10th January 1969 is the key date when the most famous of chronograph watches, the Zenith El Primero (‘the first’ in Spanish) made its debut as the first automatic chronograph in the world. And it achieved this feat coupled with the ability to run at the high beat of 36000vph.
And fast forward to 2019 and the Zenith El Primero is celebrating its 50th anniversary. For this momentous occasion, Zenith brings forth a unique anniversary trio set with three special watches inside. Each of them come in only 50-piece limited edition runs and, upon receiving them, owners will first take note of the satin-brushed grey lid of the box with its built-in touch screen.
Inside, they will spot a miniature watchmaker’s workbench and assortments such as a watch mechanism on a rest, adjustable lighting system, magnifying glass and signed screwdriver.
Also present is an actual die of the chronograph’s coupling-wheel bridge from the El Primero movement. The significance of this piece is that with it, should the lucky owners visit the Le Locle Zenith Manufacture, he or she will receive two coupling-wheel bridges which will be subsequently hand-stamped.
The owner can then bring one of these bridges home and the other will be engraved with his or her name before being left at the entrance wall of the attic of Charles Vermot. Apart from this special privilege, one will also notice that there is space left in the box to fit another watch – perhaps an indication of a future Zenith El Primero with the capability to time 1/1000th of a second.
A breakdown of the Zenith El Primero 50th anniversary trio set
MOVEMENT Zenith El Primero 3600 automatic chronograph with 36000vph, ability to measure 1/10th of a second, date indication and 60 hours power reserve. Certified Chronometer; CASE Steel with 42mm diameter and 100m water resistance; DIAL Silver-toned sunray-patterned dial three different-coloured counters; STRAP Black rubber with red stitching and steel double folding clasp.
MOVEMENT Zenith El Primero 9004 automatic chronograph with 36000vph, ability to measure 1/100th of a second and 50 hours power reserve. Certified Chronometer; CASE Steel with 44mm diameter and 100m water resistance; DIAL Openworked with three different-coloured counters; STRAP Black rubber with black alligator leather coating and titanium double folding clasp
Apart from the A386 Revival in steel found in the set, Zenith has also created three more versions of the watch with precious metals. These are made in white, yellow and rose gold cases respectively and are not part of the said set.
While the dimensions and specifications remain similar to the steel version, these models come in 50-piece limited edition runs each and are awarded an astounding 50-year warranty by Zenith.
MOVEMENT Zenith El Primero 400 automatic chronograph with 36000vph, date indication and 50 hours power reserve; CASE Original 1969 case with 38mm diameter in steel/ yellow gold/rose gold/white gold and 100m water resistance; DIAL White lacquered dial; STRAP Alligator with protective rubber lining and matching pin buckle