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Another first for Zenith’s game-changing El Primero: introducing the all-new Chronomaster Sport

By Simon De Burton   |   3 minute read

Zenith El Primero

In a world where ‘locked-down’ feels like the new normal, it’s odd to think that more than 400 guests travelled to Dubai just a year ago to attend the LVMH group’s inaugural ‘Watch Week’ at which new models were unveiled by its four key brands – Bulgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith.

By then the pandemic had already put paid to both major Swiss trade fairs – HourUniverse (formerly Baselworld) and Watches and Wonders (formerly SIHH) – and, save for the 96 hours of the LVMH-driven ‘Geneva Watch Days’ that took advantage of a late-August respite, all other product reveals for the remainder of 2020 were reconvened online.

In the era of the ‘Zoom launch’, Zenith certainly hit the ground running when the second LVMH ‘Watch Week’ got underway on January 25, thanks to the new Chronomaster Sport – a collection that ably demonstrates that, yes, it is possible to buy a beautifully finished, classic-looking, three-subdial chronograph with a ceramic bezel and a class-leading movement for sensible money.

Had one of a raft of other makers produced this watch, it might have attracted criticism for taking ‘inspiration’ from what is currently the most coveted (and difficult to get) stainless steel chronograph of all – the Rolex Cosmograph.

But as anyone familiar with the brand’s 155-year history will tell you, the only place Zenith found inspiration for the Chronomaster Sport is its own back catalogue of classic designs.

Zenith El Primero
Zenith El Primero
Zenith El Primero
Zenith El Primero

The three-colour subdials, for example, come straight from the A386 launched in 1969 (the year, of course, when Zenith made history by perfecting the first self-winding chronograph movement in the form of its El Primero), while the pump pushers are reminiscent of the early ‘De Luca’ chronograph (a model created in the late 1980s at the behest of an Italian retailer).

You don’t need to look too hard, either, to find elements of Zenith’s 1990s ‘Rainbow’ (named after tycoon Harold Vanderbilt’s 1934s America’s Cup winning J-Class yacht) or the more recent Stratos Flyback Striking 10th, as worn by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner during his record jump from the edge of space in 2012.

The 41mm Chronomaster Sport’s ceramic bezel is all its own, too – try to find another that’s graduated in the 10th of a second that the high-frequency (5hz) El Primero movement is capable of recording. You won’t.

Add the fact that the already revered El Primero has been upgraded to a new ‘Calibre 3600’ specification that endows it with 60 hours of power reserve and dresses it up with a blued column wheel that can be seen through the transparent case back, and you have a watch that owes nothing to anyone other than Zenith’s design teams.

There’s a choice of dials, too (black or white) as well as the option to go with rubber straps, respectively in black or blue, or a steel bracelet that harks back to those used by Zenith during the 1960s and ’70s. They were engineered by the specialist manufacturer Gay Freres, that was acquired by Rolex in 1998.

Which highlights another desirable aspect of the steel Chronomaster Sport – if you want to buy one, Zenith’s CEO Julien Tornare assures us that you won’t need to join an endless waiting list…

CREDIT: Simon de Burton is a journalist and author whose articles about high-end cars, motorcycles, boats, watches and luxury living appear in publications around the world. A contributing editor to the Financial Times ‘How To Spend It’ magazine, he also writes for the New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair, Boat International, Motorsport and more. He lives on Dartmoor, south Devon.

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