Zenith 'El Primero' MKIII

Zenith 'El Primero' MKIII

Why We Love It

1969 was a big year for watch making - nothing short of an arms race.

(More on that later).

As the first model to be fitted with the El Primero automatic chronograph movement, the Zenith A386 was—visually and technically—a standout. 50 years later, and the movement is still lauded and respected when held up to the comparison of its modern counterparts/ From a purely aesthetic stand point, the El Primero was both elegant and sporty, the standout visual feature being the 'Tri-colore' overlapping sub registers.

This particular example is a 'MKIII" execution dating to roughly 1971. Featuring a crisp case and a perfectly patinated dial and handset - not to mention correct crown and Gay Freres ladder bracelet - this is a no-excuses A386 that will make someone very, very happy!

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.


SKU: AS03334

Stainless steel case is approximately 38mm (excluding the pusher & crown). A386 Circa 1971

Overall Condition: The case is in fantastic condition overall showing light wear consistent with age and use. Luminous multi-color dial is in excellent condition with evenly patinated applied indices and matching handset. Signed crown.

Includes stainless steel Gay Freres ladder bracelet ZJ end links and signed flip lock clasp.

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