An automatic chronograph is not very elegant. Vintage chronograph enthusiasts will extol the merits of the Omega Speedmaster or the Heuer Carrera--their understated utility and sleekness of construction, for example, have been stalwarts of chronograph design throughout their production history. Automatic chronographs, on the other hand, with their bulky construction and workmanlike appearances, often get overlooked. When an earlier, manual-wound variant is available, it's the automatic version that often (sadly) gets passed over. Like the Heuer Autavia, whose manual-wound references (in particular the 2446C) command more respect (and higher prices) than their automatic successors.
But the Zenith El Primero--and its American-distributed counterpart, the Movado Datron--is in many respects the exception to the rule.
As a horological artifact, the significance of the El Primero movement cannot be disputed. It was arguably the first automatic chronograph movement ever produced (though Seiko and the Project 99 dream team led by Heuer and Hamilton would beg to differ), and whether it was or wasn't, of the automatic chronograph movements to debut in that fateful year of 1969, the El Primero was the only one that would be high-beat--its 36,000 bph unsurpassed by any other automatic chronograph.
Now, if you're familiar with most automatic chronographs (like the Caliber 11, 12 and 15-powered Autavias, or modern examples powered by the Valjoux 7750), you'll know one thing--they're thick. That's because, in most automatic chronos, the automatic module is sandwiched on top of the chronograph. But in the El Primero, the chronograph complication and the automatic module are fully integrated.
What this means is that the cases for El Primeros can be substantially thinner, allowing for proportions that are downright elegant. Take this Movado Datron. While this particular reference was offered in a sportier steel variant, it was also offered in a gold-capped or solid gold cushion case. It's rare to find a gold or gold-capped version in as solid condition as this, due to the precious metal's tendency to get scratched and scarred. But this one is in excellent condition, having just returned from an extensive spa treatment.
The dial is also unique. At first glance it screams "Daytona," bearing a resemblance to the Rolex Daytona Reference 6263. It's a unusual take on the popular "panda" color-way that's getting so much traction on the vintage chronograph market in recent years.
Movado may mean "budget" to some people, but this Datron is anything but, with its striking exterior matched by solid mechanics. Speaking of the movement, this one has been recently fully overhauled by a master watchmaker. Since maintenance of this movement is half the battle, you can strap it on with ease, and enjoy this amazing chronograph for years to come.
18k gold case is approximately 37mm (excluding crown and pushers). Zenith El Primero Automatic Chronograph Movement. Circa late 1960s.
Overall Condition: The watch is in very good condition having just returned from a full service and cleaning. Dial is in superb condition with no major blemishes or signs of deterioration. Luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands show a fine even patina in keeping with age. 18K yellow gold case has been thoughtfully restored. Unsigned crown. Case back has some very light signs of wear but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one textured 18mm yellow gold bracelet with bar end links. Also includes one 18mm black leather strap.