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For many years, the words El Primero held little meaning outside of high-intensity watch enthusiast and collectors groups. But a few year ago, Zenith brought those words back into the fore with the release of their heritage piece, the El Primero Striking Tenth chronograph. The piece was a success in it's own right and got a lot of attention in industry publications. But it also marshaled the growing body of watch enthusiasts, urging them to look back at the history of the movement and the pieces produced around the legendary movement.
The El Primero was high-beat automatic chronograph movement that debuted in 1969, challenging Seiko's Reference 6139 and Project 99's Caliber 11 for the title of world's first automatic chronograph. The advent of the automatic chronograph was a huge technological feat and it changed the face of the industry, opening the door for many companies to offer their own models. But while the Caliber 11 found its way into a slew of watches, Zenith made their El Primero movements available to only a handful of other manufactures. And for good reason. Of the three movements that were released that year, only the El Primero was high-beat, offering significant added accuracy, a feature that Zenith was careful to let go of.
The Zenith A386 was the first model to be fitted with the El Primero movement and commands a hefty premium among collectors for its horological import. Subsequent to the A386 was the A385, which dawned in the mid 1970s. Where the A386 was hallmarked by its three different-colored sub-registers, the A385 was known for its fumé, or smoke, dial - a gorgeous light brown gradient coloration.
Any of these vintage Zeniths are hard to find in unmolested condition today, but good A385s are especially difficult to locate. This particular example is in excellent overall condition, with a strong case bearing its original brushing, a perfectly patinated dial and its original Gay Freres 'Ladder' bracelet.
If you've had your ear to the ground for vintage El Primeros, look no further. This one is sure to go in a flash.
Stainless Steel case is approximately 37mm (excluding crown). Zenith El Primero Automatic movement. Mid-1970s.
Overall Condition: The watch is in excellent condition over all, with a very pleasing case bearing original brushing and showing no signs of over polishing. Genuine Zenith fumé dial is in outstanding condition. Luminous material on the dial and baton hands has aged evenly to a lovely creamy color. Handset is in excellent condition. White date wheel printing is crisp and sharp. Zenith 'star' crown and 'star' screw case back.
Includes one Gay Freres 'Ladder' bracelet with Zenith-signed clasp.