Zenith El-Primero

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REF A386
Automatic
38 MM
– Show less
SKU AS09210
Article Number 40991714
ref A386
case size 38 MM
movement Automatic Winding
approximate age 1970s
dial color White
material Stainless Steel
style Chronograph
category Vintage
bracelet Metal
lug width 19 MM
Includes Includes a stainless steel Gay Freres 'ladder' style bracelet with signed flip-lock clasp. Also includes box set and books..
overall condition Case is in excellent unpolished condition with strong factory finishing and light, normal signs of wear from age and use. Dial shows light wear/discoloration and patina from age with minor lume loss at 11:00. Serial number is partially illegible from wear.
REF A386
Automatic
38 MM
– Show less
SKU AS09210
Article Number 40991714
ref A386
case size 38 MM
movement Automatic Winding
approximate age 1970s
dial color White
material Stainless Steel
style Chronograph
category Vintage
bracelet Metal
lug width 19 MM
Includes Includes a stainless steel Gay Freres 'ladder' style bracelet with signed flip-lock clasp. Also includes box set and books..
overall condition Case is in excellent unpolished condition with strong factory finishing and light, normal signs of wear from age and use. Dial shows light wear/discoloration and patina from age with minor lume loss at 11:00. Serial number is partially illegible from wear.

Why We Love it

Zenith, while not a household name, is certainly a known name in the world of watches - particularly in collecting circles. The primary reason?

The El Primero.

The movement was a culmination of a years-long research and development process undertaken by Zenith to develop the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. While other brands sought to achieve the same feat — including Heuer (in concert with Breitling and Hamilton) and Seiko — Zenith intended to make the El Primero something entirely unique. Instead of taking an automatic module and merely sandwiching it onto an existing chronograph mechanism, Zenith fully integrated the two; moreover, the movement would be a high-beat calibre, offering significant added accuracy - and it offered a quickset date mechanism, to boot!

Zenith announced the El Primero on January 10, 1969.. This was four years later than Zenith had intended: the brand had begun developing the calibre in 1963, hoping to bring it out for Zenith’s centennial in 1965. Nevertheless, on that winter day in 1969, Zenith proudly displayed a working model of its chronograph.

This particular example from the first generation Reference A386, is the watch that collectors and enthusiasts probably visualize when they hear the name 'El Primero', This early MK1 example features a tidy 38mm stainless steel case with an acrylic crystal, a signed crown, and pump pushers. Inside, it has the archetypal white dial with applied indices, tritium luminous plots and handsets, and the iconic 'tri-colore' overlapping subsidiary register layout with a gray outer minute track and a silver tachymeter scale, and a red center chronograph hand.

Powered by the Calibre 3019 PHC El Primero automatic chronograph movement, this piece comes fitted to a correct stainless steel Gay Freres 'ladder' bracelet with a signed flip-lock clasp dated 1971.

For the collector who desires a chronograph with a fascinating history, breathtaking looks, and proper pedigree, the El Primero absolutely needs to be on your radar.

Brand Story

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Georges Favre-Jacot began producing pocket watches in Le Locle at the age of twenty-two. By the turn of the 20th century, Favre-Jacot was producing marine chronometers and chronometer-grade movements, one of which won a chronometry competition in Neuchâtel in 1903. Under the name Zenith, formally established in 1911, Favre-Jacot expanded his production to include wristwatches.
Zenith's chronographs in particular gained a reputation for excellence. At first Zenith used Excelsior Park and Valjoux movements, sharing them with Universal Genève and Movado (with which Zenith would merge for a time in 1969). By the 1960s Zenith acquired ébauche manufacturer Martel and began using their movements exclusively, leading to lauded calibers such as the 146HP and 146DP, which launched in 1969.
1969 was a banner year for horology, as it saw the launch of the first automatic chronograph movement. This was a race between a team consisting of Hamilton, Heuer, Buren, Dubois-Depraz, and Breitling; Seiko; and Zenith. Zenith used the Caliber 146 as a basis for the caliber which the brand would dub "El Primero" — "the first." Of the consortium’s Caliber 11, Seiko’s reference 6139, and the El Primero, only the latter feature a “high-beat” movement for increased accuracy.
Zenith ceased using manually-wound movements in their chronographs after the introduction of the El Primero — however, then the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s hit, and the company was sold. Employees were ordered to destroy or otherwise liquidate their mechanical watchmaking tooling, but incredibly, one daring engineer, Charles Vermot, decided to hide machinery behind a false wall that he built himself in the attic of the company’s manufacture in Le Locle. He told no one about what he was doing — not even his family.

Then, in the 1980s after the company had changed hands once again, he led modern Zenith management to this secret cache of horological wonders, in which the El Primero tooling was hidden. Ebel placed the first modern order for El Primero movements in 1984, but it was Rolex, who ordered thousands of calibers to power their new automatic Daytonas, that saved the firm. Today, the El Primero powers numerous vintage-inspired chronographs as well as the new Chronomaster Sport, a watch aimed as a competitor at — with much irony — the Daytona.

A:S Guarantee

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Our Pledge

Analog:Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.

Condition

Since our pieces are vintage or pre-owned, please expect wear & patina from usage and age. Please read each item description and examine all product images.

Warranty

We back each Analog:Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.

International Buyers

Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.

Shipping & Returns

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All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states.

Most of our products are on hand and will ship directly from our headquarters in New York City. In some cases, watches will be shipped directly from one of our authorized partners.

We generally ship our products via FedEx, fully insured, within 5 business days of purchase. An adult signature is required for receipt of all packages for insurance purposes. Expedited shipping is available at an additional cost. We are also happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.

Returns must be sent overnight or by priority international delivery, fully insured and paid for by the customer. A restocking fee may apply. Watches must be returned in the same condition as initially shipped.

We welcome international buyers, please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.

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Zenith El-Primero

Zenith El-Primero

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Zenith El-Primero

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