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 the 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.
Of the three automatic chronograph movements that were released in 1969, only the El Primero was high-beat, meaning that it beat at a rate of 36,000 bph. This offered significant added accuracy, down to one tenths of a second. Zenith was careful to preserve this in the construction of the movement, developing special lubricants to ease the considerable wear on the escapement.
The Zenith A386 was the first model to be fitted with the El Primero movement. The A386 was hallmarked by its three different-colored sub-registers, a drastic departure from the traditional color schemes of most chronographs of the day, which only used two dominant colors on the dial. Another unique feature of this watch is the "ladder" bracelet by Gay Freres. The A386 commands a hefty premium among collectors for its horological import, and with its impressive horological heritage, is certainly worthy of its preeminence.
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