Zenith El Primero Chronograph
Why We Love it
Why We Love it–
In 1969, as the Soviets and the Americans raced to put a man on the moon, watch brands raced to develop the first automatic chronograph movement. Much like the Space Race, this struggle was international, with watch brands over the world vying to make horological history. Seiko, quietly, without much fanfare, worked on their automatic chronograph, the Caliber 6139. On the other side were the Swiss, with two camps vying against each other for supremacy: Hamilton, in concert with Heuer, Breitling, Dubois-Depraz, and new Hamilton acquisition, Buren, who would use Buren's Intra-Matic to develop the "Chrono-Matic" (or Caliber 11) under the mysterious title of Project 99. Then there were Zenith and Movado, who'd already made a name for themselves as producers of fine chronographs.
The journey to develop the El Primero began in 1962, for a target date of 1965, Zenith's centennial. Although Zenith would overshoot that date by four years, the movement that they produced would break the mold as far as chronograph movements were concerned--both literally and figuratively. It would be the first automatic chronograph movement. Furthermore, it would be the first chronograph movement where the construction would fully integrate the chronograph complication, rather than containing it in a module. Instead, the El Primero would contain a column wheel and a rotor mounted on ball bearings.
The El Primero 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 by brands ranging from Heuer to Hamilton, Zenith made their El Primero movements available to only a select few other manufacturers over the years, from Zenith affiliate Movado to Rolex. And for good reason: of the three movements that were released that year, only the El Primero was high-beat, offering significant added accuracy.
Although the "sporty" steel El Primeros are probably best known amongst collectors (think A386 and A385), the groundbreaking movement found its way into a host of other models, ranging from dressier gold variants, including the Reference G7810 you see here, to off-branded pieces from the likes of Movado, upon whom Zenith relied for import into the critical U.S. Market.
Nearly all of these models are hard to find in unmolested condition today, but good G7810s are especially difficult to locate, in part due to their solid gold cases being maltreated to a lifetime of wear and polishing. This particular example is in excellent overall condition, with a strong case, a beautifully patinated silver tone dial with recessed subsidiary registers, and original crown.
While gold-cased sport watches have traditionally enjoyed a fairly particular following, attention is massing, especially among collectors who recognize the rarity that these precious metal pieces represent.
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.
Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.
Shipping & Returns
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 Chronograph