zenith boutiques & e-commerce from June 2021.

Zenith A3817 Revival is a Bold Delight

One of our fave watch designs of all time, the original El Primero gets a revamp from the modern day Zenith factory; here’s the press release on the A3817 Revival model.

It has a real bold, primary colour punch from the dial compared to some other El Primero variants in the Zenith range. We like that classic chrono pusher look as well. Definitely a cheaper optuion than tracking down an original with paperwork, this one should retail at about £5900 in the UK.

When the El Primero calibre made its groundbreaking debut in 1969, Zenith chose to house it in two broad but distinct watch categories. On one hand, there were sportier models in tonneau-shaped steel cases, such as the A384, and on the other, more classical round cases in steel or gold, most notably the A386.

Released in 1971, the A3817 was the exception to the rule. It combined the sportier steel tonneau-shaped case of the earliest steel El Primero references with the striking tri-colour dial of the A386, resulting in a unique and appealing aesthetic that continues to resonate with vintage chronograph enthusiasts. Given that only 1000 of the A3817 were ever produced, it remains one of the most distinguished, elusive and sought-after references among the early El Primero watches.

The Chronomaster Revival A3817 is crafted in the same angled tonneau-shaped case with pump-style pushers as the original, using historical blueprints and reverse-engineering to preserve the original proportions and finishes.

Zenith waited two years after the launch of the El Primero in 1969 before introducing the iconic tri-colour dial to its sportier tonneau case, albeit with a slightly different execution in both function and aesthetic when compared to the A386.

Like its progenitor of 1971, the Chronomaster Revival A3817 features a white lacquered dial with chronograph counters done in the instantly recognizable tones of grey and blue, with the running seconds counter at 9 o’clock done with blue markers, indicated by the single blue hand on the dial.

The outer tachymeter scale also serves as a pulsometer, an especially handy and precise function provided by the high-frequency 5Hz (36’000 VpH) escapement of the El Primero movement. The seconds track is done in a pyramid pattern affectionately nicknamed the “shark tooth” scale, which enhances legibility with a distinctly retro touch.

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.

Zenith Defy Special 21 Edition

The latest from Zenith, who have a special edition of the Defy model, aimed at the potentially lucrative Middle East watch buyer market;

Over the years, the emirate of Dubai has become a global hub for fine watchmaking. Steeped in tradition yet unrelentingly reaching towards the future, Dubai and Zenith are a perfect match. Located in Dubai Mall, the booming emirate’s largest and most luxurious shopping destination, the Zenith boutique in Dubai hosts the entire Zenith collection in a prime location.

And as of November, the Dubai Mall boutique becomes the first stop in a traveling pop-up exhibition that brings together a selection of current Haute Horlogerie pieces as well as a selection of rare and sought-after pieces from the past decade, some of which have never been presented in Dubai until now. Coinciding with this special exhibition, the Zenith Dubai Mall boutique is launching its own exclusive DEFY El Primero 21 edition.

For this special boutique edition of the DEFY El Primero 21, Zenith opted for tones of green – inside and out. Across the Middle East, green is the colour of, luck, fertility and wealth.

Crafted in a light and robust titanium case, the DEFY 21 Dubai Mall edition features a green dial with white, red and black accents. The 1/100th of second automatic chronograph movement, visible through the partially open dial, is also finished in a metallic green tone – a first for Zenith. Unlike the regular DEFY 21 that has open chronograph counters, the DEFY 21 Dubai Mall edition mixes tradition and modernity with closed counters, appearing as if floating above the open dial and movement. Completing the green theme of this special DEFY 21 is a khaki green cordura-effect rubber strap. The watch also comes with a textured black rubber strap.

Zenith Chrono Revival Keeps The El Primero Flame Alive

News from Zenith earlier in October – new watch model to celebrate the Japanese store opening. We love the Zenith A series revivals of the famous El Primero watch, but that said, Zenith need some big new models to capture the interest of collectors who now have some superb Rolex Oysters, Breitling Top Time, cool TAG Carrera retro iterations etc to consider. Here’s the word from Zenith;

The doors of the new Ginza Boutique officially opened, unveiling the new Chronomaster Revival Lupin The Third – 2nd Edition and introducing Zenith Icons, a curated selection of restored vintage watches.

The new Ginza location is Zenith’s first flagship boutique to showcase the brand’s new concept, placing storytelling as a central element and offering visitors multisensory experience. Ideally situated on Namiki Street in Ginza district, Tokyo’s premier luxury shopping area, the Zenith boutique stands out with its atmosphere as well as the services it provides.

The new Zenith Ginza Boutique is also the first to host Zenith Icons, a new concept offering the possibility of acquiring a curated selection of iconic and highly sought-after vintage Zenith watches sourced, restored and certified by the Manufacture and sold exclusively at Zenith’s boutiques. Emblematic chronographs can be expected, with all details of each watch’s provenance thoroughly researched and documented by the Manufacture’s Heritage department.

In 2019, Zenith launched a watch that one could say was nearly 50 years in the making, the Chronomaster  A384 “Lupin The Third”, the first watch ever made to be inspired by a Japanese anime series. After the overwhelming success of the first series and the fact of a second Zenith watch appearance in the anime series Lupin The Third, Zenith is proud to unveil the Chronomaster Revival Lupin The Third – 2nd Edition.

Latest Zenith El Primero Revival Has Unique Prototype Dial

Zenith revived the original 1969 El Primero design a few years back and it is a real beauty. Although we would always choose the real thing – faults and all – from 1969-72, rather than the new A384.

Why? Well would you buy a new Jaguar E-Type Continuation model compared to an original E-Type? No, it isn’t quite the same experience, because even though the updated recreation is undeniably better in terms of performance, it isn’t a piece of engineering history.

When you’re selling history as the reason for buying the watch, then perhaps many collectors will hunt down an original, rather than buy new? OK, what’s the story on this latest El Primero Revival?

This latest incarnation of the El Primero has a dial which is an exact replica of a prototype dial face, that has been unearthed from the mythical attic in Switzerland. The Zenith factory originally wanted buyers travel there, with your £7,500, to buy one of these A384 Revival watches – however the Corona outbreak has made them hurriedly set up direct sales online instead. The UK website sales operation should be up and running next month – who needs watch dealerships eh?

el primero 3 blue dial model

As a fan of the El Primero and all it stands for; watchmaking firsts, joint ventures between brands and classic 70s styling, I would love to buy one. However, the standard A384 Revival, with the grey/blue sub-dial combo, is £1000 less. Same movement, case size etc. Then there’s the original El Primero watches on ebay, in vintage watch shops and Chrono24. They are also slightly cheaper and it’s likely that a true classic may rise in value, whereas the new A384 model may well lose about £2000 of its RRP in the first year of ownership.

If you venture into a watch dealer’s shop and try to sell a Zenith, you’ll hear the words, `These are aren’t very popular mate, hard to sell, I can only offer you blah-blah.’ Trust me, I’ve seen it over 5 years working in the watch and jewellery trade.

So for those two reasons, true classic collectability and long term investment value, I would always go 1969 vs 2020 when it comes to the famous El Primero.