Zenith El Primero A386 MK I

Zenith El Primero A386 MK I

Why We Love It

As the first model to be fitted with the El Primero automatic chronograph movement, the Zenith A386 was—visually and technically—a standout. And 2019 marks 50 years since its debut!

The example we have here is a truly special 'MK I' version of the groundbreaking A386 El Primero. The included extract from the Zenith archives pinpoints its original delivery between May and August of 1969. Furthermore, it comes complete with a period correct box, leather strap with signed buckle, and a period Zenith catalog for the Italian market.

In absolutely pristine condition, this is a collector-grade example you won't want to miss!

The Story

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. The fiercest competition was among 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

Zenith’s journey to develop the El Primero began in 1962, for a target date of 1965, the company’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. Moreover, 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.


Available EXCLUSIVELY at Watches of Switzerland Hudson Yards!

SKU: AS02888

Stainless steel case is approximately 39mm (excluding the crown). Zenith Reference A386. Zenith self winding Calibre 3019 movement. Circa 1969.

Overall Condition: The case is in excellent condition overall showing a factory refinishing. Luminous white tri-color dial shows even patination from age. Luminous handset shows matching patination. Signed crown.

Includes Zenith signed Gay Freres ladder bracelet, period correct box, strap with buckle, Italian language catalog, and Extract From The Archives confirming original delivery between May and August 1969.

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