Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 42mm review
The Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 42 has spawned numerous versions and generations since it was originally presented at the 1994 Basel watch fair. More than 20 years later, this sports chronograph has become one of the brand’s key collections. Today, it is the most emblematic expression of the iconic El Primero movement. As 2021 kicks off, Zenith unveils a new sporty and technical iteration of the collection with a sharp new look outside and a significant boost inside. Meet the new Zenith Chronomaster Sport, and don’t miss our video review above to see how it looks on the wrist
Presented in 1969, the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 42mm has become an undisputed horological icon. Part of the trilogy of automatic chronograph movements that hit the market in 1969, it is the only one that is still produced to date. Beyond its historical importance, El Primero’s longevity speaks for itself. In more than 50 years of history, the El Primero has evolved in many directions. The re-industrialisation of the movement in 1987 (under the reference Calibre 400) was the occasion to introduce several improvements. But the movement has also been updated in the frame of continuous optimization, in particular, by incorporating modern technologies to evolve in synchrony with the times. But after half a century, it was time for a major performance jump with an evolution of the movement that takes full advantage of its 5Hz frequency, in order to measure and display the 10th of a second.
This upgraded functionality is presented today in a new member of the Chronomaster collection. The Zenith Chronomaster Sport maintains the overall look and signature elements of the most recent iterations of the model in a sportier, more functional variant. The case still features the sloped, angular lugs, pump-style pushers derived from the 1969 A386 model. Fashioned out of steel, it is presented in a versatile, intermediate diameter of 41mm (versus 38mm and 42mm currently).
The main novelty though is the use of a black ceramic bezel featuring the 1/10th of a second graduation, a unique bezel typology for chronographs, differing from the more prevalent tachymeter scales. With it, Zenith transforms the look of the watch, lending the Chronomaster Sport a more technical and more modern touch. In addition, another positive benefit of the ceramic bezel is that, unlike a metal bezel, it is virtually scratch-proof and impervious to UV rays.
The dial of the Chronomaster Sport comes in Zenith’s signature tri-colour and tri-compax layout – with silver, anthracite and blue counters. The three overlapping sub-dials consist of the two chronograph totalizers (60 seconds and 60 minutes) and the running seconds. Arranged in a V shape, they are paired with faceted hour markers filled with Super-LumiNova. It is available in two different variations: matte white or matte black.
As mentioned, besides this sportier look the new Chronomaster Sport also comes with a performance jump and an exceptional movement that renews the technical values that have forged the legend behind the El Primero and Zenith.
Originally presented on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of El Primero in 2019 with the Chronomaster 2 limited editions, the El Primero Calibre 3600 chronograph is the most striking evolution of the movement. The most visible upgrade is its ability to display 1/10th of a second. Taking full advantage of the 5Hz frequency of the El Primero (that beats at a rate of 10 vibrations per second), the central chronograph hand makes one turn in 10 seconds. That’s six times the speed of a normal chronograph hand. Measuring such a short fraction of time is already a feat, making it perfectly visible is even better! Besides, it is spectacular to watch!
Among other notable features, the power reserve has been beefed up to 60 hours (versus 50h before), thanks to an optimised kinetic chain. A recent feature for the El Primero, a stop-seconds mechanism now allows for precise setting. Turning the watch over, the calibre 3600 is visible via the exhibition caseback with its star-shaped openworked rotor, blued column-wheel and horizontal clutch. The overall look and decoration is also more modern and more technical than it used to be in the past.
The Zenith Chronomaster Sport is presented on a three-link brushed and polished steel bracelet or, as a more casual option, on a rubber strap embossed with a Cordura fabric effect. It is secured to the wrist with a safety folding clasp.
With the new Replica Zenith Chronomaster Sport, Zenith has designed a quintessential sports chronograph. From a technical perspective, the unique functionality of the Calibre 3600 breathes new life and enhanced performance into a legendary movement – which is probably intended to become a defining feature of the El Primero. Price is set at CHF 9,400 on a rubber strap and CHF 9,900 on a steel bracelet.