Zenith El Primero

SKU AS02953
SKU AS02953

Why We Love it

Why We Love It

2019 is going to be a big commemorative year in the contemporary watch industry. 50 Years of Calibre 11 for Heuer, 50 years of 6139 for Seiko, 50 Years since the successful Apollo 11 Moon Landing for Omega, and 50 years of El Primero for Zenith.

The Calibre 3019 - the first generation of El Primero movements - was a revolutionary introduction to the marketplace in more ways than one. Amongst the first automatic chronographs ever made for the wrist, it also featured a quickset date mechanism and a high beat rate of 36000bph, giving it incredible accuracy that still stands up today. Known for their robust quality, the El Primero movements from the first generation are highly sought out by collectors.

Early El Primero chronographs came in a variety of different packages in terms of case and dial configurations, and the A384/A385 style is one of our all-time favorites. Fitted in a tonneau style case with ladder bracelet, these models are sized at 37mm, comfortable on the wrist and incredibly visually arresting.


This particular piece is an absolute beauty with a crisp case and an absolutely stunning and evenly patinated brown fumé dial from the Reference A385, research with Zenith's heritage division shows that it was originally born as an A384, but due to a batch of bad crown gaskets a number of A385 dials were damaged, and factory swapped for the A385 style seen here.

With a big anniversary on the near horizon, now is a great time to snap up any remaining quality golden-era El Primeros - and this one definitely fits the bill!


The Story

For many years, the words El Primero held little meaning outside of high-intensity watch enthusiast and collectors groups.  But a few year ago, Zenith brought those words back into the fore with the release of their heritage piece, the El Primero Striking Tenth chronograph.  The piece was a success in it's own right and got a lot of attention in industry publications.  But it also marshaled the growing body of watch enthusiasts, urging them to look back at the history of the movement and the pieces produced around the legendary movement. 

The El Primero was high-beat automatic chronograph movement that debuted in 1969, challenging Seiko's Reference 6139 and Project 99's Caliber 11 for the title of world's first automatic chronograph.  The advent of the automatic chronograph was a huge technological feat and it changed the face of the industry, opening the door for many companies to offer their own models.  But while the Caliber 11 found its way into a slew of watches, Zenith made their El Primero movements available to only a handful of other manufactures.  And for good reason.  Of the three movements that were released that year, only the El Primero was high-beat, offering significant added accuracy.

The Zenith A386 was the first model to be fitted with the El Primero movement and commands a hefty premium among collectors for its horological import.  Subsequent to the A386 was the A384/A385, which was born in the mid 1970s. Where the A386 was hallmarked by its three different-colored sub-registers, the A385 was known for its fumé, or smoke, dial - a gorgeous light brown gradient coloration.  

Any of these vintage Zeniths are hard to find in unmolested condition today, but good A385s are especially difficult to locate.  This particular example is in excellent overall condition, with a strong case bearing its original brushing, a perfectly patinated dial and its original Gay Freres 'Ladder' bracelet. 

If you've had your ear to the ground for vintage El Primeros, look no further.  This one is sure to go in a flash.  

A:S Guarantee


Our Pledge

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


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.


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


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.

Zenith El Primero

Zenith El Primero

Zenith El Primero


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