Zenith marked the 50th Anniversary of the El Primero last year with several historical remakes, including the editions for Phillips auctioneers as well as the El Primero A386 Revival, a set of watches that were a near-exact reproduction of the original.
Now Zenith has debuted the final A386 remake – in steel like the original – with the Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition” that’s equipped with a dial inspired by a long-forgotten prototype.
The Manufacture Edition is good-looking watch but a crucial factor in its appeal is the material – and price. Last year’s A386 Revival trio was only in 18k gold – one each in white, pink, and yellow gold. The Manufacture Edition is in steel, making it the most affordable A386 yet.
Handsome and striking with a well-proportioned case and dial, the watch is very much a typical El Primero A386. The star of the new remake is unquestionably the dial. Employing the same tri-colour palette that’s the A386 trademark, this replaces the traditional tri-colour with different shades of the same blue, ranging from a bright azure blue to a dark midnight navy.
For someone who loves the colour, this is appealing. The juxtaposition of the blue registers against the white dial promotes a stark and legible look.
And it’s also worth noting the watch is not a limited edition – a wise move to avoid having unlimited limited editions – though distribution will be limited to Zenith’s e-commerce store and the manufacture in Le Locle.
The attic find
This particular dial design is modelled on a stash of prototype dials supposedly retrieved from the attic of Zenith’s manufacture in 2019. It was found amongst the El Primero tooling that was saved by Charles Vermot over four decades ago.
A longtime watchmaker at Zenith, Vermot is known as the man who saved the El Primero movement. In the depths of the Quartz Crisis in 1975, his employer – then owned by American television maker Zenith Electronics – made the decision to halt production of the El Primero. The plans, parts, and equipment were all to have been discarded.
A member of the original team that helped develop the movement, Vermot, quietly defied the order by secretly stowing away the plans and components for El Primero in the famous attic. The treasure trove that Vermot secreted away proved invaluable come 1982, when Rolex and Ebel were scouting around for an automatic chronograph movement. The rediscovered material and parts allowed production of the El Primero to swiftly restart just a year later.
Why the tri-colour blue dial was in Vermot’s stash is a mystery. No records of such a dial exist, though it was found along with other, known prototype dials for the A386, so it can be inferred the tri-colour blue was also a prototype. Regardless of its origins, the new dial is intriguing and handsome, which no doubt led its modern-day resurrection.
Dial aside, the Manufacture Edition is virtually identical to the vintage original. The case is the same compact 38 mm with wide lugs that feature an attractive radially-brushed finish on their top surfaces. And the movement inside is the El Primero 400, essentially unchanged from the 1969 movement.
Key Facts and Price
Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition”
Diameter: 38 mm
Height: 12.6 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 50 m
Movement: El Primero 400
Functions: Time, date and chronograph
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz)
Power reserve: 50 hours
Strap: Blue alligator
Availability: Only at Zenith’s online store or the manufacture in Le Locle
Price: 8,900 Swiss francs; or 12,700 Singapore dollars
For more information, visit Zenith-watches.com.
Update May 21, 2020: Added fact that the model is not a limited edition.Back to top.