Auction Watch: Rolex “Zenith” Daytona in Platinum with Blue Stella Dial at Sotheby’s

The third of five unicorns.

Having sold the first publicly-known Daytona “Zenith” in platinum, Sotheby’s is going to offer yet another. Once again a unique example, the Cosmograph Daytona ref. 16516 in platinum – and a blue-lacquer “Stella” dial – will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s Hong Kong watch auction in April 2021.

“Sothebys is delighted to present this automatic Zenith Daytona rendered in platinum with a ‘Tiffany blue’ lacquered ‘Stella’ dial in April,” says Sam Hines, Sotheby’s head of watches, who adds, “Manufactured in 1998, this previously unknown watch comes from the same collection as the record-breaking platinum Daytona with hardstone lapis lazuli dial sold by Sotheby’s last year.”

The “Tiffany blue” lacquered dial of the platinum Daytona that’ll be sold in April

According to Sotheby’s, only five platinum Daytonas with the Zenith El Primero movement were made in the late 1990s, at the request of Rolex’s then chief executive Patrick Heiniger. Each example was unique in having a different dial, but all were equipped wit the same cal. 4030 derived from the Zenith El Primero, which was phased out in favour of the in-house cal. 4130 in 2000.

The late Heiniger kept one for himself, and gifted the remainder to key business partners of Rolex. Sotheby’s has since sold two of the five, each achieving a record price for an automatic Daytona.

The first was a wedding present to a member of the Gobbi family that owns the eponymous watch retailer in Milan. It had a black mother-of-pearl dial, and sold for a then record US$871,000 in 2018. That record was quickly topped by the second known example, which was fitted with a lapis lazuli stone dial, sold in summer last year for US$3.27 million.

The platinum Daytona “Zenith” with a black mother-of-pearl dial that was sold in 2018

The second example in platinum, which has a lapis dial and sold last year

The third example is like the others in that it has an A-series case number – A171133 – and an inscription on the case back, this one for 1998. The lapis example from last year was also engraved with a 1998 dedication, while the mother-of-pearl specimen sold in 2019 was marked 1999. But unlike the other two that had dials made of natural materials, this has a glossy, lacquered “Stella” dial in baby blue.

The platinum Daytona has an estimate of HK$4.0-8.0 million, or US$500,000-1.0 million.

The auction preview will happen April 17- 21, while the auction itself will happen on April 22. Both will take place at traditional venue for Sotheby’s Hong Kong auctions, the New Wing of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC).

Hall 1, New Wing, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre
1 Expo Dr
Wanchai, Hong Kong
China


Correction February 5, 2021: The auction will take place in April 2021, and not 2020 as stated in an earlier version of the article.

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Zenith Introduces the Chronomaster Sport and El Primero 3600

With a 1/10th-of-a-second chronograph.

Two years ago, when Zenith celebrated the semicentennial of the El Primero – the world’s first high-beat, automatic chronograph movement – a successor to the long-running workhorse was quietly unveiled as part of a three-piece set. Designed from ground up as a brand-new movement, the El Primero 3600 was equipped with modern tech and additional features, including twin chronograph seconds hands.

But the movement never made it to regular production, until now. The El Primero 3600 finally becomes accessible with the new Chronomaster Sport, a new line of sports chronographs featuring a shiny black-ceramic bezel and two dial options.

Initial thoughts

The debut of El Primero 3600 two years ago was noteworthy, but it was lost amongst the tasteful remakes – case in point – created to commemorate the anniversary. Now that the vintage remakes have reached their end with the final instalment announced just recently, the new movement can take the stage.

The El Primero 3600 is certainly an impressive upgrade and a completely different animal compared to the original El Primero. Most notable is the addition of a lightning central seconds that travels six times as fast, completing one revolution every 10 seconds, allowing it to measure 1/10th of a second. That truly unleashes the full potential of the El Primero movement, which runs at 10 beats a second, or 36,000 beats per hour.

Technical ingenuity notwithstanding, the watch itself looks good, albeit slightly derivative. The design is an incremental evolution of the Chronomaster 2 equipped with the El Primero 3600 that was part of the three-piece anniversary set. Amongst the tweaks are a wider ceramic bezel and lacquered dials in stark white or black – a look that calls to mind the flagship chronograph of the green giant in Geneva.

As is the case with most Zenith chronographs, the Chronomaster Sport is priced reasonably. It costs about 20% more than an average model with the original El Primero movement, clocking in at US$9,500 on a strap, or US$10,000 on a steel bracelet.

El Primero 3600

An improvement over the original in many aspects, the El Primero 3600 boasts long-overdue technical updates as well new innovations. Perhaps most relevant for daily wear is the extended power reserve that’s now 60 hours, ten more than the original calibre and approaching the modern-day norm of three days. Precise time setting has also been made easily with a hacking-seconds for the time.

But the true highlight are the twin chronograph seconds hands. With the clasped seconds hand relocated from the centre to the three o’clock register – resulting in the loss of an hour counter – the central seconds hand now fulfils a new function – it makes one revolution every 10 seconds, or six rotations per minute, to allow pinpoint reading of elapsed times with a resolution of 1/10th of a second via the scale on the ceramic bezel.

The central, 1/10th-of-a-second hand calls for with several additional gears linked to the escape wheel, the fastest-turning wheel in the timekeeping gear train. The additional gear train increases the speed of the lightning chronograph seconds by sixfold compared to the conventional running seconds.

The El Primero 3600, a column-wheel controlled, lateral-clutch chronograph movement


Key facts and price

Zenith Chronomaster Sport
Ref. 03.3100.3600/69.M3100 (white dial)
Ref. 03.3100.3600/21.M3100 (black dial)

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: El Primero 3600
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and chronograph
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 60 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet or rubber strap

Limited edition: No
Availability: At Zenith boutiques and online shop, as well as authorised retailers
Price:
Strap – US$9,500; or 13,800 Singapore dollars
Bracelet – US$10,000; or 14,500 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Zenith-watches.com.


Correction January 22, 2021: The 1/10th-of-a-second gear train is coupled to the escape wheel, and not the fourth wheel as stated in an earlier version of the article. 

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