1969 was a good year for watchmaking. Omega landed on the moon, Seiko sent the first automatic into space and Zenith built what’s come to be regarded as the finest chronograph ever built, the legendary El Primero. While the Speedmaster’s certainly had its own recent news, Zenith have taken that first El Primero as the inspiration for their latest and, arguably loveliest, archival piece to date, the Chronomaster Revival A385.
Hard as it is to believe now, but once upon a time (we’re talking the 1960s here), gradient or fume dials weren’t the commonplace slice of finishing that they are today. In fact, there really weren’t all that many instances of that sub-sector of dial in the watch world – which meant that the original A385 was doubly eye-catching.
On the one hand it had its famous tonneau case, a shape that Zenith has paid tribute to with previous revival pieces. On the other, a gradient brown dial the colour of a faded leather armchair. In this new release, Zenith has reproduced that specific watch almost exactly as it was originally.
That means the same 37mm case, the same El Primero 400 movement and the same warm shade of brown, darkening to black around the edges. Complete with matching beige lumed indexes and contrasting pure white counters, the new colouring is pure retro bliss.
There are some changes of course, though they’re technical rather than visual: a domed sapphire crystal rather than the original acrylic version and an exhibition caseback instead of a solid piece of metal. Small, quality of life alterations, really.
The final touch is the Gay Frères, ladder bracelet which is the obvious choice for the watch given that it’s straight out of 1969. Sure, the optional brown leather should patina nicely, but that might be leaning a bit too far into the whole leather armchair theme.
Priced at CHF 8,400 (just over £7,000), you can probably get an original vintage El Primero for the money. That doesn’t stop the Chronomaster Revival A385 being an almost painfully lovely retro watch. If anything was going to get our appetite whetted ahead of LVMH Watch Week, it’s this.
Price & Specs:
Model: Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero A385
Ref: 03.A384.400/385.C855 (light brown calf leather strap)
03.A384.400/385.M385 (stainless steel bracelet)
Case/Dial: 37mm diameter, stainless steel, smoked brown gradient dial with white-coloured counters
Water Resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Calibre El Primero 400, automatic
Frequency: 36,000 vph (4 Hz)
Power Reserve: 50h
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds at 9 o’clock, central chronograph hand, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, tachymetric scale, date at 4:30
Strap: Light brown calf leather or stainless steel bracelet
Price/Availability: £6,700 (light brown calf leather strap)
£7,100 (stainless steel bracelet)
More details at Zenith.