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GPHG - Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève
Zenith - A week on the wrist: Zenith El Primero Sport

Zenith A week on the wrist: Zenith El Primero Sport

Our editor-in-chief gets hands on with an iconic Zenith chronograph.

For many years the Zenith El Primero has to some extent lived in the shadow of the Omega Speedmaster and the Rolex Daytona, which may perhaps be cited spontaneously by most aficionados as the two most legendary chronographs. But the El Primero is very much the unsung hero of chronographs. It may have been launched a full seven years after the first concept was devised, on January 10th 1969, but its name, El Primero (meaning “the first” in Esperanto) still held true: it was the world’s first self-winding chronograph movement.

Just over six months later man took his first steps on the moon, wearing a manually-wound Omega Speedmaster. Still today, this historic fact is the cornerstone of the brand’s communication on the Speedmaster collection, with even the names of the most recent models in the collection taking being directly associated with Earth’s satellite. Much like the movement used in the Speedmaster, however, the El Primero calibre has also endured. It was even used in a modified form in the iconic Rolex Daytona chronograph for 12 years from 1988-2000 before Rolex introduced its own in-house chronograph movement.

More significantly, the El Primero introduced high-frequency movements to the mass market and with its movement beating at 36,000 vibrations per hour, enabled elapsed times to be recorded and displayed mechanically to the nearest tenth of a second (36,000/60/60 = 10). And this is the first thing that strikes the watch aficionado when he listens to the watch – that extra staccato in the tick-tock of the movement.

Zenith El Primero Sports

The 2015 Zenith El Primero Sport harks back to the original models in the collection with its choice of silver-toned, slate-grey and black dials with contrasting brushing on the dial. Its 45mm case houses the El Primero 440 B calibre with its integrated column-wheel construction and decorated oscillating mass visible through a transparent crystal case back. The applied, faceted hour markers and sword-shaped hands are typical of a high-quality chronograph but the aesthetics remain relatively sober for a piece with the “Sport” tag. A quick glance at the chronograph pushers soon affirms this watch’s credentials, however, since they are screwed in to guarantee water resistance to 200 metres. A simple third of a turn opens them ready for operation.

In everyday wear, the El Primero Sport almost seems to give you two watches for the price of one, since the dial can look lighter or darker depending on how the light reflects off it. A stainless-steel bracelet, black rubber strap and brown alligator leather strap also offer a variety of combinations to suit different wearers. Will it win the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève? I made the mistake of asking Zenith CEO Aldo Magada at the SIAR in Mexico. “I think it’s ridiculous to have any expectations,” he said, “since the decision is not up to us and we will have to see.”

Zenith El Primero Sports

 

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