One of the first “nice” watches I ever bought – certainly the first with an in-house movement – was a Zenith. At the time it felt like I was buying into true quality with some real history attached to it. When it didn’t fly completely under the radar – which was just fine by me – it inspired plenty of questions from friends, mostly about the defunct American television manufacturer Zenith Radio Corporation (which – fun fact – owned Zenith Watches for a time in the 1970s).
Zenith El Primero
I imagine many people out there have a soft spot for the Zenith El Primero replica watches. Flipping over a modern watch with this movement inside takes you back to an earlier time. It’s clearly an old machine, and not necessarily a very fancy one: the name asserts primacy among automatic chronographs in order, if not in rank. For years the El Primero has been regarded as a serviceable movement that, in addition to being one of the first three automatic chronos in 1969, rocked the industry with a higher-than-average frequency of 36,000 vph. And heck, it was good enough for Rolex’s Daytona for all those years, even if the Crown did recalibrate it, scaling the frequency down to a more manageable 28,800 vph.
Zenith replica watches for sale.
Years after buying my own Zenith Captain Winsor, which paired an annual calendar module with the El Primero, I had the chance to visit Zenith fake watches and see the mid-20th-century stamping machines still used to form many of the parts for this workhorse movement, which straddles an unusual place at the crossroads of watchmaking history and current production.
These sentiments and memories flooded back when Jack handed me an El Primero 38 mm for my first Hands On review over here at HODINKEE. Taking the watch up I felt its weight, noted the beveling on the edges of the case, and inspected the recessed chronograph totalizers and applied indices on its dial. I noted the folding clasp attached to its lined alligator strap, as well as the price tag of $6,700. The Zenith El Primero 38 is a contemporary luxury watch crafted for watch collectors who like the idea of old good things but want something new. There are plenty of watches being sold today from a handful of horological marques that fulfill this mission, but hardly any who do it with a movement whose initial production dates from 1960s, or with a case in the original, sub-40mm diameter. Of the original three self-winding chronographs that debuted in 1969 (the others being the Seiko 6139 and the Caliber 11) only the El Primero remains in production.
Speaking of the case, it’s quite nice. That aforementioned beveling along the lugs and mixture of polished and matte surfaces suggests a level of quality, and attention to detail, that isn’t necessarily as apparent in the original El Primero of 1969, which wasn’t really even marketed as a luxury item. The piston pushers feature a prominent ribbing around them, yet somehow appear slightly out of proportion with relation to the crown, which extends out a hair further than the pushers even when it isn’t extended. The harmony of the proportions on the see-through caseback is excellent. There is absolutely no need for an obtrusive (and quite frankly ugly) spacer when you put a movement in a case the size it was designed for. Still, with the extra-thick sapphire crystal placed over the dial to give us the feeling of 60s-era plexiglass, the total thickness of this watch swells to 12.45 mm, which, for me, feels too bloated for a 38 mm watch. But I cavil. This is well-executed design.