Zenith El Primero

Regular price
$11,900
Regular price
Sale price
$11,900
REF A385
Automatic-winding
37 MM
– Show less
SKU AS09236
Article Number 40991733
ref A385
case size 37 MM
movement Automatic-winding
approximate age 1970s
dial color Brown
material Stainless Steel
style Chronograph
category Vintage
bracelet Fabric
lug width 20 MM
Includes Includes Analog:Shift Islay Brown Suede Strap with period signed stainless steel pin buckle.
material Suede
overall condition Fantastic condition overall. The case is strong, showing professional refinishing and faint wear consistent with age and use. The dial shows even patination with fully intact luminous plots and matching handset. Chronograph seconds hand possibly replaced.
REF A385
Automatic-winding
37 MM
– Show less
SKU AS09236
Article Number 40991733
ref A385
case size 37 MM
movement Automatic-winding
approximate age 1970s
dial color Brown
material Stainless Steel
style Chronograph
category Vintage
bracelet Fabric
lug width 20 MM
Includes Includes Analog:Shift Islay Brown Suede Strap with period signed stainless steel pin buckle.
material Suede
overall condition Fantastic condition overall. The case is strong, showing professional refinishing and faint wear consistent with age and use. The dial shows even patination with fully intact luminous plots and matching handset. Chronograph seconds hand possibly replaced.

Why We Love it

For many years, the name El Primero held little meaning outside of hardcore watch enthusiast and collector groups. But following the release of the El Primero Striking Tenth Chronograph in 2010, the flagship model from Zenith returned to its rightful place as a topic of conversation in broader horological circles. 

The original El Primero Calibre 3019 debuted in 1969, offering a high-beat automatic chronograph movement that challenged Seiko's Reference 6139 and Project 99's Calibre 11 for the title of the world's first automatic chronograph wristwatch. The advent of the automatic chronograph was a huge technological achievement and it changed the face of the industry, opening the door for many brands to introduce their own models. While the Calibre 11 found its way into a slew of watches from a variety of brands, Zenith made their El Primero movements available to only a handful of other manufactures.  Of the three movements that were released that year, only the El Primero was high-beat, offering much greater accuracy - a selling point Zenith was cautious in sharing.

The Zenith Reference A386 took center stage during the release of the  El Primero movement back in 1969, and today commands a hefty premium amongst collectors for its horological import.  Alongside it however was the Reference A385, a stunning example of which we are offering here.  Where the A386 was hallmarked by its' Tri-Colore' sub-register configuration, the more subtly toned A385 has come to be known for its smoke-toned fumé dial and its tonneau-shaped case design.

Any early-series Zenith El Primeros are hard to find in strong condition today, but good A385s are especially difficult to locate. This particular example is in fantastic condition. throughout, showing professional case refinishing of the highest order, and a beautifully preserved dial. It features a 37mm stainless steel tonneau case with signed crown, barrel chronograph pushers, acrylic crystal and of course the signature brown gradient dial that houses a triple register chronograph display. With beautiful even patina throughout its intact luminous plots and matching handset, this is a truly excellent find and a fantastic piece for the vintage chronograph enthusiast!

Powered by the self-winding Zenith Calibre 3019 chronograph movement, this piece comes fitted to our Islay Brown Suede Strap and includes a period Zenith signed stainless steel pin buckle.

If you've had your ear to the ground for a high-quality vintage El Primero, look no further!

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

Regular price
$11,900
Regular price
Sale price
$11,900
Zenith El Primero

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