The Zenith El Primero is quite simply one of the most important chronographs in watchmaking history. As we all know, chronographs have been around since the 19th century but it wasn’t that long ago that automatic chronographs were introduced. It was only as recently as the 1960s that there was a push to invent an automatic chronograph and while Zenith can be considered the first, it wasn’t quite that straight forward.
The El Primero is a legend within its own right but there is a much debated story behind it. During the early 1960s there was a race on to see who could create the world’s first self-winding (automatic) chronograph. There were of course a few companies that shared an interest in claiming this technological breakthrough: Heuer/Buren-Hamilton/Breitling. However, there were a couple of silent watch manufactures working on this advance too: in the Far East was Seiko, who were busy working on their own version and then there was the company from Le Locle; Zenith. While there is a debate on who was first, there’s no doubt that Zenith were first to announce the El Primero, with three different references. The A386, the A385 and of course the model that is the basis for this revival, the A384.
To be more specific, the exact reference number this revival model is based on is the A8318; otherwise known as “Cover Girl”, thanks to its appearance on the front of Manfred Rössler’s book Zenith: Swiss Watch Manufacture Since 1865. However, the reason as to why the watch ended up on the cover of Manfred Rössler’s Zenith book is actually rather straightforward; the man himself simply loved blue dials. Though, I think what is rather cool is just how uniquely different the dial is and displays the era from whence it came.
Zenith x Revolution re-released this watch a couple of years ago but for its 50th anniversary chose to change things up a little. So, while the appearance of the watch remains the same the drastic change is only tangible. The weight of the watch has gone from being 110.6g to 78.2g – this is quite the difference and obviously there was only really one metal that could make such a dent in its weight: titanium.
The 37mm Grade 5 titanium tonneau shape of the A3818 is emblematic of the era in which it was born, featuring multiple facets and curves creating the required vintage-retro look, which has been perfectly distilled in this latest Zenith x Revolution special edition A8318 revival. To distinguish this piece from the one introduced in 2020, if you look closely, you’ll notice the iconic Gay Frères designed, ladder-style bracelet that omits every other traditional centre link, has been polished.
The satin blue dial of this revival model has been meticulously re-created and most importantly, features the iconic stepped or uneven racing track demarcated with thin radial lines that look like a shark’s tooth. These tiny lines, designed almost like a soundwave, lead the eye towards the integrated pulsation and tachymeter scale above the minute track. However, it is important to note that there are precisely 300 of these ultra-thin markers on the dial, which serves a purpose. That said, to make sure this was a little different from the original you’ll noticed every feature of the dial is luminescent.
The A8318 “Cover Girl” houses Zenith’s El Primero chronograph calibre 400, which is capable of 36,000vph – thus having 300 of these ultra-thin markers on the dial, allows you to read the chronograph seconds to an accuracy of 1/10th of a second.
The Zenith x Revolution Chronomaster Revival Ref. A3818 “Cover Girl”, is limited to 250 pieces worldwide and is priced at £6,587. It also comes with an additional beige strap and blue racing strap, for more information visit revolution.com.